Since Italy’s transformation from a kingdom to a republic in 1946 and the reestablishment of the Italian Mission in 1966, there has been a virtual explosion of articles published in Italy concerning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles have appeared in the Italian press, as well as a scattering of books and pamphlets. Nevertheless, fewer books containing references to the Church were published in Italy during the last twenty-five years than in the preceding one hundred years.1 Many of these earlier books do not appear in Chad J. Flake’s Mormon Bibliography and its ten-year supplement,2 which attempt to identify all books published concerning the Church from 1830 to 1930.
Some of these works were published by the Latter-day Saints themselves after the establishment of the short-lived Italian Mission (1850–1867); others were published by Italian travelers to the American west after the completion of the transcontinental railroad; and a few are translations of accounts written by British, French and German authors. The remaining books and articles were published by those who had never visited Utah but still had opinions concerning the Church. This essay will identify and briefly describe these works.
The Latter-day Saints in Italy
The Italian Mission
Soon after Lorenzo Snow, T. B. H. Stenhouse, Jabez Woodard, and Joseph Toronto (a Sicilian who was converted to the Church in the United States) arrived in Italy in 1850 to commence missionary work, Elder Snow made arrangements to publish a tract he had written especially for the mission.3 La Voix de Joseph4 was published in French because Elder Snow commenced his mission among the Waldensians, who were located in the Kingdom of Sardinia and spoke French as did most of the inhabitants of Piedmont.5 In order to publish the book in Turin, the capital of the kingdom (which eventually absorbed the rest of the peninsula and became the Kingdom of Italy in 1861), Elder Snow placed “a woodcut of a Catholic Nun, Anchor, Lamp and Cross on the first page, and on the last, Noah’s Ark, the dove and the olive.”6 No work, according to Elder Snow, was permitted to be published “which attacks the principles of Catholicism.”7 That same year, another work by Elder Snow, Exposition des premiers principes de la doctrine de l’ Eglise de Jesus Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours,8 sans nun and ark was also published in French in Turin. It was translated from a pamphlet he had written while serving as a missionary in Great Britain ten years earlier.9 For the first year of the Italian Mission, these were the only missionary tracts which were circulated in Italy. The second pamphlet was republished by T. B. H. Stenhouse after his arrival in Geneva to organize the Swiss Mission.10
The publication of Elder Snow’s pamphlets provoked two Swiss nationals to write responses which were distributed in Piedmont. Louis Favez wrote a 46-page tract which advanced the Spaulding Theory and quoted from La Voix de Joseph and Exposition des premiers principes,11 while Emile Guers wrote a pamphlet in which he compared Mormonism and Irvingism and criticized “the corpus vile” of Elder Snow’s “paltry pamphlets.”12 These pamphlets caused T. B. H. Stenhouse to respond with a third Church tract, which was also criticized in subsequent writings by Favez and Guers.13 At the same time, John C. Bennett’s anti-Mormon book, The History of the Saints,14 was also circulating in Italy.
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During his first six months in Italy, Lorenzo Snow wrote five letters to Church officials which recounted the history of the mission and the general reaction of the Waldensians to the elders’ message. He published these letters in a tract entitled The Italian Mission in January 1851, when he returned to Great Britain to supervise the translation of the Book of Mormon into Italian.15 One of these letters had previously been published in The Millennial Star,16 and all were later included in Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow.17 Some also appeared in Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine.18
Although these letters reflect Lorenzo Snow’s severe disappointment with the lack of progress of the Italian Mission, he proceeded with an Italian translation, published in London, of the Book of Mormon.19 Although approximately 1,000 copies were published, only 192 were actually bound in 1852, 18 of which were presentation copies.20 The remaining copies were not bound until 1927 and 1930, the same period the Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonites) published its own Italian translation of the Book of Mormon.21 In 1852, the Italian Mission also published an Italian translation of Elder Snow’s Exposition des premiers principes22 of which no copies apparently survive.
Of the three tracts and one book published in 1851–52, La Voix de Joseph was most often mentioned by missionaries as being useful in attracting new converts. In his manuscript history, Jabez Woodard23 described one early convert as a “firm believer in the Voice of Joseph.” The official announcement of polygamy led to criticisms by Favez, Guers, Bennett, and other early critics and in Italy influenced the image of the Church, which was confined to the Waldensian community living in Piedmont. Stephan Malan, one of the earliest converts to the Church in Italy and the first local missionary, wrote in his Autobiography and Family Record, that the Waldensian ministers “announced to the people that [the Latter-day Saint missionaries] were a set of liars, that [they] were wolves in sheep’s clothing, that [they] were hired by Brigham Young, to convert them as a bait to bring them to western deserts of America and, the recruits would be slaves, and your young women taken possession by that infamous polygamist and his associates to satiate their lust and debauchery.”24 Such tactics did not always work, however. Woodard, when “finding they were trying to excite prejudice in that way . . . went again and preached plurality to the father, and the result was as it will ever be to an honest mind. The house soon became the stopping place for Elders and some of the highest names in the Church have eat[en] and slept beneath that hospitable roof.”25 The journals of another early Italian missionary, Samuel Francis, are also available at the Church archives.
When Jabez Woodard reported the results of the Italian Mission to an assembly in the Tabernacle in 1854, Brigham Young observed that the Waldensians “are only like the brute; they are not to blame for their superstition, and they are not the people to readily receive the Gospel.”26 Three years later, however, after approximately eighty converts had immigrated to Utah and all foreign missionaries, including those in Italy, were called back to Utah during the war, he commented favorably upon their ancestors.27 After 1857 few converts were made, and the Italian Mission was officially closed ten years later.
