Utah’s Teachers and Students, 1870 to 1899

Related Posts:

For background information see Education funding in early Utah, 1870-1899.

In 1870 the Utah Territory Superintendent of Public Schools Robert L. Cambell wrote,

The universal interrogatory by school trustees from every part of the Territory, who are attending to their duties, is: Can you send us a qualified teacher! (Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1870, p. 328).

Because very little money for public schools came from taxes Utah’s educators were under constant stress to meet the educational demands of the territory. Teachers pay came primarily from pro-rated tuition fees. Few schools in the territory were completely tax supported and the tax that was levied was primarily intended for construction and maintenance of school buildings.

Stress on education
Utah's first schools were small and the buildings were typically simple one room structures. Tax support for public schools was weak and sometimes teachers were paid in produce. This early state of affairs was understandable. But as the territory developed the cost of providing education increased. A larger population meant more schools, more classes per school, and larger buildings. Moving to a graded system meant teachers needed more specialized training and schools had greater administrative needs. Larger buildings had grounds and other physical facilities to be maintained. Without significant tax support the infrastructure and staff were under constant stress to meet the educational needs of the territory.

Some general comments
Figure 1: These statistics are for Utah only. 

From 1870 to 1889 Utah was acquiring 17.8 new teachers per year for the common schools. However, the 5-18 school age population was growing at a rate of 2,284 persons per year, enrollment was growing at a rate of 1,161 new enrollments per year, and average daily attendance was increasing at a rate of 550 students per year. The increase in average daily attendance per increase in the number of teachers is 31. That is, each year there were 31 new students attending for each new teacher, which amounts to one large class for every new teacher. (You can see this in figure. Also note the dramatic effect of the 1890 free school act.) For the United States from 1870-'99 the (average attendance)/teacher ratio was around 25.

Figure 2: The red dots indicate the value of Utah. The boxplots are for the states and territories of the United States, Utah omitted. 

Note the large difference in pay between male and female teachers. The gap is not the highest in the nation, but it is near the top. For the most part female teachers in the United States were paid less than male teachers for the same work. Part of this was due to social roles. Male teachers with a family were expected to be the breadwinner and were paid more. Female teachers would be expected to marry and would not be seen as pursuing a teaching career. Utah was no exception to this rule. Another factor that could have widened the gap in Utah is that some districts required teachers to collect their own tuition fees, sometimes from reluctant parents. The male teachers might have been more assertive in collecting the fee. Also note, the numbers for 1878, '79, '80, and '81 are identical. Utah reported average teachers pay for the year 1878 but did not report pay for the other three years. Consequently the 1878 number was repeated in the following three COE reports.

Another interesting point is the ratio of pupils in attendance per teacher. Despite the dramatic increase in the number of teachers following the 1890 Free School Act, by 1899 the number of students in attendance per teacher was very high. In 1896, the year Utah became a state, it was at its highest value in thirty years and as far as I can tell it was the highest in the United States. It appears that the Free School Act precipitated a mass migration out of the private denominational schools (Protestant, Catholic, and LDS) into the public school system. The 1889-'90 COE report indicates that 20.94% of the 5-18 population were enrolled in private schools. The next highest percent for the Western Division was California at 8% (vol. 1, p. 16). The 1891-'92 COE report indicates 16.47% of Utah’s school age children were enrolled in private schools (vol. 1, p. 64). By 1895 it was down to 2.22% (vol. 1, p. LXIX). In 1896 it was 3.43% (vol. 1, LXVIII), and in 1899 it was 2.31% (vol. 1, LXXIV). Though the number of teachers was increasing rapidly, the average attendance increased so fast that the attendance/teacher ratio actually increased, indicating that a significant portion of the educational needs of the territory were being met by private institutions.

The above figure is based on my estimate of the 5-18 populations for the states and territories.

The above figure is based on attendance in the common schools only.  

The above figure is based on attendance in the common schools only.

End Notes__________
[1] Education in Utah, Levi Edgar Young, “Education in Utah,” Improvement Era, July 1913, vol. 16, no. 9.

[2] From the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia,

Brother [Levi Edgar] Young was educated in the public schools in Salt Lake City and in 1915 received his B. S. degree from the University of Utah. After that he spent two seasons in Harvard University and one year in Columbia, New York, doing graduate work in history. He holds the degree of M. A. from Columbia, and for his doctor's degree in philosophy his theses was the "Economic and social development of Utah under Brigham Young's leadership." He now holds the chair of American History at the University of Utah and is engaged in doing original research work in western American history. He is also spending much time in archeological work within the confines of the State. In 1916 he took charge of an exploring expedition in San Juan county, Utah, returning to Salt Lake City July 26, 1916. Elder Young is president of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association ( 1919-20 ), is a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the American Historical Association, and the American Anthropological Association. (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 798)

He was ordained a Seventy in 1897.

[3] Young, L. E., “The Pioneers and Early Education,” The Utah Educational Review,” April-May 1913, vol. 6, no. 8, pp. 38-43.

Education Funding in early Utah, 1870-1899

Related Posts: Polygamy versus Democracy ; Age Corrections for Education Data

Yes, I'm back after a long hiatus. I finally finished my Ph.D. (physics), so I hope I'll be able to start blogging on a semi-regular basis. For the next few months I'll be posting on education in 19th century Utah. Actually from 1870 to 1900. The data for this and upcoming posts came from the annual Report of the Commissioner of Education (abbr. COE). I've spend over a year collecting data and I've developed a method to "normalize" the data so that state by state comparisons are on a more similar scale. Owing to the fact that from state to state the legal school age differed, to make comparisons I needed to estimate the number of school age children between 5 and 18 for each state. For my age correction method see Age Corrections for Education Data for discussion and methodology.

Also, the endnotes have a lot of information so you might want to check those out too.

Introduction and background
Some of you may be wondering, “What’s so interesting about education funding? It doesn’t sound interesting at all.” True. Normally the history of education funding is mega boring and of interest only to academics who study education history. But Utah is different. As almost everything was back then (19th century), education was part of the larger debate about Mormonism. It was held by many non-Mormons that the Latter-day Saints did not value education, and, as such, their children were poorly educated and therefore credulous enough to believe those hysterical, superstitious Mormon beliefs. But, it was thought, education could free the Mormon children from their defective beliefs. When armed with a good education “there is no room then for the errors of Mormonism” (The Situation in Utah: The Discussions of the Christian Convention, 1888, p. 102). Thus, education was a tactic in the larger struggle against the Mormon system. The 1873 Report of the Commissioner of Education points out, in reference to solving “the Mormon problem,”

In studying the difficulties existing in the Indian Territory and Utah, it is very surprising that profound statesmanship has paid so little attention to education as the most efficient means for their solution. (COE, 1873-74, p. xxi).

With this goal in mind several Protestant and Catholic denominational schools were established in the Utah Territory.

