Leo Tolstoy on the Future of The LDS Church
The famed Russian author shared his opinion on the future of "Mormonism" with Dr. Andrew D. White, Former Cornell University President and U.S. Ambassador to Germany
As told by Elder LeGrand Richards.
Thomas J. Yates related an experience he had while a student at Cornell University in 1900. He had the privilege of meeting Dr. Andrew D. White, former president of Cornell and, at the time, U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Upon learning that Mr. Yates was a Mormon, Dr. White made an appointment to spend an evening with him, at which time he related an experience he had had with Count Leo Tolstoy while Serving as U.S. Foreign Minister to Russia in 1892. Dr. White visited often with Count Tolstoy, and upon one occasion they discussed religion. We quote from Elder Yates' account of this discussion, as related to him by Dr. White:
"Dr. White," said Count Tolstoy, "I wish you would tell me about your American religion."
"We have no state church in America," replied Dr. White. "I know that, but what about your American religion?"
Patiently then Dr. White explained to the Count that in America there are many religions, and that each person is free to belong to the particular church in which he is interested.
To this Tolstoy impatiently replied: "I know all of this, but I want to know about the American religion. Catholicism originated in Rome; the Episcopal Church originated in England; the Lutheran Church in Germany, but the Church to which I refer originated in America, and is commonly known as the Mormon Church. What can you tell me of the teachings of the Mormons?"
"Well," said Dr. White, "I know very little concerning them. They have an unsavory reputation, they practice polygamy, and are very superstitious."
Then Count Leo Tolstoy, in his honest and stern, but lovable, manner, rebuked the ambassador. "Dr. White, I am greatly surprised and disappointed that a man of your great learning and position should be so ignorant on this important subject. The Mormon people teach the American religion; their principles teach the people not only of Heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teachings of this Church, nothing can stop their progress -- it will be limitless. There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known."
Because of his discussion with Count Tolstoy, upon his return to the United States Dr. White secured a set of the Church works and placed them in the Cornell University Library.
The Improvement Era, February 1939 [vol. 42], p.94.
LeGrand Richards, "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder"