Bishop Lawrence Scanlan


Judging from his photograph, Lawrence Scanlan, first Catholic Bishop of Utah, was not a man to be trifled with, and perhaps that was a factor that helped him get along with Mormons so well as he established Catholicism in their Zion.  Not long after Father Scanlan arrived in Utah in 1873, he was invited by the Mormons in Saint George, Utah to use their tabernacle to say Mass.  They even supplied a chorus that could sing a Latin High Mass!

Respect for Catholicism had been planted in Mormonism at the start.  The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith gave this speech when an Ursuline Convent was burned in Boston in 1834:  :“The early settlers of Boston . . . who had fled from their mother country to avoid persecution and death, soon became so lost to principles of justice and religious liberty as to whip and hang the Baptist and the Quaker, who, like themselves, had fled from tyranny to a land of freedom; and the Fathers of Salem, from 1691 to 1693, whipped, imprisoned, tortured, and hung many of their citizens for supposed witchcraft; and quite recently, while boasting of her light and knowledge, of her laws and religion, as surpassed by none on earth, has New England been guilty of burning a Catholic convent in the vicinity of Charlestown, and of scattering the inmates to the four winds; yes, in sight of the very spot where the fire of the American Independence was first kindled, where a monument is now erecting in memory of the battle of Bunker Hill, and the fate of the immortal Warren, who bled, who died on those sacred heights, to purchase religious liberty for his country; in sight of this very spot, have the religionists of the nineteenth century demolished a noble brick edifice, hurling its inhabitants forth upon a cold, unfeeling world for protection and subsistence.”

Knowing severe religious persecution in their early years, the Mormons felt a kinship to other persecuted religious groups, including Jews and Catholics.  Prior to Father Scanlan arriving in Utah, Brigham Young helped Father Mathew Kelly get the land to build the first Catholic Church in Salt Lake City.

The good relations persisted through the years as he traveled about the Territory saying Mass for the scattered Catholic population.  He brought the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Indiana to establish Saint Mary’s Academy and Holy Cross Hospital.

On November 23, 1886, Pope Leo XIII consecrated Scanlan Vicar Apostolic of Utah and Titular Bishop of Lavenden.  On January 30, 1891 he was made first Bishop of Salt Lake City.  He complete work on the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City in 1909.  He died in 1915, mourned by Catholics and Mormons alike, a no longer living link to the heroic pioneering period of Utah history.

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  1. Your pity for the Mormons as a “persecuted group” is ridiculous. They suffered persecution, so called. for one major reason. They were a violent group of people who committed crimes and moral outrages against the Non-Mormons they came into contact with. Some Non-Mormons did go overboard in dealing with Mormon transgressions, but for the most part, the Ain’t Saints got the shellackings that they deserved.

  2. Holy smokes, that fellow *looks* the part of a bishop! Old school. Would that some of our current crop of shepherds looked (and acted) as formidable.

  3. Yeah, a statue of that bishop would look softer than he does. If you carved that face into rock, people would look at it and think it was a bad representation or a trick of the light.

    I made a comment recently about the need for an authentic orthodox American Catholic identity. It’s interesting that Mormonism is probably the quintessential American religion. Screwy New England Christian roots, extreme devotion and utopianism, emphasis on family and morals. Those used to be classic elements of American religion.

    This country has an interesting religious history. We’re originally settled by escaping Protestants, and had an Episcopalian aristocracy, and the role of the Southern Baptists and evangelicals can’t be overemphasized. I’ve heard it argued that we were headed toward a Catholic moment in our history until the bishops’ sex scandals broke. I think there’s a solid argument for that. We find ourselves with less of a voice than we should have, given our numbers and our merits, but if we’re going to close that gap, it’s up to us.

  4. “They were a violent group of people who committed crimes and moral outrages against the Non-Mormons they came into contact with.”

    Read Fawn Brodie’s, No Man Knows My History (1945), Stephen, the first scholarly biography of Joseph Smith, and get back to me. She was an ex-Mormon who had little love for the Mormon Church, indeed she was excommunicated by the Mormons because of the biography, but she gives chapter and verse to the sickening persecutions the Mormons were subject to, up to and including murder. That some Mormons took up arms in defense is hardly surprising. Another recent good book to read is American Crucifixion on the murder of Joseph Smith and his brother by an Illinois mob. The Mormons were not pacifists, but they were far more sinned against than sinning, including an extermination order signed against them by the governor of Missouri.