During its seventeen-year history, the Italian Mission produced fewer than two hundred converts. The letters published in The Millennial Star by Woodard and other Italian missionaries demonstrate their disappointment in these results as well as in the Church’s image among the Waldensians.28 Many of these letters are either republished or paraphrased in Daniel B. Richards, The Scriptural Allegory.29
After the closure of the mission, George A. Smith summarized its history in the first edition of The Rise, Progress and Travels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.30 The only change made with respect to the Italian Mission in later editions, which were published in 1872 and 1873, was eliminating T. B. H. Stenhouse, who had apostatized from the Church, from the list of elders who had helped establish the Italian Mission in 1850.31 In all three editions, Elder Smith listed the names of Daniel Tyler and John L. Smith as presidents of the Swiss-Italian Mission in the late 1850s. Both Tyler’s and Smith’s journals are in the LDS Church Archives.
Subsequent Visits to Italy
Shortly before the closure of the Italian Mission, the first criticism of Elder Snow and his missionary activities was published in Italian. In 1865 a translation of an article written by William J. Conybeare originally published in the Edinburgh Review was printed in Milano.32 In this article, Conybeare criticized not only the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the practice of polygamy, and various doctrinal works published by Church officials, but also the missionary work of Lorenzo Snow. According to Conybeare, Elder Snow’s account contained in The Italian Mission was “grotesque”; Conybeare particularly criticized the Apostle for having “contrived to deceive the Roman Catholic authorities, by publishing a tract under the title of ‘The Voice of Joseph,’ with a woodcut of a nun for a frontispiece and a vignette of a cross upon the title page. Under these false colors, they hope soon to win their way.”33
The appearance of this anti-Mormon tract in Italian is not surprising because of its reference to the Italian Mission and because beginning in the 1860s, Italy had become a battleground for competing protestant messengers. The Latter-day Saints were among the first to arrive (in 1850), but they were followed by the Wesleyans in 1861, the Baptists in 1863, the Adventists in 1864, and the Methodists in 1871.34
In the midst of this protestant onslaught, Elder Snow returned to Italy, but not to the Waldensian valleys and not as a missionary. Instead, he, his sister Eliza, George A. Smith, and several other “tourists” visited the major cities of Italy—Genoa, Milano, Venice, Naples, and Rome—on their way to Palestine, just as Mark Twain had done five years earlier.35 Like Twain, the travelers recorded their adventures in Correspondence of Palestine Tourists,36 parts of which were later included in Eliza R. Snow Smith’s Biography and Family Record.37 One site which Elder Snow had visited and described in 1850 and to which he returned in 1872 was the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in Genoa. In the description of his second visit, which is reminiscent of Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, Snow wryly observed that while he and his fellow travelers attended a Catholic service, a guide
waited upon us through the building, pointing out and explaining various objects of interest. He conducted us to a small chapel enclosed by an ornamental railing, and showed us the identical chain with which John the Baptist was bound while in prison previous to being beheaded, and also his ashes enclosed in the silver urn, any doubts we entertained of the genuineness of these articles we refrained from expressing. No woman is allowed to enter the Chapel of St. John, except one day in the year, because one of her sex instigated the death of this saint. My sister, who happened to be the only lady present, bore this interdiction with her characteristic grace and fortitude.38
Ironically, Lorenzo Snow’s second visit to Italy coincided with the arrival in the Waldensian valleys of the first RLDS missionary, John Avondet. Avondet reported in 1873 that he “found many Mormons here, but they all returned back to the Protestant church (or Waldenses Church).” Avondet claimed that the Church’s image made his labors particularly difficult. (His main complaint was polygamy.) He left Italy within two years, after having performed only two baptisms.39
During the same decade, Joseph Toronto, who with Elders Snow, Woodard, and Stenhouse had opened the Italian Mission, also returned to Italy. Like Lorenzo Snow, Elder Toronto did not return to Piedmont, but he did return to his hometown of Palermo, Sicily, where he had spent most of his mission and had baptized a few friends and relatives between 1850 and 1852. Elder Toronto spent an additional one and one-half years in Palermo between 1876 and 1877 and returned to Utah with fourteen friends and relatives for whom he paid boat and train expenses.40
Elder Toronto’s visit, and perhaps Elder Snow’s, attracted the attention of the United States and Italian governments. In 1880, a United States consular official in Palermo noted that “a few Mormons of Sicilian extraction” had been in Palermo during the past five years to look after their pecuniary affairs and to represent “the advantages that must necessarily accrue to all those who espouse their creed and emigrate to Utah.” Yet, according to this consular official, their efforts were unavailing, and the Latter-day Saints returned home alone, in part because “they refused absolutely to give pecuniary aid to all those who showed a disposition to accompany them.”41
In 1879, the charge’ d’affaires in Rome, George W. Wurts, also discussed the topic of the Church with the Italian prime minister, Benedetto Cairoli. While noting that “the only instance we have known here of the presence of any Mormon, either as a preacher or proselyte, even as a visitor, was last year, when three compatriots calling themselves Mormon Elders passed through Rome on their way to Jerusalem” (perhaps a reference to Snow’s visit to Rome six years earlier), he also related the prime minister’s belief that although Mormonism was not present in his country, “all civilized Christian powers should cooperate to terminate the existence of a sect whose tenets are contrary to the recognized laws of morality and decency.” Wurts also told the prime minister that although there was no cause to apprehend a “Mormon crusade in Italy where as yet Mormonism is unknown,” a sect formed by David Lazzaretti, who, like Joseph Smith, claimed to have visions and was martyred, demonstrated “the possibility of the Italian people being led astray by the enticements [of those] who . . . blind them to every sense of reason and of right.”42
Thus thirty years after the organization of the Italian Mission, the image of the Church in Italy, advanced by protestant ministers and government officials, both United States and Italian, was still of a sect composed of poor, uneducated immigrants who illegally practiced polygamy.
After 1867 some of the original Waldensian converts made scattered attempts to find additional converts among the Waldensians: Jacob Rivoire and his wife, Catherine Jouve, proselyted in Piedmont from 1879–1880; James Bertoch and Jules Grague spent a portion of their German-Swiss Mission in Piedmont between 1891 and 1893; and Daniel Richards and Paul Cardon also proselyted among the Waldensians in 1900. These efforts failed to produce any additional converts and apparently went unnoticed by the press and government. No additional missionary work of any significance was done until the early 1960s, and in 1966 the Italian Mission was reestablished.
Italian Publications Concerning the Church
Early Italian Observers of the Church (1844–66)
The image of the Church which Latter-day Saint missionaries had attempted to cultivate in their tracts and discourses did not penetrate beyond the narrow, French-speaking region populated by the Waldensians, and their Italian Book of Mormon did not circulate among the larger Italian-speaking population. The earliest Italian commentators on the Church were not even aware that Latter-day Saints had attempted to proselyte their fellow countrymen for almost two decades. Instead, the image of the nineteenth-century Church in Italy was shaped by observations written by Italians themselves, many of whom visited Utah Territory.
Father Samuele Mazzuchelli, a Dominican priest from Milano, traveled to the United States in 1828 and preached to the Indians for the next thirty-six years. In 1843, Mazzuchelli took a holiday in Italy, where he published an anonymous book recounting his experiences in America, including a visit to Nauvoo, Illinois.43 The book was republished in English in 191544 and 1967.45 The Congregation of the Dominican Sisters, of the Holy Rosary of Sinsinawa, which was founded by Father Mazzuchelli in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, has recently published and presented a Positio, a document necessary for canonization, which sets forth Mazzuchelli’s reputation for holiness, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Positio briefly mentions his visit among the Latter-day Saints.46
While in Nauvoo, which Mazzuchelli visited because he “desired to see and speak with heresiarch known for several years in every part of the Republic and even in England,” the Catholic priest visited the Prophet Joseph Smith. Mazzuchelli noted that Joseph “declared that he had many times seen God face-to-face and had had more revelations than the Apostle St. Paul” and that such claims demonstrated that Joseph was a “false prophet” who propagated “heresies.”47 At the same time, Mazzuchelli argued that Solomon Spaulding wrote the Book of Mormon and that “the theology of the Mormons is chiefly the work of a certain P. Pratt.”48 Mazzuchelli also blamed the rise of the Church on the gullibility of Protestant ministers and their congregations. Mazzuchelli had apparently learned most of what he knew about the Church from reading J. B. Turner’s Mormonism in All Ages, or the Rise, Progress and Cause of Mormonism,49 which he cited in his book and which, ironically, also criticized Catholicism.50
Six years after the publication of Mazzuchelli’s memoirs, a second book which discussed the Church appeared in Italian.51 Antonio Caccia had apparently visited the United States, but it is unlikely that he ever visited Salt Lake City, for his work is both biased and inaccurate. For example, he claimed that the Latter-day Saints immigrated to Utah in 1848 and confused Nauvoo with Salt Lake City. He did, however, accurately describe the Saints as having a “theocratic government with a community of goods and a plurality of women.”52 Despite its publication the same year as Elder Snow’s arrival in Italy, Caccia’s book was apparently unknown to the elders.
Another early reference to the doctrine of plural marriage appeared in a book concerning Catholicism and society published by Francesco Cavalleri in 1864. He noted that an official report of the United States in 1851 had determined that eminent persons in “the protestant sect of Mormons” have large numbers of wives “even twenty and thirty and Govenor Yonk [sic] has even more.”53
Ten years after the arrival of Elder Snow, while the elders were still attempting to spread their mission to the larger Italian-speaking and Catholic population, La Civilta’ Cattolica, a journal with strong Vatican ties published its first article devoted solely to the thirty-year-old Church.54 La Civilta’ Cattolica was founded in 1850 by the Jesuits to combat the increasingly vocal attacks on the papacy’s temporal authority. The article is the text of a speech delivered by a Catholic cardinal (Cardinal Reisach) to the Accademia di Religione Cattolica. The cardinal made some of the same criticisms as Father Mazzuchelli fourteen years earlier, but the article also contains some interesting observations which reflect the author’s concerns about the nascent Kingdom of Italy’s stated goal to annex the Papal States and his belief that there were similarities between Mormonism and Catholicism. For example, he noted that Mormonism “mixes and unifies the church with the state . . . and [in] this horrifying and iniquitous, religious, social and political system, I ask myself, can one find a confirmation of Catholic truth. Without doubt . . . isn’t it a Catholic principle that the church must not be separated from the state; . . . these principles are recognized in substance by the Mormons.”55 Similarly, the author wrote that “the Mormons . . . resort to primitive revelation, through their inspired, infallible prophet. . . . No one can deny, that in this . . . there comes a testimony concerning the truth of Catholic principles. . . . Mormonism recognizes . . . it must teach with infallibility.”56
Another Catholic cleric who mentioned the Church during this same period was the Bishop of Annecy. His book (which apparently appeared in French in the mid-1850s) was published in Italian in 1865.57 Bishop Rendu referred to the founder of the Church as “John Schmodt” and noted that converts were being made rapidly in England and Scotland. The Church doctrine which apparently interested him the most was the “power by virtue of the work of Saint Paul (1 Cor. 15:29) to save the dead they wish by receiving baptism for them.”58
Although several other Italian authors wrote concerning the Church in the 1860s, including Giuseppe Fovel,59 these accounts were written without the benefit of travel to Utah territory. Most Italian travelers who journeyed to Utah did so after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. However, at least two authors visited the territory prior to 1869.
