February 1996

Utah Centennial

A record crowd turned out for the January 11th Humanists of Utah meeting. The enthusiastic response to Ken Verdoia’s presentation regarding the Utah Struggle for Statehood indicated no one was disappointed. The senior director of KUED-TV said the short-hand version of the first 50-years of colonizing the Territory of Deseret ignores the rich diversity of peoples, voices and experiences that shaped the future of this unique geography. Verdoia said the Centennial should be more than just a big birthday party. The award winning journalist touched interesting highlights of the information he accumulated during his three years of researching the events that took place between 1847 and 1896.

The story of Utah is a history of conflicts, the competition of voices, the resolution of injustices. Its more than a one dimensional spiritual story. Rather, the real story of Utah is a choir of voices, Native Americans, miners, railroad workers, publishers, merchants; a chorus of extraordinary diversity and languages, Swedish, Danish, German, French, and various English dialects like Welsh, Irish, and Liverpool. The conflicts were economic, social, political and religious. Those conflicts, said Verdoia, are recorded in historical copies of the various newspapers that competed for readership as they recorded Utah’s struggle for statehood.

Reading those journals, Verdoia concludes that contrary to popular myth, polygamy was not the major obstacle to statehood for Utah. The wall that kept the U.S. Congress from accepting the territory’s many applications for statehood was the absolute political control of the Mormon church. While the church reluctantly permitted limited social and economic relations with nonmembers, it maintained a tight-fisted political control. When political adversaries attempted to form opposition parties, church members infiltrated organizational meetings and thwarted any effective activity. Polygamy was used as the sloganeering reason for opposing statehood because it was an easy issue to popularize, but the religious domination of Utah politics was the real reason Congress defeated the first six petitions from Utah for statehood. Only when the Mormon church was willing to relax its political control did the United States Congress give serious consideration to its seventh application for statehood. That’s why Utah’s constitution has one of the nation’s strongest clauses separating church and state. Article 4, section 4 “… no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust or for any vote at any election; nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror on account of religious belief or absence thereof.”

Verdoia concluded his presentation saying: “Our history is neither Mormon nor non-Mormon, it cannot be defined with one set of parameters. It cannot be just the spiritual story, or the political story, or the economic story or the social story. 1896 was a coming of age, a slow maturation that took a lot of give and take. If you think in those terms and can say ‘I am a Utahn’ then you will be celebrating the centennial in a way that will inform and grace succeeding generations.”

Ken’s five-hour television documentary: Utah, the Struggle for Statehood aired on KUED January 3rd and 4th. It’s available, along with a colorful pictorial narrative publication, from Eccles Broadcast Center, University of Utah.

–Wayne Wilson

Origins of the Happy Human Symbol

I found this article while surfing on the world wide web one night. It is from a home page maintained by the Victorian Humanist Association in Melbourne, Australia.

Members have often asked: “Where did the Humanist icon–The Happy Human–come from?”

The story began thirty years ago in the London office of the British Humanist Association, (BHA). In 1965 Tom Vernon, then the Press and Public Relations officer of the BHA, proposed that a competition be held to find a symbol, logo or icon for the Humanist Movement.

During the following months entries flowed in and opinions were canvassed. “What do you think of that?” The uniform reply was, “Not much.” More than 150 drawings were submitted from around the world including Australia, Mexico and one from a Canadian firm of undertakers! They varied in size from one square inch to one 20 by 15 inches. The file of rejects continued to grow. Until one morning arrived what became to be known as the Happy Human symbol.

The effect was electric, the common reaction of most who saw it for the first time. The artist was Dennis Barington of North London. News of the competition results was reported in the June 1965 issue of Humanist News.

Today, wherever humanism is to be found in the world, the Happy Human is to be found. It has become the link that identifies the Internationalism of the Humanist Movement and highlights the humanist teaching: “There is but one life that we know of and we should influence that life by being happy, and the best way to do that is by making others so!”

–Wayne Wilson

Happy Human in Utah

Update: Our Symbol was updated in 2020:

The eight Happy Humanists form a circle that represents global forward progress and also represents a sun of enlightenment. Their arms are outstretched in hope, potential and joy.


Approximately half of all pregnancies terminate in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). A women’s physical body rejects the fetus for a variety of reasons.

Humans’ prodigious cognitive abilities separate us from other animals. Our ability to make choices based upon reason have made possible our species’ current domination of the planet.

Laws that deny women access to safe and legal therapeutic abortion prevent her from making a decision that her body routinely makes. Restricting reproductive choice has the effect of reducing women’s status to that of domestic animals.

–Wayne Wilson
Letter to the Editor
Refused Publication in The Salt Lake Tribune

My Funny Valentine

~Nancy’s Corner

Mrs. Prowell was short and stout. She arranged her wiry gray hair in a makeshift bun at the nape of her neck, and wore the same dress for days on end. She seldom smiled, and openly chastised any student who got out of line, which was often, especially for fourth graders.

During our Palmer Method penmanship lessons, Mrs. Prowell would stridently walk up and down the aisle with ruler in hand and rap anyone’s knuckles if their writing became less than perfect. And when it came to minor infractions, we were never innocent until proven guilty, but always guilty, and sent to the cloakroom with nary a chance to explain.

