V I S I T O R,
M O N T H L Y I N S T R U C T O R.
Vol. ? London, U. K., February, 1841. No. 2. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MODERN SUPERSTITION. --
It is a lamentable fact that a considerable number of the people of this country are now led astray by a sect called Mormonites, or latter-day saints. The seeds of this wretched imposture were imported from America about four years ago. The book from which the deluded derive their name contains more than six hundred pages of closely printed matter. Its title is as follows: -- " The Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi. Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jews and Gentiles, written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and revelation." To it is appended the testimony of three witnesses that they "have seen the plates that contain the record;" and know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, and that they "declare that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates and engravings thereon." There is also the testimony of eight witnesses, "that the plates of which Joseph Smith, jun., hath spoken have the appearance of gold."
A correspondent of the "Episcopal Recorder," published in Philadelphia, describes one agent of this superstition as named Harris, and a visit which the writer received from him in Palmyra in 1827. The following is an extract from his statement, which is now given with a view to prepare any of our readers, who have "Mormonites" around them, for the exposure of their error. He says, --
Harris remarked that he reposed great confidence in me as a minister of Jesus Christ, and that what he had now to communicate he wished me to regard as strictly confidential. He said he verily believed that an important epoch had arrived, that a great flood of light
62 MODERN SUPERSTITION -- THE MORMONITES.
was about to burst upon the world, and that the scene of Divine manifestation was to be immediately around us. In explanation of what he meant, he then proceeded to remark that a golden Bible had recently been dug from the earth, where it had been deposited for thousands of years, and that this would be found to contain such disclosures as would settle all religious controversies, and speedily bring on the glorious millennium. That this mysterious book, which no human eye of the present generation had yet seen, was in the possession of Joseph Smith, jun., ordinarily known in the neighbourhood under the more familiar designation of Joe Smith; that there had been a revelation made to him by which he had discovered this sacred deposit, and two transparent stones, through which, as a sort of spectacles, he could read the Bible, although the box or ark that contained it, had not yet been opened; and that by looking through those mysterious stones, he had transcribed from one of the leaves of this book, the characters which Harris had so carefully wrapped in the package which he was drawing from his pocket. The whole thing appeared to me so ludicrous and puerile, that I could not refrain from telling Mr. Harris, that I believed it a mere hoax got up to practise upon his credulity, or an artifice to extort from him money; for I had already, in the course of the conversation, learned that he had advanced some twenty-five dollars to Joe Smith as a sort of premium for sharing with him in the glories and profits of this new revelation. For, at this time, his mind seemed to be quite as intent upon the pecuniary advantage that would arise from the possession of the plates of solid gold of which this book was composed, as upon the spiritual light it would diffuse over the world. My intimations to him, in reference to the possible imposition that was being practised upon him, however, were indignantly repelled.
Before I proceed to Martin's narrative, however, I would remark in passing, that Smith, who has since been the chief prophet of the Mormons, and was one of the most prominent ostensible actors in the first scenes of this drama, belonged to a very shiftless family near Palmyra. They lived a sort of vagrant life, and were principally known as money diggers. Joe from a boy appeared dull and utterly destitute of genius; but his father claimed for him a sort of second sight, a power to look into the depths of the earth, and discover where its precious treasures were hid. Consequently, long before the idea of a golden Bible entered their minds, in their excursions for money digging, which I believe usually occurred in the night, that they might conceal from others the knowledge of the place where they struck upon treasures, Joe was usually their guide, putting into a hat a peculiar stone he had through which he looked to decide where they should begin to dig.
According to Martin Harris, it was after one of these night excursions, that Joe, while he lay upon his bed, had a remarkable dream. An angel of God seemed to approach him, clad in celestial splendour. This Divine messenger assured him, that he, Joseph Smith, was chosen of the Lord to be a prophet of the most high God, and to bring to light hidden things, that would prove of unspeakable benefit to the world. He then disclosed to him the existence of this golden Bible, and the place where it was deposited; but at the same time told him that he must follow implicitly the Divine direction, or he would draw down upon him the wrath of Heaven. This book, which was contained in a chest or ark, and which consisted of metallic plates covered with characters embossed in gold, he must not presume to look into, under three years. He must first go on a journey into Pennsylvania, and there among the mountains, he would meet with a very lovely woman, belonging to a highly respectable and pious family, whom he was to take for his wife. As a proof that he was sent on this mission by Jehovah, as soon as he saw this designated person, he would be smitten with her beauty; and though he was a stranger to her, and she was far above him in the walks of life, she would at once be willing to marry him and go with him to the ends of the earth. After their marriage, he was to return to his former home, and remain quietly there until the birth of his first child. When this child had completed his second year, he might then proceed to the hill beneath which the mysterious chest was deposited, and draw it thence, and publish the truths it contained to the world. Smith awoke
MODERN SUPERSTITION -- THE MORMONITES. 63
