This week while we’re hearing lurid tales from Tom Green County, Texas, it is worthwhile to remember exactly how ugly were the lies once printed about our own people, some of them told unashamedly by federal appointees and officers of the 19th century court.
John T. Lynch, Salt Lake postmaster, was interviewed by a reporter from the St. Louis Republican, one of the nation’s prestigious newspapers, in 1882.
What effect does it [plural marriage] have on the morals of the community?
The worst, the very worst that could be imagined. It is a well-known fact that what the young men of Mormon parents see at home educates them to a life of licentiousness. I know from unimpeachable testimony that the majority of the young men who visit the houses of ill-fame in the city are of Mormon parentage.
How about Mormon girls?
Let me relate you a little incident. A few days ago I witnessed a curious transaction, in which the leader of the demi-monde of the city was one of the parties to the sale of some land. Before the sale was consummated a discussion ensued concerning the Mormon question. The woman was asked how many girls of that faith were in her establishment. She replied that there were 19 inmates, but of these only six were Mormons; but in explaining this she said if she were to admit all those of the Mormon religion that applied, she would have no use for any others. 
George C. Bates, former United States District Attorney for Utah, spun this little tale, widely published in 1882, claiming to have been on an official visit to southern Utah ten years earlier, where,
stopping to change horses and dine, I saw around the table five polygamous wives of one old bishop, and in and about the ranch some 36 large boys and girl of all ages from 10 to 16 and 20 years, and then and there I learned that these young Mormons all slept in one large, single room overhead in the Winter, like so many pigs, and in the hot weather of the Summer the are huddled together in the straw in the stable, living in promiscuous concubinage, and that several of the girls were bearing children to their cousins and brothers and uncles, as so many cows or ewes would do. This was a matter of daily happening, and was not discouraged, but winked at by the old Bishop, who stood high in the church, as a consequence of their religious teachings that every womanâ€™s future happiness was enhanced by the number of children she bore, no matter who might be their fathers. 
I shouldn’t have to say this, but for clarity’s sake: I have religious objections to the practice of polygamy in 2008. I abhor child and spousal abuse. I despise coercion, especially in an area so sacred and eternal as marriage. I believe that with but the rarest of exceptions, underage marriages should be barred, with the ban being vigorously enforced.
And it may be that the FLDS are guilty of some or all of what they have been convicted of in the public’s mind — but because of our own history, because I know that people are eager to be titillated and willing — anxious, even — to believe the worst at the intersection of religion, sex, and secretive societies, I’m willing to suspend judgment until the evidence is in and the accused have had a chance to tell their side of the story.
Guy Murray at Messenger and Advocate continues to provide the best roundup of news and opinion on the Eldorado raid.
J. Stapley at By Common Consent has posted links to valuable resources on this topic.
 St. Louis Republican, reprinted as “A Batch of Falsehoods about the Mormons,” Deseret Semi-Weekly News, 22 June 1883.
 “How the Mormons Multiply,” Weekly Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), 18 February 1882.