Unfortunately for the Utah Territory its schools were struggling. This weakness provided an opening for the establishment of non-Mormon, mostly Protestant, denominational schools, many of which were intended to save the Mormon children. In 1883, speaking to a large gathering of Christian educators, one Rev. Henry Kendall said of these denominational schools,

These schools are all in reality, though not obtrusively, Christian schools. All their teachers are really missionaries, and they do much in the way of personal missionary labor…thus the preachers and the teachers constitute one consecrated and harmonious band engaged in undermining the whole system of Mormonism. (Christian Educators in Council, Ocean Grove, N.J., August 9-12, 1883, p. 135)

I hope to eventually do a post on the denominational schools. But for now it is sufficient to say that they failed in their goal to convert the Mormon children. After twenty five years of efforts a Methodist investigating committee reported,

As far as converting the Mormons is concerned money has been largely wasted. If 200 real Mormons have been changed into real evangelical Christians during the time, we have been unable to discover them.[1]

Even today the quality of education in nineteenth century Utah is used against Mormonism. The June 5, 2006 issue of the Weekly Standard has an article written by Stanley Kurtz titled “Polygamy versus Democracy: you can’t have both.” He writes that during these early days the “[Mormon] religious leaders schooled their families privately, while most of the territory’s children remained illiterate.” His assertion about Mormon illiteracy is patently false. (See my response here.) But it was that statement that motivated me to begin researching early Utah education, and for the past year, collecting data.

I hope this post is not too long. Lately I’ve been trying to keep them shorter by focusing the subject.

Mormonism, the value of an education
Mormonism teaches,

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life…he will have so much the advantage in the world to come (DC 130:18-19).

Education has always been important to Mormons. Joseph Smith taught, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge” (TPJS, p. 217; also here). The belief that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (DC 93:36) and that we should seek learning “out of the best books…even by study and also by faith” (DC 88:118) are deeply ingrained within Mormon beliefs.

However, despite a deep love of education early Mormons possessed a strong hostility to taxes. In the 1864-65 Territorial School Report Superintendent Robert L. Cambell wrote, “While the sentiments of the people are so favorable to education they are equally unfavorable to taxation.”[2] Brigham Young (second President of the Church) once said, “I am opposed to free education as much as I am opposed to taking away property from one man and giving it to another…Would I encourage free schools by taxation? No! That is not in keeping with the nature of our work” (JD 18:357). Naturally he was not opposed to free education per se[3], but he was opposed to free education funded by compulsory taxation. Though he may not have been completely opposed to the appropriation of public funds for the support of public schools.[4] In 1873 he said, “There are many of our people who believe that the whole Territory ought to be taxed for our schools. When we have means, that come in the proper way, we can make a fund to help the poor to school their children, and I would say amen to it” (JD 16:19).

Mormon hostility to dependence on tax money stemmed partly from a strong sense of individual independence but also a sense that Mormonism as a community had to be independent from all external influences. Mormon Apostle Daniel H. Wells once sermonized that the goal of Mormonism is to “make ourselves independent of every people and nation upon the earth” (JD 9:61). In 1867 Apostle Wilford Woodruff said, “We have to build up Zion independent of the wicked; we have got to become self-sustaining” (JD 12:388). In 1867 Brigham Young said, “[Zion will] be developed in our midst, and we will be as independent as ever the children of Zion can be in our capacity” (JD 12:404). If Zion, or the church, is to be independent of “every people and nation” then dependence on taxes for education is inconsistent with that goal—tax money always comes with strings attached. (See also [5].)

Early Utah schools were quasi-public. Anyone could attend, but a pro-rated tuition fee was charged. Moreover, these schools were deliberately reinforcing the Mormon value system.[6] Before the arrival of the railroad in 1869 the population of Utah was so overwhelmingly Mormon few objected to this arrangement. It was not until a significant number of non-Mormons arrived that tensions began to develop. Non-Mormons fought to establish non-sectarian public schools free from the Mormon system by pursuing free school laws.[7] The Mormons by enlarge, and being a political plurality, vigorously and successfully opposed them.

To my knowledge, by 1870 every state in the Union had a free school law in place. After the Civil War every territory admitted to the Union had a free school law in its first constitution.[8] Utah’s free school law came in 1890, six years before statehood but twenty to thirty years behind the national trend. In the era before free schools were the norm, two objections were commonly raised against free education. They were (1) taking a man’s property to educate another man’s children is like taking another man’s plough to plough his neighbor’s field, and (2) it was believed free education would injure private and denominational schools. (Public Education in the United States, p. 122.) Both objections were raised by Utah’s Mormons. As already quoted above, Brigham Young opposed free education because he saw it as taking property from one person and giving it to another. And in 1884 one article in the Church owned Deseret News pointed out that “supporting schools by taxation has been opposed” by church leaders “because institutions supported by general taxes cannot be conducted on a religious basis…We believe that there should be schools for the children of the Latter-day Saints, taught by Latter-day Saints, with Latter-day Saint text books, and supported entirely by the funds of the Latter-day Saints” (Deseret News, December 3, 1884, p. 8, column 5).[9] Additionally, there was a strong sense that “all men and all women [should] bear their own burdens according to their strength… let every father and mother begin the work of education with their offspring, and teach them to bear their own burdens at the earliest practicable day” (Elder Erastus Snow, 1875; JD 17:365).

The early days
Education in Utah started with the arrival of the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Within a few months sixteen year old Mary Jane Dilworth opened a small school in a military tent shaped like a wigwam. She had earlier been set apart by Brigham Young to be a teacher.[10] As towns were established, schools were established. And in those early days official buildings were multipurpose structures. They could serve as a meeting house, a church, a social hall, and a school. Many of the early school buildings were constructed by donated labor. For example, by 1870 four adobe schools existed in the city of Logan (incorporated in 1866), built by donations of rock, lumber, paint, books, bushels of wheat, and labor (A History of Cache County, Chapter 8). According to historian Levi Edgar Young, from examining the records of thirty eight towns, each town had a school in operation within its first season.[11] Much of the teaching was done on a voluntary basis and the curriculum consisted principally of the three Rs: “readin', writin', and 'rithmetic.”

Though enthusiasm for education was high, without tax support, quality suffered. Because the schools were tuition based the tuition fee had to be collected. To quote from an paper by sociologist Stanley Ivins,

In the summer of 1880, John R. Park and Milton H. Hardy reported that, “In the majority of cases,” the school trustees did not assume the responsibility they should in “the whole matter of tuition fees under their control.” It was found that, in some districts, the trustees collected the tuitions and paid the teacher a salary. In others, they set the tuition fees but left their collection to the teacher. And in some districts, they did nothing but “give their consent to the employment of the teacher and to pay him the public allotment,”…The teacher was then on his own, with the responsibility of setting and collecting tuition fees, and for the general management of the school.”
(Ivins, S.S., “Free Schools Come to Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 22, No. 4, p. 321, 1954)

This state of affairs remained standard on into the 1880s. Because tax support was generally weak parents had to pay tuition to send their children to school, and because cash money was scarce teachers were sometimes paid with farm produce.