from his dream, and, according to Harris, started off towards Pennsylvania, not knowing to what point he should go. But the Lord directed him, and gained him favour in the eyes of just such a person as was described to him. He was married, and had returned. His first child had been born, and was now about six months old. But Joe had not been altogether obedient to the heavenly vision. After his marriage and return from Pennsylvania, he became so awfully impressed with the high destiny that awaited him, that he communicated the secret to his father and family. The money-digging propensity of the old man operated so powerfully, that he insisted upon it that they should go and dig and see if the chest was there -- not with any view to remove it till the appointed time, but merely to satisfy themselves. Accordingly, they went forth in the stillness of night with their spades and mattocks to the spot where slumbered this sacred deposit. They had proceeded but a little while in the work of excavation, when the mysterious chest appeared; but lo! instantly it moved and glided along out of their sight. Directed, however, by the clairvoyance of Joe, they again penetrated to the spot where it stood, and succeeded in gaining a partial view of its dimensions. But while they were pressing forward to gaze at it, the thunders of the Almighty shook the spot, and made the earth to tremble; a sheet of vivid lightning swept along over the side of the hill, and burnt terribly around the spot where the excavation was going on, and again with a rumbling noise the chest moved off out of their sight. They were all terrified, and tied towards their home. Joe took his course silently along by himself. On his way homeward, being alone, and in the woods, the angel of the Lord met him clad in terror and wrath. He spoke in a voice of thunder, and forked lightning shot through the trees and ran along upon the ground. The terror of the Divine messenger's appearance instantly struck Smith to the earth, and he felt his whole frame convulsed with agony, as though he was stamped upon by the iron hoofs of death himself. In language most terrific did the angel upbraid bim for his disobedience, and then disappeared. Smith went home trembling and full of terror. Soon, however, his mind became more composed. Another Divine communication was made to him, authorizing him to go alone and bring the chest and deposit it secretly under the hearth of his dwelling, but by no means to attempt to look into it. The reason assigned by the angel for this removal, was, that some report in relation to the place where his sacred book was deposited had gone forth, and there was danger of its being disturbed. According to Harris, Smith now scrupulously followed the Divine directions. He was already in possession of the two transparent stones laid up with the golden Bible, by looking through which he was enabled to read the golden letters on the plates in the box. How he obtained these spectacles without opening the chest, Harris could not tell. But still he had them; and by means of them he could read all the book contained. The book itself was not to be disclosed until Smith's child had attained a certain age. Then it might be published to the world. In the interim, Smith was to prepare the way for the conversion of the world to a new system of faith, by transcribing the characters from the plates and giving translations of the same. This was the substance of Martin Harris's communication to me upon our first interview. He then carefully unfolded a slip of paper, which contained three or four lines of characters, as unlike letters or hieroglyphics of any sort, as well could be produced, were one to shut up his eyes and play off the most antic movements with his pen upon paper. The only thing that bore the slightest resemblance to the letter of any language that I had ever seen, was two upright marks joined by a horizontal line, that might have been taken for the Hebrew character n. My ignorance of the characters in which this pretended ancient record was written, was to Martin Harris new proof that Smith's whole account of the Divine revelation made to him was entirely to be relied on.
The way that Smith made his transcripts and translations for Harris was the following: -- Although in the same room, a thick curtain or blanket was suspended between them, and Smith, concealed behind the blanket, pretended to look through his spectacles, or transparent stones, and would then write down or repeat what he saw, which, when repeated aloud, was written down by Harris, who sat on the other side
64 MODERN SUPERSTITION -- THE MORMONITES.
of the suspended blanket. Harris was told that it would arouse the most terrible Divine displeasure, if he should attempt to draw near the sacred chest, or look at Smith while engaged in the work of deciphering the mysterious characters. This was Harris's own account of the matter to me. What other measures they afterwards took to transcribe or translate from these metallic plates, I cannot say, as I very soon after this removed to another field of labour where I heard no more of this matter till I learned the book of Mormon was about being published. It was not till after the discovery of the manuscript of Spaulding, of which I shall subsequently give some account, that the actors in this imposture thought of calling this pretended revelation the book of Mormon. This book, which professed to be a translation of the golden Bible brought to light by Joseph Smith, was published in 1830, to accomplish which Martin Harris actually mortgaged his farm. We must return to the details of this gross and wicked superstition.
MODERN SUPERSTITION. -- THE MORMONITES.
We now resume our extracts from the "Episcopal Recorder" of Philadelphia, to expose still further the gross superstition, by which an increasing number of our ignorant countrymen are enthralled, earnestly praying that they may speedily be delivered from the snares of Satan.
In developing the history of this imposture, and showing the several steps by which it has won its way to the regard, and gained the confidence of thousands, it becomes necessary to account for the existence of what is denominated the book of Mormon, a volume containing five hundred and eighty-eight duodecimo pages, consisting of fifteen different books, purporting to be written at different times, and by different authors, whose names they respectively bear. The period of time which these historical records profess to cover, is about a thousand years, commencing with the time of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and terminating with the year of our Lord 420.
This volume has exerted a most important influence in giving some plausibility to the claims set up by the originators of the Mormon imposture. I am quite confident there never would have been any permanent converts to Mormonism, had not this volume been ushered into existence. The story of the golden Bible, like a thousand previous and no less marvellous tales told by Joe Smith, would have long since sunk into oblivion but for the publication of this book. The origin of this volume, how it came into being, is a grave question. It is quite certain, that neither Joe Smith nor Martin Harris had intelligence or literary qualification adequate to the production of a work of this sort. Who then was its author? The Mormons say that it is a revelation from God. They claim for it a Divine character. They say that the successive narratives spread upon the pages of this volume, are the identical records engraven upon the metallic plates to which we have already referred, and which, like the leaves of a book, were deposited in a box, and hid in the earth; that the writing on these plates was in the reformed Egyptian language; that Joseph Smith was directed by an angel to the spot where this sacred deposit lay, and subsequently inspired to interpret the writing, by putting two smooth flat stones, which he found in the box, into a hat, and then putting his face therein. This is the claim set up for the book of Mormon, and which has seduced many unstable souls.
