I have long been aware that in the early history of the Mormon church they were the target of an enormous amount of anti-Mormon propaganda, but it was not until I saw some of the text in the 1883 book from which the following illustration is taken that I was aware how much it was bound up with sexual panic and charges of licentiousness:

mormon anointing

The above fairly harmless drawing is captioned “Anointing Communicants In The Endowment House (Representing The Ceremony As Performed By The Mormons At Nauvoo)” but the accompanying prose is considerably over the top:

In the administration of the endowment ceremonies, males and females were compelled to subordinate any native modesty they might have. The women repaired to a chamber where their clothing was all removed; they then passed in nude condition to the anointing room, where a priestess received them; they were there baptized in a tub, and then anointed with olive oil until their flesh was as slick as a Guinea negro’s. Those who know of the secret practices of the priesthood declare that Smith and his colleagues had a peephole made in the side of this endowment room, through which they studied the physical attributes of female communicants, so as to inform themselves fully concerning the desirableness of new spiritual wives. This ceremonial proceeding led to beastiality with all naturalness…

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