The development of school finance
The  development of public school finance in Utah was slow.

In 1852 the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah empowered local trustees to “assess and collect a tax upon all taxable property” in their districts, “for the purpose of building and keeping in repair suitable school houses.”[12] In 1853 incorporated cities were given the power to collect property tax for the support of public schools.[13] In 1854 it was required the tax rate be decided by “the vote of the district meeting.”[14] This law was a major obstacle to raising money for schools, as people are generally oppose to higher taxes.[15] In some areas one-time taxes were levied for specific purposes such as paying teachers, the construction and repair of school buildings, and buying books; or to pay the tuition for poor families.[16] In some cases taxes were collected in the form of produce, wood for fuel, or work exchange.[17] In Redmond, “It was decided to take up land and farm it, and use the proceeds to finance the school,” enabling all children to attend.[18] An 1865 law specified that each school district may, by a two-thirds majority vote, employ tax money to provide books and pay teachers--no specific provision for paying teachers from tax money had existed.[19] This tax was “not to exceed two per cent.” An 1866 law permitted school trustees to asses a tax for building and repair of school houses “not exceeding one-fourth of one percent,” without putting it to a vote. The tax could be increased to three per cent by a two-thirds majority vote at a district meeting; additionally, a tax “not exceeding one per cent” could be levied to “pay teachers and furnish fuel, books, maps and other suitable articles for school purposes,” also by a two-thirds majority vote.[20]

Figure 1: The red dot indicates Utah and the boxplots are for the states and territories of the United States, Utah omitted.

Some districts exercised the option to levy additional tax and voted to tax above the minimum amount. But even before this, some districts were appropriating sufficient tax money to support a free school or reduce the tuition rate. In 1856 Brigham City voted a one percent tax; in 1869 American Fork voted to have a free school, the first in Utah[21]; in 1870 Hyrum had a free school[22]; and in 1871 the Provo 2nd Ward had a free school.[23] In 1874 the Salt Lake City 25th District voted to have a free school.[24] (For more free schools see [25].)

As time went on more and more communities voted to support their schools and pay their teachers with tax money, though in most areas parents were still obliged to pay a tuition fee. According to Ivins, in 1867 eight of Utah’s 18 counties had some tax support for their public schools; in 1871 only seven did.[26] Because these early laws placed most of the financial burden on the individual school districts it was the poorer districts that harbored the greatest hostility toward tax supported schools. Consequently public education in those areas suffered. The better-off districts were more willing to vote for higher taxes.

In 1872 a railroad tax was levied upon railroad companies in the territory for the use of the common schools.[27] In 1874 $15,000 dollars was appropriated for the use of common schools, yearly, for the following two years.[28] About this the Territorial Superintendent O.H. Riggs said, “Though (it was) but a small amount, yet it proved to be a spark, from which a flame of interest has been kindled, that has never before been felt in the Territory.”[29] That same year a law was enacted that placed a fine on the owners of stray animals and made the money available for the support of the common schools.[30] In 1876 the yearly $15,000 appropriation was increased to $25,000, twenty thousand of it was for the payment of teacher salaries, allotted according to average daily attendance.[31] In 1878 a territorial tax was levied on all taxable property in the territory, “for the benefit of the district schools.”[32] According to the 1879 COE Report $107,446 of school income came from taxes, which amounted to 78% of total school income. However, by 1881 only 61% of total school income came from taxes, in large part due to increased income from non-tax sources.

Pressure for free schools was building until finally on March 30, 1890 a “free school law” was passed. Titled, “An Act to provide for a uniform system of Free schools throughout the Utah Territory,” this act was the beginning of Utah’s free schools.[33]

Miscellaneous comments
While the (tax income)/(total income) ratio is low compared to other states, the expenditure per child still  qualifies as ordinary for most years from 1870 to 1899, that is, in the middle 50%, between the  25th and 75th percentile.

Apparently after the free school act was passed a good deal of money was used to upgrade old buildings and to construct new ones. From the 1891-92 COE report $346,619 of school monies were used for “sites, buildings, furniture, libraries, and apparatus.” (103). This was the fifth highest for the Western Division (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California). The following year Utah spent $744,385, the second highest for the Western Division. In the 1893-94 COE report it was back down to $376,471, but still the second highest in the Western Division.

End Notes_________________

[1] T. Edgar Lyon, “Evangelical Protestant Missionary Activities in Mormon Dominated Areas 1865-1900,” (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Utah, 1962, p. 246-250, 107; taken from Frederick S. Buchanan, “Faith in Schooling: Solving the Mormon Problem,” Review Journal of Philosophy and Social Science, vol. 3, 1978, p. 161, ISSN 0258-1701). Also cited in Scott C. Esplin, Education in Transition: Church and State, Relationships in Utah Education, 1888-1933, Ph.D. diss., BYU, 2006, p. 59.

[2] Robert L. Cambell, Territorial School Report, 1864-65; taken from History of Public Education in Utah by John C. Moffitt, p. 122.

Also Cambell wrote in that same report,

“Tuition fees range from four to six dollars per quarter for teaching the common branches…Schoolhouses have been (with few exceptions) built by voluntary contribution. There being no school fund available, fees for tuition are paid by the parents or guardians of the pupils, except in a few districts, where, in conformity with the provisions of last year’s school bill, a tax as assessed for that purpose” (Ibid.).

Also, “the most deeply rooted feelings are entertained against high taxation” (Ibid.).

In 1869 Cambell wrote, “Legislators from other counties represent that it would involve the assessment of such a heavy tax as but few of their constituents would be willing to pay” (Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah, Eighteenth Annual Session, 1869, p. 177).

[3] Speaking of the non-Mormon denominational schools in Utah, Brigham Young once said, “if these schools can receive our children—and they are receiving many—and teach them without money and without price, send your children there” (Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints, 1873, pp. 704-705).

[4] On December12, 1853, Governor Young speaking to the Legislative Assembly of Utah pointed out that much of the territory is now settled and the population well established. Consequently,

…the people are better prepared than heretofore to pursue the more profitable avocations. You will therefore consider the necessities of the Territory, as well as the condition of the people...if you should find it in your power, consistently, to make provision for the further encouragement of education, for the support of common schools, for manufactures, for the payment of expenses incurred for the suppression of Indian aggression, to aid in the construction of the public buildings, for the erection of bridges, and the support of the poor, you will find them all objects worthy of your consideration, and dependent upon some degree upon the judicious patronage of a liberal government. (Brigham Young, “Governor’s Message,” Journal of the Legislative Ass. Of Utah, 1853; See also Millennial Star, April 8, 1854)

Also Governor Young said in 1854,

Hitherto, the cause of education has been entrusted with the Board (of regents) by the Legislature who probably conceived they had sufficiently discharged their duties by having invested the regents with full power and authority to act in relation to that subject. But it is a subject of vast importance, and involves trusts of too weighty consideration to be neglected for any reason at present existing. It is a subject fraught with momentous interest to us, and our youth, who are soon to become our representatives upon the earth, and will, if neglected, recoil with bitterness upon our own heads when too late to remedy. (Brigham Young, “Message to the Legislature,” Dec. 11, 1854; taken from Millennial Star, April 28, 1855)

[5] Apostle George Q. Cannon said in the April 1881 General Conference, “Let us advance education by individual effort. I hope we shall never have heavy taxes in this Territory” (“Education-Its Advantages Among the Saints Etc.,” JD 22:277).