Had the originator of this fabulous history, called the book of Mormon, kept entirely behind the scenes up to the present period, and had there been no clue by which the authorship of this figment of the imagination could be traced, it would still have been abundantly evident to every intelligent person, that it was the product of some shrewd and designing mind, who calculated to find his advantage in gulling the credulous and superstitious. The people of Palmyra, at the commencement of the printing of this book, only laughed at the ridiculousness of the thing, and wondered at the credulity of Harris. As the publication progressed, and the contents of the book began to be known, the conviction became general that there was an actor behind the scene, moving the machinery, of far higher intellectual qualification than Smith or Harris. Suspicion, in some degree, rested upon a man by the name of Cowdery, who had been a school teacher, if I mistake not, and was now known to be in some way connected with Smith in preparing this volume for the press.
I will here insert a document which I have in my hands, and which may tend to throw some light upon the origin and authorship of the book of Mormon, which I found in a little work, entitled "Religious Creeds and Statistics." The author gives a brief sketch of Mormonism, and among other things inserts a letter or statement written by Isaac Hale, the father-in-law of Joe Smith, giving some account of his first acquaintance with him. While at Palmyra, I met with a respectable clergyman of the Episcopal Church, who had formerly belonged to the Methodist connexion, that was acquainted with Mr. Hale. He represented him as a distinguished hunter, living near the Great Bend in Pennsylvania. He was professedly a religious man and a very zealous member of the Methodist Church. The letter to which I have i referred, is accompanied with a statement, declaring that Mr. Hale resides
154 MODERN SUPERSTITION -- THE MORMONITES.
in Harmony, Penn.; appended to the letter also is Mr. Hale's affirmation or affidavit of the truth of the statement there made, taken before Charles Dimon, justice of the peace; and there is also subjoined the certificate of William Thompson and Davis Dimock, associate judges of the Court of Common Pleas in the county of Susquehanna, declaring that "they have for many years been personally acquainted with Isaac Hale of Harmony Township, who has attested the foregoing statement, or letter, and that he is a man of excellent moral character, and of undoubted veracity."
The letter or statement above referred to, is as follows: --
I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, jun., in November 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money diggers;" and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see, by means of a stone placed in his hat, a'nd his hat closed over his face. In this way, he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time was that of a careless young man, not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father. Smith and his father, with several other money diggers, boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the money diggers great encouragement at first; but when they had arrived, in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found, he said the enchantment was so powerful, that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed.
MODERN SUPERSTITION -- THE MORMONITES. 155
lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in their translation of the book. Each of them had a written piece of paper which they were comparing, and some of the words were -- "My servant seeketh a greater witness, but no greater witness can be given to him." There was also something said about "three that were to see the thing," (meaning, I supposed, the book of plates;) and that, "if the three did not go exactly according to orders, the thing would be taken from them." I inquired whose words they were, and was informed by Joseph or Emma, (I rather think it was the former,) that they were the words of Jesus Christ. I told them then, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it. The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the book of plates was at the same time hid in the woods!I shall have occasion hereafter to refer to the loss of the one hundred and sixteen pages spoken of by Harris, and to the manner in which they were lost; as this fact will not only tend to illustrate Harris's character, but to throw some farther light upon the sinuous track which was pursued to palm off the book of Mormon as a Divine revelation. Whether Smith and Cowdery were acting alone at the time referred to by Mr. Hale, or were then deriving their illumination from Rigdon, I have no means of determining. It is highly probable, however, that they then had access to a copy of the manuscript written by Mr. Spaulding, of which we shall soon speak, and this copy was undoubtedly obtained through the agency of Rigdon. The true authorship of what constitutes the basis of the book of Mormon, unquestionably belongs to Mr. Spaulding. I do not, however, believe that the book of Mormon is an exact copy of Mr. Spaulding's "Historical Romance," as Mrs. Davidson very properly denominates it. No intelligent or well-educated man would have been guilty of so many anachronisms and gross grammatical errors as characterize every part of the book of Mormon. While Mr. Spaulding's Historical Romance is unquestionably the groundwork of this volume, the christianized character of the work, the hortatory clauses about salvation through the blood of Christ, and the adaptation of the whole to meet the peculiar religious views of Martin Harris, and to tally with the pretended discovery of Joe Smith, are evidently parts of the work added to Mr. Spaulding's manuscript. In farther corroboration of this idea, I will just advert to two facts. First, in this record, some portions of which were professedly written six hundred years before the appearance of our Saviour, the various dramatis personal seem as familiar with the events of the New Testament, and all the doctrines of the gospel, as any preacher of the present day. Now no intelligent and well educated man would be guilty of such a solecism as that of putting into the mouth of a Jew, who lived four hundred years before the birth of Christ, a flippant discourse about things, as though they were then familiarly known, when they did not occur till some five hundred years afterwards. Hence I infer that these parts were added to the original document of Mr. Spaulding, by Joe Smith, Cowdery, Rigdon, or some of the fraternity. Another reason, leading me to the opinion that considerable alterations were made in the document referred to, stands in connexion with the fact to which I have already adverted --
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the loss of the one hundred and sixteen pages, which were never replaced. These pages were lost in the following way. Harris brought home the manuscript pages, and locked them up in his house, thinking them quite safe. But his wife, who was not then, nor ever afterwards became a convert to Mormonism, took the opportunity, when he was out, to seize the manuscript, and put it into the hands of one of her neighbours for safer keeping. When the manuscript was discovered to be missing, suspicion immediately fastened upon Mrs. Harris: she, however, refused to give any information in relation to the matter, but simply replied: "If this be a Divine communication, the same being who revealed it to you can easily replace it." Mrs. H. believed the whole thing to be a gross deception, and she had formed a plan to expose the deception in the following manner. Taking it for granted that they would attempt to reproduce the part she had concealed, and that they could not possibly do it verbatim, she intended to keep the manuscript until the book was published, and then put these one hundred and sixteen pages into the hands of some one who would publish them, and show how they varied from those published in the book of Mormon. But she had to deal with persons standing behind the scene, and moving the machinery that were too wily thus to be caught. Harris was indignant at his wife beyond measure; he raved most violently, and it is said actually beat Mrs. H. with a rod; but she remained firm, and would not give up the manuscript. The authors of this imposture did not dare to attempt to reproduce this part of the work; but Joe Smith immediately had a revelation about it, which is inserted in the preface of the Book of Mormon as follows: "As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me and also the work, I would inform you, that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plate of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again; and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or in other words, if I should translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and behold, ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work: yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil."