Early Travel Accounts (1853–69)
The second time an Italian visited a Latter-day Saint prophet occurred ten years after Father Mazzuchelli’s visit to Nauvoo, and one year after Elder Snow returned to Utah from Italy. Count Leonetto Cipriani (Leonetto means “Little Lion”) visited Brigham Young in Salt Lake City while en route to San Francisco as part of a business venture. Cipriani was born in Corsica and raised in Tuscany. In 1852, he was appointed by the King of Sardinia—a kingdom which included both Sardinia and Piedmont—as that country’s first consul in San Francisco. After resigning from that position, he traveled to the midwest, where he purchased cattle to drive them west and sell them for profit in California. During the cattle drive he passed through Salt Lake City in 1853. Upon arriving in Utah Territory, he met a fellow Italian, whom he referred to in his book as Gennaro Capone but who was probably Domenico Ballo, a Sicilian who had converted to the Church and immigrated to Utah in 1851.60 Ballo introduced Cipriani to John Taylor, with whom Cipriani was able to converse in French, and Elder Taylor, in turn, introduced Cipriani to Brigham Young. Although Cipriani spent some time with “The Lion of the Lord,” the Little Lion’s recollections consist mainly of his visit to the Salt Lake Theatre, where Ballo conducted the orchestra, and of his various conversations with Elder Taylor regarding the practice of polygamy, the territorial government, and the legal system. Although Cipriani’s work is essentially complimentary, it was not published until 1934,61 more than forty-five years after his death. Yet, it is possible that he discussed the Latter-day Saints during his long public service in Italy, which included membership in the Italian Senate. An English translation of his book was not published until 1962.62
Another Italian, Enrico Besana, visited Utah Territory during his first trip around the world in 1868. Besana was the first professional Italian traveler who visited the United States in the nineteenth century and who wrote vivid accounts of his adventures. During his three circumnavigations of the globe, he visited every country in Europe and Asia, as well as the United States, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia. His articles on his visit to Utah in 1868 were published in a Milanese newspaper63 and in a weekly journal published in the same city by Emilio Treves.64 The publication of Besana’s travel accounts by Treves, who was a well-known Milanese publisher, is significant since the article contained the first engravings of Utah Territory published in Italy (which were taken from books by Frederick Piercy and others) and because Treves soon published seven books which included lengthy descriptions of the Church.
The Fratelli Treves Travel Accounts (1875–79)
From 1875 to 1879, “Fratelli Treves” (Emilio Treves) published Italian translations of books written by Richard Burton,65 Louis Simonin,66 William Hepworth Dixon,67 and Joseph Alexander Graf Von Hubner,68 as well as the account of an Italian traveler, Francesco Varvaro Pojero,69 all of which contained graphic descriptions of Utah and the Latter-day Saints. In addition, Emilio Treves coauthored and published a dictionary in 1878, which included several references to Utah and the Latter-day Saints.70
Abridgements of the books by Burton, Simonin, and Dixon appeared in the French travel periodical Le Tour du Monde,71 and all these foreign authors were translated into and published in French editions prior to the publication of their Italian translations.72 It is likely that the Italian translations were taken from the French rather than the original English (Burton and Dixon) or German (Hubner). The engravings in the Italian versions of Burton and Hubner were taken from the original French translation of Burton, which appeared in Le Tour du Monde in 1862, and, as will be seen, they perpetuated the mistakes made by the French translators.
With the exception of Burton, the accounts of the non-Italians were, for the most part, critical of the Church, and even Burton’s book was more critical in its Italian version than in its English edition. These authors wrote for an audience which was concerned about the spread of the Church in their countries and about the immigration of Latter-day Saint converts to the United States. Most had visited Brigham Young and referred to him as the Pope of Mormonism. Although their impressions of President Young differed, they were convinced that the Church would disintegrate after his death, a change that would be helped by the increased influx of gentiles into Utah Territory after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The authors emphasized the same topics as most writers who visited Utah in the last three decades of the nineteenth century—polygamy, Danites, temple ceremonies, blood atonement, the legal system, and their good impressions of the Salt Lake City theater.
Richard Burton’s even-handed account of his visit to Utah was first published in Great Britain in 1861 as The City of the Saints.73 The Italian edition is an abridgement of Burton’s English work and is a translation from the French version that appeared in Le Tour du Monde in 1862. The French version excluded much of Burton’s original text and added an appendix which contained portions of John Hyde’s anti-Mormon diatribe, Mormonism: Its Leadership and Designs,74 and engravings from books by Howard Stansbury,75 Frederick Piercy,76 John C. Bennett,77 and Jules Remy and Julius Brenchly.78 The extracts taken from Hyde’s book were purported to be his recollections of the Latter-day Saint temple ceremony. The French translator translated the word endowment as “admission to the sect,” an error which was perpetuated in the Italian translation. Because of the translator’s confusion regarding the meaning of the word endowment, the captions given to several engravings (both in French and Italian) taken from Bennett’s anti-Mormon book (which Lorenzo Snow noted was circulating in Italy in 1850) are not consistent with the originals. For example, one engraving depicting the temple ceremony is captioned: “The Baptism of the Mormons.” It features a naked baptismal candidate kneeling before an altar officiated over by three mitred ministers clothed in white robes.79 A second engraving, which depicted Danites, is labeled “Admission of a Neophyte Mormon.” It portrays a man standing before three ministers in robes and mitres.80 Other engravings are also mislabeled. For example, “Camp at Keokuk” becomes the Great Salt Lake,81 the Great Salt Lake becomes Utah Lake,82 and Fort Utah becomes Camp Floyd.83
Fratelli Treves published two works by the French traveler Louis Simonin, both of which mention the Church. Il Far-West degli Stati Uniti: i Pionieri e i Pelli Rosse (1876) is the translation of Simonin’s account published in Le Tour du Monde in 1868 and in book form in 1869, in which he described his first visit to the United States. Although he did not visit Utah at that time, he mentions at the beginning of his narrative that one of his traveling companions teased a fellow coach passenger by telling him that Brigham Young was on the train.84 The second book, Attraverso gli Stati Uniti dall’ Atlantico al Pacifico (1876), contains Simonin’s account of his visit to Utah in 1872. This book was first published in French in Le Tour du Monde in 1874 and in book form in 1875.85 It was also published in the Milanese magazine Il Giro del Mondo in 1874 prior to being published in book form in Italian.86 Of particular interest is Simonin’s account of having talked with T. B. H. Stenhouse, who “spoke very good French” and who had “preached Mormonism in Switzerland.” He also observed that the Church’s missionary work had been unsuccessful in France and Italy.87
William Hepworth Dixon published three books in Great Britain concerning his visits to and impressions concerning the Latter-day Saints. The Italian translation of one of these books, The White Conquest (La Conquista Bianca), was published by Fratelli Treves in 1877. The French translation appeared in Le Tour du Monde one year earlier in 1876 and in book form the same year as the Italian book.88 It was referred to by many subsequent Italian authors and seems to have had more of an impact upon Italian writers than books written by travelers of their own nationality. It was serialized in Italian by Fratelli Treves’s Il Giro del Mondo89 the same year that it was published in France by Le Tour du Monde and, as such, reached a wide audience.