[6] “It is stated that while there has been no affirmative teaching of polygamy in the public schools there have been many evidences of a respectful silence with reference to violations of the law against it” (Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1887-'88, p. 149)

[7] In 1877 the Liberal Party candidate for Territorial Superintendent of District Schools, M. W. Ashbrook, wrote,

The final and absolute emancipation of serfdom from Utah must be eventually achieved through the education of the masses…We demand a free public school system for Utah wherein sectarianism shall be wholly eliminated, and teachers in numbers and competent to impart knowledge to all and every child of our Territory…We desire taxation of all property, including that of churches, for the support of free schools. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 1877, p. 4)

I should point out that Ashbrook was running against John Taylor, an Apostle in the Mormon church. In Salt Lake County, where most of the non-Mormons lived, Ashbrook received 1426 votes, and Taylor received 3812 (Salt Lake Tribune, August 12, 1877, p. 4, column 2). After the death of Brigham Young, John Taylor became the 3rd President of the Mormon church. Upon becoming church President Taylor resigned as Territorial Superintendent and selected his son-in-law, L. John Nutall, to replace him (Buchanan, Frederick S., “Brigham Young and the Schools of Utah,” History of Education Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 4, 1982, pp. 435-459, footnotes 18-20).

Prior to 1887 the Territorial Superintendent of District Schools was an elected official. But in 1887 the U.S. Congress abolished the position and ruled, “it shall be the duty of the Supreme Court of said Territory to appoint a commissioner of schools…” (Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1887-'88, p. 147).

For L. John Nuttall see C. G. Jensen, "A Biographical Study of Leonard John Nuttall," p. 104, MS thesis, BYU. For a list of Utah territorial superintendents see Tenth Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Utah, 1914, p. 64.

[8] “No state admitted to the Union after 1858, excepting West Virginia, failed to insert such a provision [for free common schools] into its first state constitution” (Public Education in the United States, p. 180-181).

“…in 1871 the rate-bill had entirely disappeared throughout the Union. It was time it was abolished, for it was everywhere described as the ‘odious’ rate-bill” (The Free school system in the United States, p. 75).

[9] This article was presumably written by the editor, Charles W. Penrose.

[10] Education in Utah, Levi Edgar Young, “Education in Utah,” Improvement Era, July 1913, vol. 16, no. 9.

The first school in Utah was opened in October, 1847. The teacher was Mary Jane Dilworth (Hammond), and an old military tent shaped like an ordinary Indian wigwam served as a school room. Rough logs were used for seats, and the teacher's desk was an old camp stool, which had been brought across the plains. Maria Dilworth Nebeker says in her autobiography:

"I attended the first school in Utah taught by my sister, Mary Jane, in a small round tent seated with logs. The school was opened just three weeks after our arrival in the valley. The first morning we gathered before the door of the tent, and in the midst of our play, my sister called us and said, 'Come children, come; we will begin now.' There were just a few of us, I think only nine or ten. One of the brethren came in, and opened the school with prayer. I remember one thing he said. It was to the effect that 'we be good children and he asked God that the school would be so blessed that we all should have his holy light to guide us into all truth.' The first day, Mary Jane taught us the twenty-third Psalm, and we sang much, and played more."

Mary Jane Dilworth (Hammond), Utah's first school teacher, was of Quaker parentage, and was born in Westchester County, Pennsylvania, July 29, 1831. Her parents were Caleb and Eliza Dilworth, devout in their religion and steadfast in the adherence to principle. Caleb Dilworth's ancestors had taken an active part in the settlement of Pennsylvania, and his father was soldier in the colonial army under George Washington. The family became independent, in fact had some means, and early in the forties, they emigrated to the "Mormon" centre of Nauvoo, Illinois. They went through many of the harrowing persecutions of their people, and with the main body of "Mormons" made their way to Winter Quarters on the Missouri River, where they did their share in making preparation for the long journey of their people to the Rocky Mountains. While at Winter Quarters, Miss Dilworth taught a school in a little rock house. In 1847, she left with her people for "the promised land of the far West." There were some fifteen hundred souls in the company, under the personal direction and command of Jedediah M. Grant. Near Grand Island, the company was met by Brigham Young, who was returning to Winter Quarters. It was here that he "set Miss Dilworth apart to teach a school in the Old Fort."

[11] Young, L. E., “The Pioneers and Early Education,” The Utah Educational Review, April-May 1913, vol. 6, no. 8, pp. 38-43.

[12] Laws of Utah, “An Act in relation to common schools,” March 3, 1852.

The Deseret News reports, “No one who has read the school laws can doubt the power of the Trustees to assess and collect a tax to build a school house in their ward or district, and to keep the same in repair. But to impose a tax upon the citizens to pay the Teacher is unauthorized by law” (March 19, 1853, p. 3).

[Incorporated cities] are hereby authorized annually to assess, collect and expend the necessary tax for roads, streets, schools and other public purposes.
(Chapter 59)

[14] Laws of Utah, “AN ACT relating to common schools,” Dec. 30, 1854.

Said trustees shall assess and collect a tax upon all taxable property in said district, at such rate per cent as may be decided upon by vote of the district meeting.

[15] About this J. C. Moffitt, Superintendent of Provo City Schools, wrote in 1946, “This democratic procedure of having the people determine the rate of taxation became the custom for may year, and did not always contribute to the welfare of the schools” (Moffitt, 1946, p. 135).

[16] Moffitt, “The History of Public Education in Utah,” 1946, p. 129-130; Ivins footnote 34-38, 40-42.

[17] “On September11, 1876, ‘the Trustees ordered that wheat be taken on delinquent school bills at 75c per bu….and that the Bishops of the several wards be requested to give the same notice in the war meeting, also….a quantity of wood at $5.00 per cord.’ On December 9, 1877, ‘It was decided [by the Board]….to collect the delinquent school bills & [the collector]….was authorized to receive 10 cords of wood at $5.00 per cord & good lumber at $18.00 a thousand, Mds., grain, fruit, Lath & Shingles at $4.50 per thousand’” (Moffitt, 1946, p. 127-128; brackets Moffitt’s).

See also Ivins footnote 34, 35.

[18] Ivins, footnote 35.

[19] Laws of Utah, “AN ACT Consolidating and amending the School Laws,” Jan. 18, 1865.

[20] Laws of Utah, “AN ACT for the establishment and support of common schools,” Jan. 19, 1866.