  5. Hi, Pinky,

    I have a couple of mild counterpoints. The first Europeans in the present day United States were Catholics. While Catholics were not numerically significant in the original 13 colonies – Maryland WAS a Catholic colony until the Anglicans ran roughshod over it – St. Augustine, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, Vincennes, Indiana, New Orleans, San Antonio and other Catholic towns and villages were in existence. and St. Aughustine predates any Protestant settlement in the Western Hemisphere. Padre Kino – the Padre on Horseback – traveled throughout the present day southwestern USA evangelizing various Indian tribes, most notably the Pimas. Fray Serro evangelized California during the American Revolution.

    Without help from then Catholic France AND Spain the War for Independence may have failed. The stupid anti-Catholicsm of the New Englanders cost them the help of Quebec, who might have to otherwise been persuaded to join the Americans.

    Until the Second Vatican Council, the American Catholic Church was on its way to making this a majority Catholic country. Afterwards, to use the words of Bloom County’s Bill the Cat “pfffffffffffffft”.

    Bishop Leonard’s mere glance would have been enough to send most of the current American Catholic episcopate looking for a rock to crawl under.

  6. Don, I’m quite well informed about the Mormon cult. The Utah Lighthouse Ministry has scads of historical material I the form of pamphlets, articles, books, and DVDs on the LDS. The late Gerald Tanner, and his wife Sandra, are respected authorities and researchers on the Mormon sect and it’s history. Their research into Mormon history shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Mormons were, as I said, “a violent group of people who committed crimes and moral outrages against Non-Mormons they came in contact with.” Their acts of violence against the people of Illinois and Missouri is what brought what you call “the sickening persecutions” down on their heads. When a group of people engage in acts of murder, thievery, fraud, sexual immorality, without a let up, that tends to make ordinary, decent folks pretty mad. Any violent actions against the Mormons, including the extermination order, has to be seen in that light.
    Also, some of my ancestors in Elmwood, Il. had contact with the Mormons, and their criminal ways back during the 1830-40’s. They knew these folks for the criminals they actually were. A friend of my great-great-grandfather Avery Dalton had a run in with a Mormon ‘prophet’ who was stealing goods from his neighbors by claiming God told him, via divine revelations, to take their property. My gggrandfather’s friend told the LDS conman he had a revelation too. He said God told him to fill the prophets hide with lead if he didn’t get a move on! According to Avery, the prophet ran all the way back to Nauvoo, Il.!
    BTW, did you ever read about the crime called the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Was that the result of Mormon reacting to “sickening persecutions” or an act of planned cold blooded murder by the leadership of the Mormon church? Get back tome when you read about that.

  7. The history is as I describe it Stephen. The Tanners were former Mormons who became anti-Mormon activists. Accepting their assessment of Mormon history would be like accepting the assessment of bitter ex-Catholics on Catholic history.

    “BTW, did you ever read about the crime called the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Was that the result of Mormon reacting to “sickening persecutions” or an act of planned cold blooded murder by the leadership of the Mormon church? Get back tome when you read about that.”

    As you might have guessed Stephen, I know all about it. A great crime which occurred during the Utah War, and which Brigham Young commanded not be done, although he participated in an attempt to cover it up after the fact. Let me know when you start reading real history about the Mormons instead of the drek you have cited. In this area neither histories written by devout Mormons nor histories written by devout anti-Mormons tend to be useful in determining what actually occurred, which should be the goal of all history. History is very important to me and I will not allow it on this cite to be distorted by sources that are junk.

  8. Don, was my ancestor Avery Dalton, who was a respected citizen of the town of Elmwood, Il. He didn’t like the Mormons because he and his friends and neighbors saw how those “sickening persecuted” Saints really behaved in their neck of the woods. Why should I doubt his honest testimony over your defense of these people whose criminal behavior is well documented?
    Your put down of the Tanner’s as “devout Anti-Mormons” is a classic ad hominem attack used by cults and their defenders. I was a cult member for almost a decade, and this is easy for me to see. I was attacked for speaking out against my former cult by the members and leadership, but every word I said was true. For you to compare the Tanner’s to embittered Ex-Catholics attacking our church is just plain nuts. The Tanner’s are offering a legitimate criticism of an Anti-Christian cult. The embittered Ex-Catholics are attacking the Church Christ founded.

  9. “Why should I doubt his honest testimony over your defense of these people whose criminal behavior is well documented?”

    Because history is history Stephen, family folklore notwithstanding.

    Describing the Tanners as bitter ex-Mormons is not ad hominem but rather an accurate statement. They devoted their lives to attacking Mormonism, which they began to do shortly after their marriage in 1959. Expecting them to have been objective historians of Mormonism is like expecting chastity from Bill Clinton.

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