This was the expedient to which they resorted in order to avoid replacing the lost pages. Had those pages, however, been transcribed verbatim from Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, they would undoubtedly have reproduced them, and urged the fact of their being able to do so, as a still further proof of their Divine inspiration. But on the supposition that there was considerable new matter mingled up with Mr. Spaulding's sketches, it would be impossible for them to produce the one hundred and sixteen pages, just as they were before, and they would therefore naturally devise some expedient to relieve themselves from the necessity of reproducing those pages. In all probability, Cowdery, and Smith, and Rigdon, had all more or less to do in combining these additional parts with Mr. Spaulding's work.
MODERN SUPERSTITION. -- THE MORMONITES.
We now conclude our quotations relating to a system of deception, so gross that its success may well excite surprise as well as lamentation. The origin of the work of Mr. Spaulding, says the writer referred to in former numbers, and which unquestionably forms the entire groundwork of the book of Mormon, is thus described by Mrs. Davidson, formerly the wife of Mr. Spaulding. This statement of Mrs. Davidson was published some time last winter in the "Boston Recorder," to the editors of which it was sent by the Rev. John Storrs, the Congregational minister in Hollistown, accompanied with a certificate from two highly respectable clergymen, the Rev. Mr. Austin and the Rev. A. Ely, D.D., residing in Monson, Mass., the present place of residence of Mrs. Davidson, stating that 'Mrs. Davidson, the narrator of the following history, was formerly the wife of Rev. Solomon Spaulding, and that since his decease she had been married to a second husband by the name of Davidson, and that she was a woman of irreproachable character, and a humble Christian, and that her testimony was worthy of implicit confidence.
"As the 'book of Mormon,' or 'golden Bible,' has excited much attention, and has been put by a certain new sect in the place of the sacred Scriptures, I deem it a duty which I owe to the public, to state what I know touching its origin. That its claims to a Divine origin are wholly unfounded, needs no proof to a mind unperverted by the grossest delusions. That any sane person should rank it higher than any other merely human composition, is a matter of the greatest astonishment; yet it is received as Divine by some who dwell in enlightened New England, and even by those who have sustained the character of devoted Christians. Learning recently that Mormonism had found its way into a church in Massachusetts, and has impregnated some with its gross delusions, so that excommunication has been necessary, I am determined to delay no longer in doing what I can to strip the mask from this mother of sin, and to lay open this pit of abominations.
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residing in the place at the time, who was perfectly familiar with this work and repeatedly heard the whole of it read.
The whole mystery of the origin of this book seems to be cleared up by this statement, and I have seen no attempt made to gainsay or deny its truth. The farther, however, Martin Harris went into this delusion, the more he seemed to become infatuated. He had already embarked a large portion of his property in bringing out the publication of the book of Mormon, and though many things had occurred that we should think would have convinced any rational man that he had been made the subject of a deep laid scheme of deception, he still seems to have shut his eyes and gone on in the dark. As I have already mentioned, at first Martin Harris was assured that the golden plates on which this record was engraven, would be his, and that it would be perfectly lawful to subject them to public inspection; but as the managers of this
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imposture proceeded, they found it necessary to advance with more caution, lest they should put into the hands of others the very elements which would contribute to their own utter explosion. Hence it was revealed to Joe Smith, that he would be authorized to show them only to three individuals who should assist in bringing forward this work. This was a lure to secure the continued co-operation of Harris. To convince Harris that he would be highly privileged, it was foretold in the book of Ether, written by Moroni (book of Mormon, p. 548) that he that should find the plates should have the privilege of showing them to three persons.
To know how much the testimony of the persons appealed to is worth, I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity, told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly, -- "Did you see those plates?" Harris replied, he did. "Did you see the plates and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes?" Harris replied, "Yes, I saw them with my eyes, they were shown unto me by the power of God, and not of man." "But did you see them with your natural, your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil case in my hand? Now say No or Yes to this." Harris replied, "Why I did not see them as I do that pencil case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me, though at the time they were covered over with a cloth."