The Trustees shall provide a suitable school house or school houses and keep the same in repair, for which purpose they are hereby empowered to assess and collect annually a tax on all taxable property within their District, not exceeding one-fourth of one per cent.; should more than one-fourth of one per cent. be needed per annum to build and repair school houses, or for other school purposes...the rate may be increased to any sum not exceeding three per cent., as shall be decided by a vote of two-thirds of the tax payers voting at a meeting called for that purpose...and by a similar vote a tax may be assessed and collected, of any sum not exceeding one per cent. per annum, to pay Teachers and furnish fuel, books, maps and other suitable articles for school purposes. (Sec. 7)

[21] Ivins, footnote 47. See a letter signed “Basso” to the Deseret News, December 12, 1869. In 1881 the American Fork free school was still in operation, (Deseret News, April 6, 1881, p. 7, column 3-4)

[23] Ivins, footnote 46, 47, 48, 50; Salt Lake Herald, December 30, 1871

[25] Two free schools, in the 14th Ward and 6th Ward (Deseret News, Dec. 5, 1860, p. 8, column 3).

Free schools for Boys and Girls (Deseret News, June 6, 1860, p. 1).

Free school in the 25th school district (Deseret News, Feb. 4, 1874, p. 8, column 5).

Free tax supported school in Washington County (Deseret News, July 14, 1880, p. 14, column 1).

For a while free education was offered at the University of Deseret on the condition that those who received free education would teach for a number of years in the common schools (here).

[26] Ivins, footnote 43.

[28] Laws of Utah, “An act appropriating money for school purposes,” Feb. 20, 1874.

[29] O.H. Riggs, Territorial School Report, 1874-75; taken from J. C. Moffitt, The Development of Public School Finance in Utah, 1958, USU Special Collections, pp. 17-18.

[30] …the owner of any stud horse, jack or ridgil, over eighteen months old, or any ram over three months old, who shall permit the same to run at large...shall be liable to pay a fine of not less than one dollar nor more than twenty-five dollars for each offense, which fine may be recovered in any court having jurisdiction, and shall be paid into the county treasury for the benefit of common schools. (Laws of Utah, “An act pertaining to animals running at large…,” Feb. 20, 1874)

The county superintendents of district schools are hereby authorized and required to proceed against all delinquent district pound keepers, or other parties, who have failed to shall fail to pay the school funds due, or which hereafter become due, arising from the sales of estrays or from other sources…
(Compiled Laws of Utah, 1876, vol. 1, part 3, p. 689; also here)

[31] Laws of Utah, “An Act for the establishment and support of district school, and for other purposes,” Feb. 18, 1876. Also quoted in its entirety in the Deseret News, March 15, 1876.

[32] Laws of the Territory of Utah, 1878, Ch. 8, Sec. 1; taken from Moffitt (1958), p. 19. For a newspaper commentary on this law see Deseret News, “What’s the three mills for?”, August 7, 1878, p. 8.

[33] Moffitt (1958), p. 20.  See also here, and Deseret News, here.

Other interesting quotes
In 1872 the Deseret News notes that the school houses in Utah County, “were crowded to their utmost capacity” (Deseret News, Jan. 3, 1872, p. 1, column 2).

Editor of Deseret News, “All in all, I cannot see that the much boasted free school system of the States would be any benefit to our people, situated as we are, and under the present circumstances” (Deseret News, May 10, 1876, p. 2, column 3).

St. George, Utah, a Deseret News Editor writes, “We have also a Presbyterian school here, conducted by persons who offer to teach free, to all who will attend. Thus far their patience has not been taxed by the large number of children they have had to teach, as, for some time, the school room and teacher were present, but the scholars did not put in an appearance, though now one or two apostates have begun to send their children, because, they say, it is a free school. Yet their names are found among those who voted against a free school here about one year ago” (Deseret News, Dec. 22, 1880, p. 10, col. 5)

Age Corrections for Education Data

The problem
This post provides supplemental data for my research into early Utah education, 1870-1899. In it I explain how I made the age corrections to the legal school-age population for each state.

See the age corrections for every state at my web-page: http://www.troysrepublic.com/AgeCorrections.html

For eduction statistics, many statistics of interest are ratios of the school age population. However, it wasn’t until 1890 that the Reports to the Commissioner of Education (COE reports) reported the 5 to 18 population for each state and territory. In prior reports the school-age population was enumerated according to the legal school age for each state or territory. It could be 4 to 16, 5 to 21, 6 to 16, etc. Also, most of the age ranges are not inclusive, so 5 to 18 is really ages 5 up to but not including 18. So when I say, for example, that the legal school age is 5 to 17 what I mean is that the legal school age is 5 through 16. Also, the legal school age could change. For example, in 1875 Alabama’s legal school age was 5 to 21. In 1877 it was 7 to 21.

Source material
On March 2, 1867 the United States Bureau of Education was organized. Their first big report came out in 1870. The yearly reports to the United States Commissioner of Education contain a wealth of education statistics. Prior to this the only available national education statistics were found in the census reports. The census data was taken by census workers who would travel from home to home and gather such information such as the number of persons in the household, who was working, who attended school, how many children were present, and so forth. As far as the COE data is concerned, each state was responsible for reporting its own data, and in each state and territory individual schools were responsible for reporting to their state or territorial school superintendent. Hence the quality of the data for any given year depends on the number of schools that reported. There is also the problem of double counting. If a child was enrolled in a school during the regular school year and then enrolled in a summer school she could be counted twice, thus inflating enrollment and attendance numbers. For New Hampshire, “The law respecting the enumeration of youth of school age is very imperfectly attended to, and the figures as to the number of such children here given are probably much below the truth” (COE Report, 1880).

There is nothing I can do about this except to point it out as a possible source of bias.

The corrections
In order to make comparisons I had to estimate the 5 to 18 population for each state. This required a correction to the reported number of school age children.

From the 1870, '80, 90, and 1900 Census Reports I took the number of persons for each age for each state and territory. From this data I then interpolated the “in between” years for each age. From those interpolations I estimated the numbers of persons from 5 to 18 for all the in between years as well as the size of the legal school age population for each state. The Census Based 5 to 18 group was then multiplied by a correction factor in such a way that the 5 to 18 populations for the census years of 1870, 1880, and 1890 are exactly reproduced. An example of my procedure follows--I tried several other methods but none of them produced better results.

In 1875 the legal school age in California was 5 to 17 and the number of children in that age range was 171,563 according to the 1875 COE report. My 5 to 17 Census interpolation for that year was 165,506 which is about 1.037 times smaller than the COE value. (171564/165506 = 1.037.) My 5 to 18 Census estimate was 176,762. The assumption I made is that the 5 to 18 estimate is off by the same fraction as my school-age interpolation. I assumed my 5 to 18 estimate was 1.037 times smaller than the actual value because my 5 to 17 interpolation was. Applying this correction to my 5 to 18 estimate gives me 176762*1.037 = 183,231 school age children between the ages of 5 and 18 for California. More examples are given below.