At the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Prowell warned us she had eyes in the back of her head, and we believed her because we hardly ever got away with anything. Once I passed a love note to my boyfriend, Peter, while her back was turned. She spun around, briskly marched down the aisle with a mean look on her face, grabbed the note from Peter’s hand, read it, then snapped at me, “Don’t be too forward with the boys, it’ll get you into trouble every time!” I was so scared and mortified that I stopped writing love notes for two whole weeks. And although I tried to take her advice, I just couldn’t change my behavior without taking a vow of silence in a nunnery, so I decided the trouble she warned me about was worth it.

She was a strict one, old “Pruddy Prowell” as we called her, but I learned good penmanship, memorized my times tables, and developed a love for singing patriotic songs.

By all appearances I didn’t believe Mrs. Prowell had a heart or a home. I thought perhaps she descended into the school basement at night and created her sinister lesson plans for the next day. That was, until Otillie transferred into our class. She was a girl that looked as funny as her name. She had mousy brown hair, a narrow pointed nose, sad eyes, and well-worn clothes. I didn’t think much about Otillie, and kind of ignored her, until one week before Valentine’s Day when Mrs. Prowell announced to the class that each one of us had to give every student in the room a Valentine. What a corny rule, I thought to myself. Besides, it was inconvenient for me because I had already made (from scratch in those days) just enough Valentines for the friends I liked. (I made three for Peter.) This new rule meant I had to make some more for the kids I didn’t even know, or didn’t like. It just didn’t seem fair, but of course I managed to smile and keep my mouth shut.

When I went home and told my mom of Mrs. Prowell’s corny rule, she thought it would be a nice gesture and encouraged me to do it, so I did–grudgingly. Sure, it was an empty gesture, but somehow having to write Otillie’s name on a Valentine forced me to be a little more compassionate, and a little more aware of those less fortunate (and selfish) than myself. When I saw Otillie’s face light up when she took her first look at her small decorated box overflowing with Valentines, that was a lesson for me in how pleasing others can please ourselves.

Otillie and I became friends after that, and ever since I’ve learned to expand my world to include people so diverse that my parents wondered if I didn’t go too far sometimes, especially when I began to hang out with humanists and other “fringe” groups.

Well, I can thank Mrs. Prowell for my first venture into inclusive behavior. Her Valentine scheme still works for me and has brought me many lasting friendships. Happy Valentine’s everyone!

–Nancy Moore

What Has Happened to Our Freedom?

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

Summary of Jerry Spence’s From Freedom to Slavery.

Spence says: “As for solutions, there are only two kinds–those from outside of the self and those from within. The first suggests that we destroy our enemies, that we manipulate or neutralize them, that we discover detours around them, that we suffer their impositions against us, or, at last, that we even love them. In any event, the solution acknowledges the existence of outside forces that deter our progress and impede our happiness. On the other hand, there persists the idea–one with which I am in agreement–that solutions are mainly matters of the self, that power vested in others is often irrelevant to our freedom, that the only change essential for the human condition is to change within, that we are the fountainhead of power, and that, therefore, we need not free the world–we need only free ourselves…

“The danger, of course, is that we have become only the purchasers of the fable of freedom. When we vigorously argue to our neighbors that Americans are free, our neighbors will likely assert that they “buy” that. Having thought the fable, it belongs to us, and we fight to keep it like howling apes protecting their trinkets and their tinfoil…

“Today there are, as indeed, there have always been, insidious, enslaving forces at work in America. Today’s tyranny emanates from a New King, from a nonliving power center composed at its core of monolithic corporate entities encased and protected by endless layers of governmental bureaucracies. The primary strategy of the New King is to convert all rights, all human energy, all goals, and at last, all humans into fungible commodities, for the New King exists solely for commerce and its life’s blood, its green blood, its money-and its singular mission is profit. The new King’s principal means of control is the media that sells us the myths of freedom, that, when we doubt, reassures us we are free, and that programs us and our children to accept the notion that all human function, all human desires, indeed even immortality itself can, at last, be satisfied at the marketplace…

“If the churches have anything to do with it, those who offer solutions outside the scriptures will be condemned to eternal hell. If government has anything to do with them, any sound idea will be condemned in the bureaucracy, and if the idea should somehow escape the grinding teeth of its machinery, the author will be labeled an enemy of the state and disemboweled in one fashion or another. If corporate America has anything to do with it, any ideas that threaten its power will be branded as leftist, or commie, or un-American, and the author of such reform banished as a heretic against the most sacred of all religions in America, Free Enterprise…

“I would rather visit with the corpse than exist with the breathing dead, with those who have never considered a new idea, who worship the same God and vote the same party of their fathers, whose friends believe the same, look the same, and say the same things that they say. I would find a conversation with a corpse more engaging than one with the breathing dead, whose next words are as predictable as the liturgy of the priest and who, on pain of death, cannot recall the last book they read. All creativity is dead. Feeling is dead. Yet, as we observe, they breathe…

“Every large corporation should be required to seat on its board an equal number of ordinary people, people who have no pecuniary interest in the corporation’s activities, who will act as the corporation’s conscience and who are selected at random from the tax rolls of the community in which the corporation carries on its principal business. These ‘conscience members’ of the corporate board will see that the rights of the corporation’s employees are preserved, that their pension funds are not raided, that the workers receive fair wages, that their benefits are equitable, and that the corporation acts in accordance with every standard of good citizenship.”