Statements like these require no comment. We shall be happy if the circulation we give them should assist our friends, who have dupes of this wretched delusion around them, in its exposure.
Littell's Living Age
(Boston & NYC: E. Littell)
"The Mormon Camp"
"The Mormon Battalion"
"A Mormon Conventicle"
"The Mormon Colony"
"From Great Salt Lake" Transcriber's Comments
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE. - No. 119. - 22 Aug, 1846.
THE MORMON CAMP.
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE. - No. 166. - 17 July, 1847.
THE MORMON BATTALION.
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE. - No. 186. - 4 Dec., 1847.
A MORMON CONVENTICLE.
462 A MORMON CONVENTICLE..
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE. - No. 190. - 1 Jan., 1848.
THE MORMON COLONY.
30 THE MORMON COLONY..
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE. - No. 199. - 4 March, 1848.
FUGITIVE, PERISHING MORMONS.
FUGUTIVE, PERISHING MORMONS.. 471
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE. - No. 285. - 3 Nov., 1849.
Correspondence of the Tribune.
216 FROM, THE GREAT SALT LAKE...
FROM, THE GREAT SALT LAKE... 217
Museum of Foreign Literature
(Philadelphia: E. Littell & Co.)
"Book of Mormon and the Mormonites"
The article is reprinted from the Athenaeum,
a popular British periodical of the 1840s. The
1843 article in Dublin University Magazine also
copied from the piece in the Athenaeum.
NS. Vol. XIV. Philadelphia: E. Littell & Co., July, 1841. Whole No. 42.
THE BOOK OF MORMON AND THE
THE BOOK OF MORMON. 371
372 THE BOOK OF MORMON.
THE BOOK OF MORMON. 373
Vol. I. Columbia, S.C., April, 1842. No. 2. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Art. V. -- Mormonism Exposed: being a Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Latter Day Saints. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1841.We take the occasion presented by the appearance of this work, to proclaim open war against imposture in every shape, -- in literature, in art, in science, in politics, and in morals. It does positively seem that human gullibility, like a lover's appetite,' grows with what it feeds on,' until all healthy taste is extinguished, and nothing left in its place, but never-ceasing, gnawing hunger after imposition. From trifles, it has gradually assumed a controlling influence over the graver and more important matters of social and political government. Common sense and common judgment, frightened by the noise and clamor of king humbug and his train, hide their diminished heads, and are no more allowed a place in the counsels which direct men's actions. He is the general idol. We run after him, we bow down before him, we worship him. We ask of him concerning our business, -- our moral and social duties; we invoke his aid in the education of our children; we conjure his presence to the couch of the sick and the dying. If we be elated with some great public excitement, nine times in ten imposition is at the bottom of it. If we weep with commiseration at the woes of our fellow creatures, imposture is even there; and a high-sounding society, or something which catches and fills the ear, receives the outpourings of sensibilities, which plain, unvarnished misery would fail to excite.
Although we be no great believers in human perfectibility, and the steady progress of intelligence, yet we had believed that that horrible monster, superstition, with its multitudinous heads and horns, which has glutted itsslf with human victims, from age to age, and from generation to generation, had, at length, fallen before the march of civilization, to rise no more. We had fondly deemed, that burning men at the stake, because they could not see how two and two made five, -- or roasting them before a green-wood fire, for opinion's sake, -- or imprisoning them in loathsome dungeons, for daring to make new discoveries in science, -- or burning for witches miserable old women who
1842.] History of Mormonism. 399
had lost their beauty, -- or hanging sober, well-informed citizens, because they persisted in wearing shad-bellied coats, were practices never more to be indulged in. We hoped, -- and as we thought with reason, -- that the demoniac trait in man's character, which originated these things, had been long since obliterated, and that, henceforth, whatever else might come to pass, the world never again would bleed and groan beneath the iron rod of superstition.
We confess, however, that our confidence in the humanizing influences of modern civilization has been, within a few brief years, greatly shaken. Let us look at the social history of this country, as written in the memories of all, as recorded in our newspapers, and as it is developing itself day after day, under our own observation, and we shall find much to startle and alarm.
All remember and shudder at the infamous doctrines and preachings of the knot of free-thinkers and moral freebooters, under the direction of Owen and Wright, and which, festering and gendering in the filthy purlieus of London, sent its swarms of young vipers across the Atlantic, to poison simple minds in the new world; until, what with the force of preaching and lecturing, and printed appeals to the basest passions, urged on and assisted, withal, by some trifling show of persecution, adroitly got up for the purpose, a large and "respectable" (!) society of men and women was formed, in which the rights of property and the relations of parent and child were declared to be extinguished, and promiscuous prostitution proclaimed, as a fundamental bond of union!
But this infamous abomination passed away, and then came Father Matthias, -- the weakest and most shallow of impostors, -- but who had, notwithstanding, his dupes and disciples among the wealthy and respectable; and had he been possessed of ordinary judgment, he might have pushed his villainy to an unimagined extent. He too is gone.