Checking the quality of the correction
It turns out that for 1885, 1886, and 1887 the COE reports list the 6 to 14 population as well as the legal school age population for each state. This permitted me to check the accuracy of my correction technique. So instead of applying a correction to my 5 to 18 Census interpolation I made a correction to a 6 to 14 Census interpolation. I then checked my correction against the reported 6 to 14 populations found in the COE reports.

The percent difference between my 6 to 14 correction and the reported 6 to 14 COE population data is given to the left.

Also, because the COE reports list the 5 to 18 population after 1889 my corrections may be checked for continuity with those latter numbers. Graphs are shown below.

Note, for 1885, 1886, and 1887 the numbers are low for each state and territory. For those years I used the 6-14 population in place of the legal school age population, which gave better results for some states and was OK for others.

For the graphs below the black dots indicate the number of children of legal school age for that state. The red dot is my corrected 5-18 population estimate. After 1889 these numbers are identical so a red dot is plotted over a larger black dot. Also note the low 1885, 1886, and 1887 black dots. These are the 6-14 ages.

Using the three years of 6-14 data provides an additional continuity check. Typically the 6-14 population is smaller than the legal school-age population and in most cases my 6-14 correction matches up pretty well previous 5-18 corrections. But you can judge the quality of my corrections for yourself.

The Age Corrections
Here are a few of the age corrections

New Hampshire does have its problems. See comment in main text.

Hope: “An anchor of the soul.”

In an earlier post I worked out a model for attaining faith which is: belief, hope, faith. First we believe, or desire to believe, or have a particle of faith. We then act on our belief. After investing ourselves in our beliefs we then hope for something connected to our efforts and beliefs. When the Holy Ghost affirms those hopes we have attained faith. Faith is that assurance that comes from the witness of the Holy Ghost. Once we have attained unto faith, its assurance strengthens our hope and reinforces our belief. Thus, we cannot attain unto faith without hope, but without faith our hope cannot endure and grow.

I realized I didn’t go into much detail about hope. So this post brings a little more precision to the ideas I sketched out in my Faith and Charity post.

Hope basics
Hope can refer to a wish or intention, such as, “I hope to see you soon.” It can also indicate a strong desire to obtain something: “I hope to win the race.” Moreover, we don’t hope for things we already have: “hope that is seen is not hope” (Rom. 8:24-25). Also, despair is the total absence of hope: “if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair” (Moroni 10:22). So hope is an intermediate thing. “We hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:24-25). If the chance of success is zero there is no hope; rather, there is despair. If the perceived chance of success is 100% then there are no grounds for hope; instead, we rejoice. Hope exists between despair and having.

Hope can also come in kinds, or degrees. There is a “sufficient hope” (Moroni 7:3) and there is a “firm hope” (Heb. 3:6; Alma 34:41). There is also the kind of hope that is barely hanging on: Abraham, “against hope believed in hope” (Rom. 4:18). There is also a “lively hope” (1 Pet. 1:3) and we can also “abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13). There is even a “better hope” (Heb. 7:19). As the hymn More Holiness Give Me says, “More hope in his word.”

Gospel hope
But the kind of hope I’m interested in is not the generic kind, such as “I hope this is a good movie.” The kind I’m interested in connects to faith and charity. This could be called gospel hope, serious hope, or as Elder Neil A. Maxwell put it, “ultimate hope” (Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Ensign, Nov. 1998).

But first, there is something more basic than hope, belief. You can’t hope for something without first believing in the possibility of success, and this entails having beliefs about the possibility of success. Hope cannot exist unless certain things are possible, things we desire to see happen, or to obtain.

But what kind of beliefs lead to hope? The belief might be related to a question: Is the Book of Mormon true? Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? Have I been forgiven? Did Joseph Smith see God the Father and Jesus Christ? But the question is the Book of Mormon true? isn’t a belief. However the Book of Mormon might be true is. For example, the King of the Lamanites prayed, “if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me” (Alma 22:18). At any rate, if you’re asking those questions then you already believe they might be the case. What ever the belief is, it is strong enough to prompt investigation. As the missionaries would say, “Read, ponder, and pray.”

Also, serious hope cannot exist without effort. A missionary might believe she can find a golden investigator, and hopes that she can. But if she never leaves her apartment her hope is no different from “I hope to win the race” without ever competing. So we must first believe something is obtainable and act on that belief, but then we must also continue the effort. Hope can exist while we are running the race, but not if we give up. So, not only does serious hope exist between despair and certainty, it also requires continual effort.

At different stages during our spiritual progression we hope for different things. An investigator probably desires to know if the Book of Mormon is true and prays for a witness of its truthfulness; he believes it might be true, reads it, prays about it, hopes for an answer, then prays some more. Another person might be feeling despair over her sins and hopes for a spiritual confirmation that she is forgiven. A parent might hope their children will gain a strong testimony of the Gospel. A missionary hopes to find investigators. A bishop has hopes for the members of his ward. These kinds of hopes are related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But ultimately we “hope that [we] shall receive eternal life” (Alma 13:29) and one day hear, “well done, good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:23). There is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27; Jacob 4:11; Alma 22:14; Moroni 9:25); “hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8); “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2; 3:7); “hope of a glorious resurrection” (D&C 42:45; 138:14). These are “the hope[s] of the gospel” (Coll. 1:23).

Here is one way the process could work. An investigator believes the Book of Mormon might be true and that perhaps the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s restored Church. Consequently she takes the lessons from the missionaries and prays and ponders the claims of Mormonism. She hopes for an answer because she desires to know if she should continue with it. She then gets a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true church. Because of that assurance, she has faith. Her belief is no longer it might be true, she now believes it is true and gets baptized. Her beliefs changed. So what does she hope for next? She currently believes in Jesus Christ and the Atonement. She believes the church is true. She believes it’s possible to stay on the strait and narrow path and obtain eternal life. She probably hopes for a firmer testimony; greater knowledge of the Gospel; overcoming sins and other weaknesses; making temple covenants; doing temple work for her ancestors; continued spiritual progression; bringing the gospel to others. But ultimately, she hopes for eternal life for herself and for those she loves. Her hopes are rooted in the belief that through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ those things are possible. The Holy Ghost assures her that her hopes are not in vain. This assurance is the gift of faith and thus faith strengthens her hope and reifies her beliefs. As Elder Uchtdorf pointed out, “Each time a hope is fulfilled, it creates confidence and leads to greater hope” (The Infinite Power of Hope).

Like the example of the investigator, we start off believing that something might be true. After a spiritual witness that it is true we have attained faith. Our hopes are now rooted in the Gospel. Now that we have obtained hope we are motivated to do the works of the Gospel. This in turn leads us to the “work of faith, and labour of love” (1 Thess. 1:3) and a closer relationship with the Comforter which leads us back to a greater “assurance of things hoped for” (faith), which then leads to a stronger hope, etc. “The brighter our hope, the greater our faith” (E. Uchtdorf). It is through “witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken” (Jacob 4:6). Those witnesses are the surety of our hope. “Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world” (Ether 12:4, emphasis added). Serious hope may be thought of as faith directed toward the future, anticipating something yet to be. Faith may be thought of as the confidence in our hopes that comes from witness of the Holy Ghost

A tale to two hopes
But as Elder Uchtdorf points out, there are two kinds of hope: “The things we hope for lead us to faith, while the things we hope in lead us to charity” (italics original). Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; if we have faith we hope for things that are true.