In La Conquista Bianca, Dixon claimed that “Mormons seem to have derived their chief ideas, and adopted their chief practices, from the Indian lodges”90 and that the completion of the transcontinental railroad signaled the end of the religion because it would cause them to have more contact with “gentiles” and less with the “Indians.” He looked upon the apostasy of T. B. H. Stenhouse and the divorce proceedings filed by Ann Eliza Young as evidence of the Church’s decline.
In 1879 Fratelli Treves published a fifth book by a foreign author who had visited Utah. Joseph Alexander Graf Von Hubner was an Austrian count and diplomat who journeyed around the world from 1871 to 1873 and published his account in German in 1874. Passeggiata intorno al Mondo contains some of the same engravings published in the Italian edition of Burton’s book, including “The Baptism of the Mormons”91 and “Admission of a Neophyte Mormon,”92 and perpetuates the mistakes made by Burton’s French translator.
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During the same decade that Fratelli Treves published books by Burton, Simonin, Dixon, and Hubner, it also published the account of an Italian traveler who visited Utah in 1876. In fact, Francesco Varvaro Pojero had read both Dixon (including New America which was published for the first time in French in 1869),93 and Hubner, which was also published in French.94 Both of these travelers clearly affected Varvaro Pojero’s judgment regarding the Saints, before he wrote Una corsa nel Nuovo Mondo after a three-month stay in the United States. Like Cipriani, he was a minor nobleman, and, like most travelers to Utah, he criticized the practice of polygamy, theocratic government, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. He also visited Brigham Young, and, like other Italians, he was complimentary of the theater in Salt Lake City, noting that Brigham Young was “very particular in his selection of plays” and that the theater in Salt Lake City “did not have anything in common with those scandalous places we have visited in Denver and Cheyenne.”95 Varvaro Pojero was asked by a Church elder, “Then you must know, without doubt, our two brothers Toronto and Lorenzo Snow, missionaries to your country.” Although he was visiting Utah more than twenty-five years after the opening of the Italian Mission, Varvaro Pojero responded by saying, “No, I have never heard of them.” The elder was incredulous, “I can’t believe it. Lorenzo is a great missionary and he would convert you quickly. He would know how to demonstrate to you the evidence of the sweetness of polygamy, and he would not find it difficult to destroy your aversion to it.”96
Varvaro Pojero did not indicate whether he eventually met Elder Snow or if he was proselyted by him. But the publication of Varvaro Pojero’s book, and the Italian editions of Burton, Simonin, Dixon, and Hubner, did generate interest in the Latter-day Saints. In fact, in 1878 Treves published a “universal dictionary,” one of the first of its kind in Italian, which had entries for Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Utah. These entries are surprisingly even handed and do not attempt, as later Italian dictionaries did, to criticize the Church. At times, however, the factual information given is inaccurate. A second edition of this work, which was authored by Emilio Treves and Gustavo Strafforello, was published in 1880.97
Italian Travelers (1875–1900)
Besides Varvaro Pojero, there were at least eight Italians who visited Utah between 1875 to 1900 and returned to Italy to write an account of their travels. Despite the criticisms set forth in the works published by Fratelli Treves, many of these subsequent writers were favorably impressed by the inhabitants of Utah.