Then comes Joe Smith, -- the hero of the brazen plates, -- with his pretended revelations from the Almighty Father of the universe! Twelve years ago, we laughed at this imposture; but now we are more inclined to weep. Already has Mormonism taken deep root in this country, and in christian and enlightened England! Already more than one hundred thousand persons, reared in a christian land,
400 History of Mormonism. [April
and within the sound, at each returning sabbath, of "the church going bell," have become converts to this species of delusion. Already do cities, populous with the deluded and wretched dupes of this gigantic imposture, rise, in the face of day, as if to mock Heaven's long-delaying vengeance; increasing each month by hundreds, and acknowledging obedience to no law but the mandate of their leader! Who can tell where this is to stop? Who can say, that in the future there may not lie concealed a bloody sceptre for the hand of the chief of these miserable and knavish fanatics? Who can say, that in the lapse of time it may not be deemed heresy, to disbelieve in the doctrines of Mormonism, or be punished as blasphemy, to speak lightly of them? or that, in time to come, the gallows will not be raised and the faggot lighted at the stake, to punish the revilers of the brazen bible, and the scoffers of this impostor, or his hereditary descendants! The deed, wild, scathing ferocity of fanaticism lives and swells in the hearts of those who manage this imposition, and if ever sufficient power fall into their hands, the records of the sanguinary past may be eclipsed by the more vivid atrocities of the present.
We would fain hope that our apprehensions are groundless, but still a brief history of the rise and progress of this sect, must leave a sad train of reflections.
What is Mormonism? It is a new species of religion, which sprang up upon the extinction of the fanaticism of "Matthias," and contemporaneously with the enthusiasm of the "Holy Rollers."
It seems that one Joe Smith, or some of his relations, while digging for something else, turned up from the earth a most wonderful book, upon which was carved the "Book of Mormon." As in olden time, "the gift of tongues" had not been unheard of, -- he was, instantly upon the discovery, endowed with a power to translate its contents. Among other matters of serious import, it contained a concluding clause, whereby its sole possession was to be put into his hands, and by virtue whereof, he was forthwith to be constituted the high priest of the religion it had been written some thousands of years before to teach, and to him, exclusively, the gift of its solemn interpretation was to be confided. To the infinite joy of the antiquarian, and the glory of our literature, this work of accidental exhumation
1842.] History of Mormonism. 401
is found to contain the lost chronicles of several kings of Israel, -- for the original loss of which, the muse of history has been held responsible until now, and therefore not unto her, but to the finder is to be rendered all the praise for the unseasonable but certain redemption of these biographies. The book purports to derive its authentic name from some ancient character, nowhere else mentioned, and called Mormon, -- who, in the patent genealogical tables thereto attached, can be very satisfactorily identified in the absence of anything to the contrary, or as touching the matter at all, as a son of Lot's wife. This veritable book, is, of course, wisely arranged without the aid of either printing or paper, for the discoverer had sufficient sagacity to know, that publishing in this style, was of rather more modern date, than the proposed age of the book would warrant, and that an oversight in this respect, would either have suggested incredulity as to the authenticity of the work, or else have compelled the future believers in it to conclude, that printing was not such a late affair after all, as has been supposed. So, by way of a safe substitution, brass plates, about as thin as the doctrines they have perpetuated, are inserted between a couple of covers of the same material, and curiously carved over with mysterious hieroglyphics, to which the inscriptions of Thebes and Gaza are quite readable literature. By a happy analogy to the movements on a chess-board, these brazen pages can be read by the no less brazen inventor, with equal facility, either forwards or backwards, or by beginning in the middle and reading either or both ways.
In the explanation of its doctrines, he is always particular not to give so marked an interpretation as would at all interfere with the consistency of giving the direct reverse afterwards, in case he should forget the former construction; -- while in his lucid commentaries upon the several passages, which are forbidden to be copied, he is equally careful not to be so explicit, as to preclude contradictory explanations, in case they should be needed. However unfounded the truth of this revelation may appear to the newly initiated upon a first hearing, they soon become reconciled to its verity, from that constant repetition which, in all matters, renders things less incredible than originally they may have seemed. The adroitness of Smith, in
402 History of Mormonism. [April
ringing the doctrines in their ears, upon all convenient occasions, has rendered their faith quite easy, and his liability to mistake less probable. One of the considerable conveniences in facilitating immediate belief among the stupid and incredulous is, that every thing is required to be taken for granted, either as regards its precepts, tenets, illustrations, parables or prophecies. The author regards this as one of the beauties of his system, for the mind can thus be relieved of its doubts at once, and be saved the infliction of those troublesome modes of settling matters, by the a priori and a posteriori methods, so foolishly incorporated by hairsplitting logicians into the more modern systems of popular ethics. Hence, should an hour's argument be proposed to a believer in the faith, regarding the matter of its inspiration, the question is instantly disposed of, on his part, by thrusting into the face of the ill-timed proposition, that most accommodating carnal weapon of the anti-belligerent disputant, known in Mormon polemics, as a petitio principii, as to the absolute infallibility of the brazen bible. By that unaccountable accident, the original loss of the book, the faith has been deprived of a powerful argument, which most unquestionably would have contributed to the establishment of its truth, independent of any other, and none seem to regret this deprivation more than its founder and apostle. It is, that the several prophecies recorded in the book, have all been punctiliously fulfilled, not in the spirit, but even to the letter. Had the book not been lucklessly lost, the world would have read its prophetic auguries at the time they were made, and kept an eye upon the coming occurrence, and thus forever have settled with favor the now roughly bandied question of its truth. But the mind can at once be relieved of the mingled doubt and sadness caused by this untoward circumstance, if it will only admit the proposed antiquity of the book, believe its author to be inspired, as well as the work, repose implicit confidence in the correctness of his interpretations regarding the mention of any prophecies, and withal, take for granted, as the time for fulfilment has gone by, that, as a matter of course, the events must all have happened. This plan of compromise between regret and faith has been deemed so reasonable among the Mormons, that no difficulty has been experienced in producing entire satisfaction.