But what does it mean to have hope in something? And how does that produce charity? We can have hope in God’s mercy, hope in the Lord, and hope in Jesus Christ, hope in his judgments, and hope in his word. To hope in someone is to rely on him, to trust him completely. In fact, the word “hope” is sometimes translated as “trust.” When Paul quotes Isaiah, “in him shall the Gentiles trust” (Rom 15:12), most modern translations render this as, “in him shall the Gentiles hope.” The same is true for Paul’s letter to Titus. “We trust in the living God” is rendered as “hope on the living God” in the NASB. Sometimes passages about hope are translated as “hope on,” sometimes they are translated as “hope in.” The sense of usage I get is that hope in Christ implies both trust and reliance. Our hopes are on Christ because we rely on him. They are in Christ because we have complete trust in him. “Hope is trust in God’s promises” (James E. Faust, Hope, an Anchor of the Soul, Ensign, Nov 1999), and hope is “the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us” (E. Uchtdorf).

To hope in Christ also includes a desire to emulate him. He is our divine prototype. “Every man that hath this hope in him[, Christ,] purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3). The scriptures tell us that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). Therefore, to have a genuine hope in Christ we must love God and our neighbors, for “He that loveth not knoweth not God” (1 Jn. 4:8). It also seems possible that a person could hope for a future reward in heaven and therefore have faith, and at the same time not have a hope in Christ. Those who prophesy, do great works, and cast out devils do not necessarily have a reward in heaven (Matt. 7:22-23). Hope in Christ is greater than hope for a heavenly reward. In other words, charity more excellent than faith. Hope in Christ is tightly bound to our love of God and charity towards others. We are told that once we have attained a hope in Christ our desires will be granted: “Ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them” (Jacob 2:19).

Feeling hope
But gospel hope is a confidence and a feeling with a basis in belief and faith. It is a peace in believing granted by the Holy Ghost. But feelings can vacillate and change. What if one falls into serious sin? What if one goes through a period of depression or a series of very difficult disappointments? A person might be shaken when they find out Joseph Smith was a polygamist, which might go contrary to things they believe about the church. Severe depression can also strongly affect feelings of hope. I suppose that even suffering from a paranoid delusion can affect belief, faith, and hope. Mood swings, disappointment, tragedy, sorrow, all these strongly influence feelings of hope, which can in turn affect belief and faith. Our beliefs, hopes, and assurances are so intimately connected to others things in life that there are times when it’s a struggle to maintain them.

Final thoughts
The pull away from hope can lead us sin. “And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (Jer 18:12)—the ASV reads, “But they say, It is in vain...” Their lack of hope caused them to rely on their own effort and they rejected placing their faith in God. “Just as doubt, despair, and desensitization go together, so do faith, hope, charity, and patience” (E. Maxwell). If there is no hope in the resurrection then we might as well “eat and drink; for to morrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32).

But ultimately, if we have charity we have hope in Christ.

Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.  Amen. (Moroni 7:47-48)

Faith, certainty, and doubt

Related Posts: Faith and Charity ; Opposition in all things ; The First Vision 

I can honestly say that I have never had a prolonged crisis of faith. I’ve had moments of doubt wherein I wondered if God really existed, or if the Church is what it claims to be. But those moments never lasted long. All I needed was to remember I have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church.

Like many people with deep Mormon roots I was raised to believe in the Book of Mormon as scripture and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s true, restored Church. Though I never seriously questioned this upbringing I did experience a crisis of sorts, which turned out to be the beginning of my testimony.

I was in the seventh or eighth grade at the time and it was a Saturday morning. I enjoyed watching those art programs where an artist creates a beautiful landscape painting in thirty minutes. (I remember there was this German guy who painted “powerful” mountains and this afro-redheaded guy who painted “happy” streams and clouds.) During one of the commercial breaks an advertisement for a Christian charity came on. I don’t remember the name of the charity or what exactly their purpose was, but clearly they were good people seeking to help others. And then, a thought struck me. These were good people. This charity works for good. Somehow, seeing those good people doing good provoked a question in me. How do I know the church I belong to is the true Church? After all, these other churches are also good. How do I know I’m right? The question in my mind grew intense. I cried out from within, “How do I know I’m right.” Suddenly an intense feeling of peace and calm came over me and my doubts were gone. I knew the Church was true.[1]

Every time I feel doubt I recall that experience.

A skeptic might say, “You should question that experience. Maybe you just got the answer you unconsciously wanted.” I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean. They probably do not mean that I should question that I had a doubt erasing experience because that is exactly what happened. I can’t re-experience something different; I can’t say I experienced anything other than what I did experience. So perhaps the skeptic means something else.

Fairies and flying saucers
I was watching a video, Conversations with Arthur Henry King, the other day. One of the guest speakers recalls an experience with Arthur King. Apparently when Arthur was a boy he once saw fairies dancing on the frozen pond behind his house. The individual recounting the story then said, “When I asked him what he thought the fairies were he very seriously said to me, he said, ‘Well, I have no reason to doubt they were fairies.’”[2]

I remember when I was a very young boy, probably six to eight years old. It was the Forth of July and I was camping in the backyard of our house, and I remember seeing a flying saucer. It was square, there was a low frequency rumbling sound, and it was hovering over the roofs of the condominiums behind our home.

I experienced seeing a flying saucer. Arthur King experienced seeing fairies dancing on a frozen pond. Neither of us could say we didn’t experience seeing those things, because we did experience seeing those things. (By this I mean the experience seeing a flying saucer is what I experienced.)

Maybe the skeptic wants me to question my experience of certainty the same way I would question seeing a flying saucer. Maybe it was a blimp, or a helicopter, or flood lights on the clouds. Maybe the rumbling sound was from an automobile—maybe King was looking at dragon flies, or rustling leaves. Though I experienced seeing a flying saucer I can question my experience by positing that maybe I was looking at something other than a real, material flying saucer. Similarly, though I experienced a feeling of certainty I should be willing to question that the experience gave me knowledge that the Church is actually, really, true. Though I experienced an overwhelming sense of certainty it was simply how the neurons in my brain made me feel.

But on the other hand my doubt erasing experience was very unlike seeing fairies or a flying saucer. I didn’t have an overwhelming sense of peace and assurance that I was actually seeing a real, material flying saucer; there was no sense of certainty. My testimony experience came from within, and that experience will always be with me. There have been times when I leaned heavily on that experience for my testimony. There have been times when it formed only part of my testimony. But I can’t say that it didn’t happen. What then is the incorrigible believer to do? I can’t just decide I will no longer believe. In many ways that feeling of certainty remains with me.