Francesco Carega di Muricce visited Utah in 1872 during a trip to North America and published his memoirs three years later in In America 1871–72.98 Carega di Muricce expressed his admiration for the Latter-day Saints’ expertise in agriculture and rural planning by facetiously suggesting that it had almost convinced him to join their faith. Like Varvaro Pojero, he was impressed by Salt Lake City’s theater, and most of his memories of Utah concern his visit to a “five penny” performance of Shakespeare. He was amused that the audience seemed almost as interested in seeing Brigham Young and his wives as it was in the performance. He was also surprised that the Latter-day Saint prophet brought only two of his wives with him. He compared the Church’s system of marriage to the Catholic religious sacrament and noted that “Utah was a kind of mecca for unhappy marriages. One can obtain a divorce for $10 paper money or $9 in coin” and that it was easier for a woman to make out a case than for a husband.99 He also noted that Brigham Young taught that unhappiness in marriage was largely the fault of husbands and urged that this “doctrine should be followed and should be accepted, even among us (Italians) who hypocritically practice Mormonism with fatal results . . . through illegitimate births and clandestine relationships.” He continued, “At least the Mormons of Utah treat their wives well and respect them, and they [the wives] live honored and tranquil lives, their children are legitimate, maintained and given an education.”100
In 1876 an anonymous Italian correspondent visited Utah during the Philadelphia Exposition. The correspondent had read the book by Simonin which described his visit among the Latter-day Saints. Even though the correspondent was extremely critical of the Church’s practice of polygamy, he admitted that the practice would inevitably be discontinued and that the Latter-day Saint faith would then become a religion like any other. The author was also complimentary of the Latter-day Saints’ “courage” and “faith,” and he expressed “admiration” for the first proselytes who settled Utah Territory and colonized the arid west. He described Salt Lake City as “a large and prosperous marketplace: There is no luxury, but there is also no misery; there is a general feeling that prosperity is equally shared.”101
In 1880 another Italian correspondent visited Salt Lake City on his way to San Francisco. Although Paolo Devecchi did not write a book, he did send letters to the Gazzetta Piemontese in Torino, some of which were also published in L’Eco d’Italia in New York. In one of these letters, Devecchi wrote of his encounter with some of the Italians Joseph Toronto had brought with him from Sicily a few years earlier. These converts, he claimed, were anxious to return to their homeland.102 Eventually one family did return to Sicily, and another moved to California, “where the climate was more to their liking.”103
Another Italian correspondent, Giovanni Vigna dal Ferro, visited Utah in 1881. He was in the United States for four years beginning in 1876 and wrote a series of letters to the Italian newspaper La Patria, a summary of which was later published in Un viaggio nel Far West Americano.104 He arrived in Salt Lake City during April conference in 1881 and was treated very cordially by Church officials, including John Taylor. He was introduced to the families of other Church officials and invited to their homes, where he found a “friendly reception and [the] appearance of complete happiness.”105 Yet he also wrote that the Latter-day Saints “are not and cannot be said to be a Christian people.”106 For him, they were “men of affairs” and had no difficulty in transacting business with gentiles, although he believed “their society is destined, sooner or later, to fall apart.”107
Six years after the publication of Vigna dal Ferro’s book, another book, which recounted the visit of Carlo Gardini to Utah, was published in Bologna. In Gli Stati Uniti-Ricordi,108 Gardini recounts his four visits to the United States between 1878 and 1886, travels which included the most extensive visit by any Italian traveller to Utah Territory. Not only did he visit Ogden and Salt Lake City (the usual stopping places for visitors), but he also visited Provo, Milford, Cedar City, Silver Reef, Toquerville, Pipe Springs, and Kanab. During his visit to Utah, the author was informed that Church missionaries who had proselyted in Italy had found it necessary to carry out their work with “maximum secrecy” because of the Italian government’s prohibition against “public conferences.” Like previous Italian visitors to the Territory, Gardini found his reception in Utah to be very cordial: “The hospitality of the Latter-Day Saints is a sacred thing.”109 On one occasion, Gardini was even given free fruit by a shopkeeper after the merchant learned that Gardini was Italian—“in exchange for the great pleasure that your fellow countrymen have given me in both operas and concerts.”110 Nevertheless, Gardini was critical of the Church and called it a “bizarre sect, and its followers fanatics.”111 Like Hubner and Dixon, whose books he had read, he predicted that the arrival of the gentiles on the railroad would eventually cleanse the Church and that its doctrines were similar to those of the Indians in the territory. In fact, it was because of Gardini’s curiosity about the Indians that he set out for southern Utah accompanied by a companion he referred to as “the missionary.” Even in the frontier settlements of southern Utah, he continued to be impressed with the hospitality of the Latter-day Saints he met.
In 1892 a book was published which contained the letters of Augusto Torlonia written during his travels to India, China, Japan, and the United States in 1886–87. It includes one letter written from Salt Lake City while the author was traveling from San Francisco to New York before returning to Italy. Torlonia described Salt Lake City as “lovely and its position charming.” Yet he also complained that he had hoped to find “more traces of Mormonism which is, little by little, changing into a religious sect without polygamy.” He was disappointed not to see the Tabernacle full of Apostles, revelators, and bishops on his Sunday visit in September 1887 but was impressed with the acoustics of the structure. He also noted the construction of the temple, whose architecture he was not impressed with. He believed that Salt Lake City was worth a visit even if “after all I have seen in the Orient, nothing in America can seriously interest me.”112
One of the last travel accounts by an Italian who visited Utah in the nineteenth century was written by Giulio Fano.113 Fano spent less than one day in Salt Lake City on a train trip between San Francisco and Denver and, as such, simply recounted his visit to the major tourist attractions, including the Beehive House, temple lot, the Tabernacle, and ZCMI, which he described as a cooperative with marvelous organization. He was, however, taken back by the Knutsford Hotel, where he complained that the service was not good and “one has to eat a series of badly-prepared courses from the same plate.”114
Another Italian who visited Utah for only a short time was Guido Rossati, who was sent to the United States by the Italian Minister of Agriculture to study the American wine industry and the potential market for Italian wines. He wrote a book entitled Relazione di un viaggio d’istruzione negli Stati Uniti, in which he stated that Salt Lake City was one of the most prosperous cities of the West and an important agricultural center and that he had observed “some vineyards with alot of blooming grapevines.”115
Armchair Writers (1874–1912)
An increasing number of Italian writers commented upon the Latter-day Saints from their armchairs in Italy following the publication of the first travel accounts. One of the most curious works is by an Italian educator, Emilio Teza.116 In it, the author recounts that he was sent a copy of The Deseret First Book,117 which was written in the Deseret alphabet. Teza translated portions of the book and included in his Italian translation a pronunciation guide for the new alphabet. He also included a short account of the Book of Mormon, which he concluded was authored by Solomon Spaulding.