1842.] History of Mormonism. 403
Some short time after this newly-discovered bible was extricated from the soil of a land where it was lost, before the land had been discovered, numbers began to flock slowly to the faith, upon the first promulgation thereof by its vicegerent. A certain number of priests, of a more reduced order than himself, were duly commissioned, at such points as were deemed expedient and safe for the operation. Their tenures of office, however, were only temporary, and so abridged in their power as to deduct but little from the founder's prerogatives; the appeal from all sorts of actual and conceivable grievances being up to him. As a dim promise of bounty was offered to all new converts, in the trapping shape of rations from a prospective fund, the increase of piety was almost alarming in the vicinities where it was supposed the treasuries would be located. As the amount for distribution increased, by a singular coincidence converts did also, and a gratifying symptom of the spread of the cause was noticed in the remarkable fact, that many were impressed with a full conviction of the truth of the doctrines, before they had ever heard what they were. This latter, fact was a movement in morals entirely unprecedented, and, to whatever cause it may be referred, could have no possible connection with the suggestions as touching the expected distribution of the funds. However, the distribution was duly made, and as the stock, which was not particularly overgrown, soon gave out, so did the faith and zeal of such as had been wrongly impressed as to the amount of the funds, and after giving due warning, that they had discovered certain errors in the system, which they had vainly attempted to reconcile to their consciences, they returned again to the world.
After this revulsion in morals, the apostle of this new faith discovered, that banking was indispensable to the furtherance of the cause, and forthwith commenced operations in finance at a new town, which a part of his followers had founded, called Kirtland, Ohio. As a specie basis might be troublesome and take up too much room, or be feloniously abstracted, it was deemed most safe, as against fire and robbery, to dispense with it altogether. The- amount of bills issued being looked upon as rather an unimportant matter, an almost indefinite quantity was got out, and all kinds of deposits were loudly solicited for the better safety
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of their owner. Matters beginning to shape to a crisis, it was found most convenient to suspend, before the creditors of the concern imposed upon it any further, and Smith was advised, by a simultaneous revelation, to travel for the benefit of his failing health and the spiritual good of his scattered people, beyond the jurisdiction of the courts of that State, as fast as possible. His health improved wonderfully after crossing the line, and was quite restored by the time he reached the western boundary of Missouri. Finding none of the tents of his followers pitched in that region, and, under present circumstances, deeming it scarce worth while to return, for several important reasons, he was fortunately visited, it seems, by an angel. The angel told him, that a certain town called Dewitt, in Jackson County, must forthwith be named Mount Zion, and, that before long, "streets of gold and gates of jasper" would entirely supersede all its muddy lanes, and chinked huts. He had this revelation duly announced and required all the faithful to direct their course for Mount Zion, Jackson County, Missouri, as fast as horses and wagons could carry them there, and those who refused to go were to be cut off, and that without remedy. To hurry matters, he laid an embargo on all argument about the probability of the truth of the revelation. Each man was to bring a gun and a certain number of rounds of powder and shot, thus, in the very start of the millenium, setting at defiance the declaration, that " the sword should be beaten into a ploughshare, and the spear into a pruning-hook." After the arrival of a goodly number of disciples, he commenced his inspired operations by announcing, that, on the coming Sunday, an angel would be seen on the opposite side of the creek from where the initiatory performances were to come off. The anticipation of this sight brought down not only the latter day saints, but all the jews and gentiles in the surrounding region. As soon as they had all arrived, he turned aside from the waiting congregation, to pray, as he said, in secret, -- taking especial care to utter certain injunctions, hieroglyphically enforced by sundry terrible gyrations of the finger, that none should leave their seats, or watch his steps over their shoulders, and by way of securing conformity to these very reasonable instructions, hinted the case of Lot's wife in presuming
1842.] History of Mormonism. 405
to look behind her. As the people all felt a disposition to be preserved, -- though not like this scriptural personage, in the capacity of salt, -- they obeyed to the letter, and Smith retired to his devotions. In a few minutes, sure enough, some angel or other, of just about his shape and gait, with a white garment on, loomed up from the woods, on the other side of the creek. The sight was vouchsafed to the amazement of their eyes but a minute, and the angel went back to heaven, or somewhere else; at any rate, wherever it went, it was by way of the woods. Shortly after this vision, he returned from his prayer, much refresed, as he announced, by his devotions, and had only to regret, that his private exercises unfortunately interfered with his desire to see the angel too; however, said he, "Heaven's will be done." As the business had been accomplished so well, and the faith of many confirmed, it was announced that the meeting would stand adjourned, and the visit of the angel be repeated, on the next Sunday, at the same time and place. The next week was a pretty long one for some, who were away from home, and otherwise detained from the first visitation. At length,-Sunday arrived, and so did the people. When the hour was come, Smith retired, as in the former instance, to perform his devotions, with a due notice of the old injunctions, coupled with divers allusions to Lot's wife. Just about the time the angel was approaching the creek, a couple of skeptics in the Mormon faith pitched out a piece of timber in the rear, and, seizing the angelic figure, launched him, head foremost, into the creek, stripped of wings and other celestial appendages, and forbade any landing being made on that side, at the peril of even returning to heaven, or wherever else he belonged. The unexpected result was, that Smith, in proper person, and blubbering like a schoolboy, anchored on a sand-bar, in his prayer clothes, directly in front of his half-converted unbelievers. Since that time angels have been exceedingly scarce in that neighborhood. This affair came well nigh making an end of the Mormon religion, but Smith, shortly after, had another revelation, which explained the matter, to the entire satisfaction of many who were hanging around Mount Zion just then, without any particular credit or funds. By way of redeeming his impeached infallibility, the miracle of walking upon
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water was afterwards attempted, but failed, because some fellows were profane enough to take from under the water the benches that Smith had fixed for the better success of the performance. Pronouncing a very divinely authorized, and somewhat serious malediction against the old locality, he moved further up the creek, for the exhibitions yet in reserve. So, by way of testing the virtues of the new location, he gave exclusive invitations to a few, to see water turned into wine, and vice versa, but somehow or other, the jugs were accidentally changed, and the remaining miracles were postponed, to a more convenient season, so that he could have some definite understanding in the course of his next revelation, as to how such things were to be done. He has finally concluded, that the power to work miracles is a non-essential as far as regards the truth of the brazen bible, and the Mormon faith in general.