Perhaps the skeptic intends to simply encourage religious questioning. Some people experience doubt because of the Church’s position on gay marriage. Others might be bothered by an historical event, such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. They might be bothered when they find out Joseph Smith was a polygamist, or that there has been doctrinal evolution in the Church. Maybe they know someone who was given a priesthood blessing and was promised a full recovery, who then died. (I have personal experience with this last one.) There are many things that can cause doubt, and these experiences can lend credence to the idea that we should question rather than declare the truthfulness of the Church. If other people experience a feeling of doubt then it seems arrogant to say that the Church is true. It seems as though I’m elevating myself above the honest, good hearted skeptics. It’s like I am saying they are totally wrong.

So perhaps what the skeptic desires is to encourage a healthy dose of religious doubt. After all, skepticism is so very different from certainty. It can encourage respect of other people’s beliefs in ways that certainty cannot.

Faith and doubt
Andrew Sullivan wrote in a Time Magazine article, “When Not Seeing Is Believing,” about the dangers of religious certainty. He then writes,

... True belief is not about blind submission. It is about open-eyed acceptance, and acceptance requires persistent distance from the truth, and that distance is doubt. Doubt, in other words, can feed faith, rather than destroy it. And it forces us, even while believing, to recognize our fundamental duty with respect to God's truth: humility. We do not know. Which is why we believe.

He also asked the question, “If we have never doubted, how can we say we have really believed?”

I remember once in a physics math class, the professor was doing a long derivation on the board. He stopped midway and said, “You can’t know something unless you can prove it. Its OK to believe, but you can’t know unless it can be proved.” (Given that the class was mostly LDS it seemed his comment was directed towards us Mormons.) Sullivan’s essay is along similar lines. Belief is OK, but certainty in religious matters is dubious, and sometimes dangerous.

Thus, it turns out that faith is a strong belief in what might be true. Faith is being baffled by the Mystery and yet believing life has a purpose. Thus, according to people like Andrew Sullivan, faith accompanies the absence of certainty; faith and doubt belong together.

Two paths in a wood
Some people will ask, “Why not encourage skepticism?” After all, many of our most basic beliefs are self referential. For example, a poem’s structure can be analyzed, but can we account for the “structurality of structure.” And how can I argue that reason is a reliable way to discover truth without using reason. I also believe that any given proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time, but I can’t think of any way to demonstrate this without a proposition being either true or false and not both. Then again, reason is essential, poems can be analyzed, and the law of non-contradiction works for me. I treat these things like they were absolutes but I cannot objectively know them; there is no way I can argue that they are true without first assuming that they are true. So perhaps I should treat my religion like that. For me it is the ultimate explanatory principle and yet on a deeper level I know that I cannot objectively know my religion is the true religion.

And this is where the doubt promoters come in. Doubt can lead us to “believe in our god term and use it as if it were the ultimate explanatory principle. But on a deeper level, we also know that it is not.”[3]  Doubt can lead us to reevaluate our traditional religious beliefs, experiencing spiritual exhaustion to the point that eventually there is a humble, sincere acknowledgment that we should prize spirituality more than certainty. And after the crisis of faith a new wisdom emerges from the “born again” experience. Faith is standing in the Mystery and yet believing in an all good power.

Certainty, faith, and doubt
Now, I see nothing wrong with sincerely believing that the Ultimate is unknowable, or that faith is standing in a mystery and still believing. In some ways that kind of thinking reflects aspects of my own beliefs about God and the Ultimate. Personally I tend to have a positive spiritual response to those kinds of teachings. My criticism, however, is leveled toward those who promote a culture of religious doubt in order to produce a faith-from-doubt transforming experience by trying to make us ashamed of our history, doctrines, and traditions. By cultivating a sense of shame about our past (and present) our faith can be shaken and doubt can set in. Those who promote religious doubt often desire to transform traditional faith into a kind of doubt-faith.

The transformation pattern is basically this. We start having a deep religious faith. We then experience a crisis of faith. Then, after a prolonged struggle, we finally come to terms with the crisis in such a way that leads us to embrace a “broader” worldview. What faith-from-doubt promoters work for is transforming traditional religious beliefs into something more acceptable to them and to others who are frightened by religious certainty, or object to the Church’s position on abortion, gay marriage, women and the priesthood, etc.

Another difficulty I have with faith-from-doubt promoters is that they don’t describe faith as faith. To them faith is spiritual wonderment, awe, an apprehension of what might be true. My understanding of faith is that it originates from a religious experience, not sincere religious doubt. Though people often begin with doubts, wonderment, or spiritual apprehensions, eventually faith strengthens religious belief and moves them towards a vibrant, living knowledge that something that cannot be proved is actually, in reality, true. There is nothing wrong with feeling spiritual wonderment about the mystery of God, but that is not the goal. Knowing through personal revelation is the goal, and personal revelation is the source of faith. After Joseph Smith saw God the Father and and His Son Jesus Christ he recalled, “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” (JS-H 1:25). Though there were moments when he cried out, “O God, where art thou?” (D&C 121:1), he never doubted that he had the First Vision experience.

I’ll be the first to admit that our leaders are imperfect. Some aspects of our history are embarrassing, even shameful. There has been doctrinal evolution to be sure. Some questions cannot be answered objectively. Sometimes tension within belief is healthy. And there are times when having faith is more important than having proof. But questions and doubts needn’t always cultivate a sense of crisis. We can deal with them from within the framework of our faith. The kind of faith I believe in can arise while experiencing crisis or doubt, wonderment and awe, but it cannot be approached by cultivating doubt. I also believe that moments of certainty cannot alone sustain a testimony—a testimony must be nurtured. Ultimately, faith is not about believing in things because we cannot know if they are true. Faith is tightly bound to that feeling of assurance which leads us towards certainty and occasional experiences of certainty. The Gospel teaches us that it is possible to “know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). Faith takes us towards that.

End Notes_______________
[1]  I don’t have to entirely depend on my memory because a week later I recorded it in my journal, which I still have; but I’m not going to dig it out of storage to look up the date.

[2]  See video here. The passage in question begins at about 3 min 45 sec, so you won’t have to wait long to encounter it. A transcript of the passage is

One of my favorite stories that Arthur told is about when he was a boy and saw fairies dancing on the frozen pond behind his home. Well, he rushed in to tell his father, who was a very proper man. His father made him [pause] would not let him play until he disavowed having seen the fairies...When I asked him what he thought the fairies were he very seriously said to me, he said, “Well, I have no reason to doubt they were fairies.” You have to understand, Arthur King, the highly respected scholar in academic circles today, still believes that as a child he saw fairies skating on a frozen pond behind his home. (Clifton H. Jolley)

[3]  Paul Kugler, “The Unconscious in a Postmodern Depth Psychology,” an essay from C.G. Jung and the Humanities, Toward a Hermeneutics of Culture, pp. 315-316.