Other writers, who visited the United States but not Utah, also mentioned the Latter-day Saints. In 1876, Sebastiano Fenzi visited the United States and published his memoirs, Gita intorno alla Terra dal gennaio al settembre dell’ anno 1876,118 in which he included a short discussion of the Church.
In 1878 Gustavo Strafforello, who coauthored the “universal dictionary” with Emilio Treves the same year, utilized a book written by Friedrich Anton Heller von Hellwald119—in which Hellwald described his trip to Utah—as the basis for a book, La Terra e l’uomo.120 A second edition was published in 1886. It is doubtful that Strafforello had visited Utah. Nevertheless, relying on Hellwald, he believed that the Church was “the most socially and politically important sect” in the United States, and he sought to dispel the misconception that “a disorganized and primitive way of life exists among the Mormons.” “On the contrary,” he wrote, “there exists in every location the maximum order: one does not encounter either beggars or idlers, it’s a country cultivated by hands that transformed a desolated desert.”121 He was, however, critical of the Church’s system of civil government and of its religious claims, but he also noted that the Church had been successful in attracting converts in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The book also republished one of the engravings from Burton’s and Hubner’s books depicting “Baptism of a Neophyte Mormon” kneeling before the altar presided over by robed priests.122 In addition, it contains several engravings from Stansbury,123 which were published in the German edition of von Hellwald.
In 1884 an Italian economist also mentioned the Latter-day Saints briefly in a book he wrote concerning the agriculture, industry, and commerce of the United States.124 Although Egisto Rossi does not specifically state that he visited Utah, he did spend thirteen months in the United States between 1881 and 1882. He reported that Salt Lake City “is one of the most elegant cities in the United States” and that the surviving wives of the “defunct Pope Brigham Young” were “not much worse off now than before according to the coreligionists of the famous polygamist.”125
In 1885 another Italian who had visited the United States but probably not Utah wrote a book in which the Latter-day Saints were prominently mentioned.126 De Martiis’s work on socialism in the United States was part of a multivolume work on that subject. In his account of the Church, he relied heavily on Burton, Hubner, Simonin, and Dixon and was particularly interested in Dixon’s theory that Latter-day Saint theology borrowed many of its precepts from the Indians who resided in the territory. The author also noted the presence of Latter-day Saints in Italy, about which he had learned by reading the correspondence of the United States consular official who had reported the presence of Joseph Toronto in Sicily several years earlier. He also believed that the death of Brigham Young had “deprived the Saints of a force which has weighed, almost despotically, upon their heads for many years.”127 Unlike previous authors, he did not predict the demise of the Church after the death of President Young (which had occurred eight years before the publication of his book), but he did believe that Brigham’s successor, John Taylor, was not as clever and did not command as much respect from his followers.128
In 1888 an article which appeared in the periodical Nuova Antologia derived much of its information from de Martiis and the secondary sources he cited.129 Although it was quite common for authors to derive much of their information concerning the Church from other authors, Brunialti’s article is so similar to de Martiis’s description of Latter-day Saints that it is difficult not to conclude that he plagiarized most of it from de Martiis’s account.
This article was not the first nor last one published by Nuova Antologia on the Church. In 1877 Angelo de Gubernatis commented on the death of Brigham Young, claiming it would halt a planned Latter-day Saint exodus to the Sandwich Islands. He also wrote that one of Brigham Young’s sons would succeed him but that the religion would not survive long after Brigham’s death.130 Another article appeared in 1896 concerning the new constitution of the state of Utah.131 La Civilta’ Cattolica also published an article mentioning the Latter-day Saints’ difficulties in obtaining statehood because of the practice of polygamy during the period of mounting tensions with the federal government.132 The article is an account of Italian emigrants who passed through Salt Lake City; these emigrants, who had read Hubner, criticized polygamy and, like the United States consular official in Palmero, compared Joseph Smith to David Lazzaretti.133
Another interesting book which mentions the Church and was published in Italy prior to the Manifesto is by G. Marinelli.134 Volume 7 of this work concerns America and was written around 1890. It included several references to the Church. The author had read Dixon, Bowes, Brunialti, and Schlagintweit and believed that the Church was in great decay because of polygamy. According to the author, polygamy had brought with it slavery and oppression of women. As long as the Latter-day Saints were isolated, the system worked, but with the discovery of minerals, the coming of the railway, and the influx of immigrants, Latter-day Saint women rebelled and reclaimed their rights. As lust and greed entered the Church, schisms started. The author also noted that the Church had never had missionary success among Catholics.
Even after the Manifesto, Italy saw published occasional books which mistakenly accused the Church of continuing to sanction polygamous marriages.135 This perception seemed to be confirmed by the publication in Italian of various works of fiction written before 1890, including Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, which contained melodramatic accounts of Latter-day Saint polygamy.136 In fact, Emilio Salgari, an Italian author of adventure novels who has been compared to Conan Doyle, was apparently writing a novel similar to A Study in Scarlet when he committed suicide near Torino in 1911.137 In 1910 Romolo Bianchi wrote a book about religious movements, L’evoluzione religiosa nella societa Americana,138 which is volume five of Biblioteca del Pensiero Moderno.139 For him, the Church was “the most important of all religious sects in the United States” and its spiritual beliefs were similar to “the spiritual disposition of Italian mystics.”140 He advocated the Spaulding theory and argued that the religion had taken its main precepts from the Old Testament and patterned its practices after Zoroaster and Pythagoras, as well as the Baptists, Irvingites, and Millenialists. The author also accused the leadership of the Church of not being sincere in its abandonment of polygamy.
Two years later, in 1912, Luigi Villari, in Gli Stati Uniti d’ America e l’ emigrazione Italiana,141 claimed that the Church still practiced polygamy,142 a mistake which has been replicated by several Italian writers in the last forty years, including a recent editor of La Civilta’ Cattolica, who suggested not only that polygamy might continue to be practiced, or at least would be if it were legally possible, but also that Latter-day Saints believed that Jesus and Adam are the same person.143
Travelers and Commentators (1913–1952)
For the most part, the Italian authors of the twentieth century who discussed the Church were not aware of the previous writings by Italians about the Latter-day Saints. Nor did they know that the Latter-day Saints had proselyted in Italy. Instead, they relied on the works of American, English, or German authors, which were, for the most part, negative in their treatment of the Church.144 There are several exceptions. In 1913 two letters written by a Waldensian pastor, David Bosio, were published in the Waldensian newspaper, L’Écho des Valleés Vaudois. Bosio had visited Utah in September 1913 and wrote that he had talked to some of the former Waldensians who had converted to the Church and immigrated to Utah approximately sixty years before his visit. He noted that most of them had settled in either Ogden or Provo and that one of them had apparently been converted from Mormonism to another Christian religion. Even though Bosio visited Utah more than twenty years after the Manifesto, he also wrote that the Church permitted polygamy and that the English government was opposed to the Church because “their missionaries go to England principally to marry women and take them away with them.”145
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Another exception is the work of Luca Beltrami, who wrote several articles to record the achievements of Samuele Mazzuchelli.146 Beltrami’s attitude toward the Church was heavily influenced by the Catholic priest’s writings—although he did write that Mazzuchelli and Joseph Smith had talked until three o’clock in the morning, even though this fact is not mentioned by the Catholic priest in his own book published in 1846.147
During the early Mussolini years, the writings of Cipriani were finally published, as well as books by Arnoldo Cipolla,148 Arnoldo Fraccaroli,149 and Irene di Robilant.150 Cipolla was a seasoned traveler who visited Utah in 1925 on a trip from Alaska to New York City. Although he appears to have believed that the Church was a “religious sect which disposes men toward polygamy,” he was more impressed by Salt Lake City’s unique geography which was comparable to the “Lido of Venice in July combined with the valleys of Alto Adige in September.” He was also impressed with the Great Salt Lake and the Saltair Resort, which he estimated had twenty thousand women on the dance floor at one time.
Fraccaroli’s account is less substantive and contains spurious and silly comments on the citizens of Utah (that they killed cats which hunt mice on Sunday and that Latter-day Saints continued to practice polygamy).151
On the other hand, di Robilant’s references to the Church are surprisingly complimentary. She had read M. R. Werner’s biography of Brigham Young and concluded that previous travel accounts had overemphasized the Latter-day Saint practice of polygamy. She was convinced that polygamy was not practiced for the pleasure of men, but to provide women with protection, family, and offspring. The author also believed that the most important story to be found in the Church after the abandonment of polygamy was its superb economic organization and its commercial and social prosperity.
During the 1930s, various encyclopedias were published which contained slanted and unfavorable accounts of the Latter-day Saints.152 The authors did not refer to any of the books which had previously been published in Italian concerning the Church; instead, they relied on anti-Mormon works published in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. In addition, a Jesuit priest, Camillo Crivelli, briefly mentioned the Latter-day Saints in his book on Protestants in Italy, I Protestanti in Italia,153 and later wrote an entry on Mormonism in Enciclopedia Cattolica, wherein heinsisted that “polygamy continues to be practiced among [the Latter-day Saints] even if not as openly as before.”154
While a few articles continued to appear in Italy subsequent to World War II and prior to the reopening of the Italian Mission in 1966,155 hundreds of articles have been published in the Italian press during the past twenty-five years.156 At the same time, a number of pamphlets and articles have been published in Italian by sectarian authors who criticize Latter-day Saint theology and doctrines and warn their readers of the Latter-day Saint missionary “menace.”157
Yet from 1966 to 1989 only two books dedicated exclusively to the Church were written and published in Italy.158 The first book, Confronto con i Mormoni, was by a Catholic priest, Pier Angelo Gramaglia.159 Although published with ecclesiastical approval, it has been criticized by Dr. Massimo Introvigne, who noted that it ignores almost all of the scientific literature and historical research done concerning the Church since the Second World War.160 The second book, by a Latter-day Saint convert, Giovanni Stragliotto, La mia testimonianza: perche un Cattolico diventa Mormone?,161 recounts his conversion and a few basic doctrines.
The most serious studies of the Church by an Italian have been by Massimo Introvigne, who is a Torino university lecturer, a lawyer, a practicing Roman Catholic, and Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR). He has written the most scholarly, unbiased articles on the Church published in Italy to date.162 In his most recent books, Le nuove religioni and Le sette cristiane, Introvigne discusses and compares the Church (and its main splinter groups) with other important new religious movements. Introvigne’s books will no doubt become important sources in Italy for nonmembers about the Church and other new religions for many years to come. In 1990 and 1991, CESNUR also published books on new religions.163 The material includes chapters on the Church by Massimo Introvigne and Jean-Francois Mayer, who are both conversant with Church history and theology.
During the past year a third book devoted solely to the Church by an Italian author was published by one of the largest publishing companies in Italy.164 Michele Straniero is a journalist from Turino who has been a student and observer of the Church since 1972, when he interviewed Harold B. Lee, who visited Italy while returning from Israel. Straniero has also visited Utah and written several articles on it in the Italian press. His book is nonsectarian and attempts to accurately present Church history by quoting the works of historians such as Leonard Arrington, B. H. Roberts, James B. Allen, and Glen M. Leonard and the doctrinal works of James E. Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie. He does not totally ignore other non-Mormon commentators, but he does not cite anti-Mormon statements, which have been the common content of past books mentioning the Church.
While most of the Italian authors who have written about the Church during the past twenty-five years have not been aware of the prior works discussed in this paper, they are aware of scholarly works about the Church written in the past twenty-five years and can now present a more complete and unbiased picture of the Church to the Italian public.