Soon after these proceedings had taken place, several difficulties arose between the Mormons and other citizens of the State, which, in the end, became so serious, that the militia were marched up to settle the growing mischief. Some shots were exchanged without much serious damage, and the "Latter Day Saints," as they now term themselves, were routed "horse, foot, and dragoons." Whereupon our afflicted and accidentally spared apostle, without the chance of establishing a bank, shook the dust of the State of Missouri from his feet, which led the retreat at the engagement, and ordered Missouri and all her people to be cursed, not even reserving Mount Zion in Jackson County from its rateable share in the rigors of the anathema. With his valiant followers, nervous with wrath, he moved into Illinois, and built up another town, with the more modest and more original name of Nauvoo, -- the precise derivation of which, and the reason for the particular application of it, in the present instance, he deems not politic to disclose, in the existing heretical state of the world. The faith is recruiting again, and weekly adding to its numbers; and, in view of the want of means among many in that region, it would be strange indeed if the fact were not so, -- for the principle of right and possession among them is, that all property, real and personal, is to be held in common, and the united proceeds of their barter and labor is to be divided periodically, and in equal dividends, among the whole, whether all originally
1842.] History of Mormonism. 407
brought any capital into the concern or not. None can fail to see the finger of policy in a system so well calculated to procure an increase of membership. But to prevent the elopement of some sly brother when the yearly dividends are declared, Smith has wisely managed to require that the funds be not handed over to the people, but that they become a deposit to their credit in the treasury house, -- parts of which can be drawn out by a correct statement of the particular purposes for which it is needed, but in quantities so exceedingly small, as to offer less inducement to abscond with the pittance, and forfeit the remainder, than to stay and secure it. All articles of merchandise are required to be bought from the regularly licensed dealers, and the system of license, being one altogether of favoritism, it might be supposed that a large profit would be made by the salesmen, -- but it must be remembered, that the resulting profits are thrown into the common fund, and the original capital again employed in the purchase of a new stock in trade; while favoritism is only shown and sought after, because the post of a merchant is deemed one of honor, and relieves those who are fortunate enough to secure it from the drudgery of the field and workshop.
The church government is under just such a management as one would naturally expect from the cunning character of the inspired founder. All power from above coming through him, as a channel of mediation and forgiveness to a certain extent, as well as of exclusive official appointment, he bestows his ministerial and judicial offices, -- which are not subject to the ordeal of confirmation, -- as he may deem proper for his purposes. As he is the highest visible authority in the matter, there can be no appeal from such appointments, decisions, orders and prohibitions between persons, as he may make from time to time, -- neither from such convenient interpretations as he may put, at pleasure, upon the passages and requirements of the brazen bible. If his assertion upon any point be questioned, (for he never stoops to vulgar argument), he can quickly set the matter at rest, by whispering an allusion to some recent revelation that he has had upon that very subject, and after this is hinted, all doubt must necessarily cease, for if yet harbored by the continued obstinacy of the rebellious declaimer, his
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excommunication from the grace of the church, and the droppings of that better sanctuary, the treasury, is as sure as his existence. As this act of excommunication is a very solemn one, and performed by Smith himself, in propria persona, who is supposed in all respects infallible, no hope of re-admission can ever dawn upon the excluded saint, for this would admit the occasional fallibility of the excommunicating party, the high priest. Of the prerogative of exclusion, and the summary reasons of its exercise, they are all fully aware, and if the founder is known to have any fixed opinions upon any possible subject, an universal acquiescence upon the part of the people is dictated for the security of a continued communion. From time to time, new additions are made to the doctrines of the brazen bible, although the system was declared complete when the book was first found; yet accumulation is safe, even to infinity, inasmuch as no prohibitory curse is denounced in it, against adding any thing thereto. Certain doctrines, recently revealed, were foretold by our prophet in advance, but one of the peculiar beauties of this system, pertaining to no other, is, that not unfrequently the fulfilment precedes the prophecy. Its author certainly possesses miraculous power in the affairs of divination, in all those cases, in which the first intimation of the augury is subsequent to the fulfilment, instead of the more consecutive plan of record first and occurrence afterwards. When discharging the duties of the prophetic office, he frequently announces that such and such things will come to pass, and he is almost invariably right, for the events could not well happen otherwise, unless something went wrong in the ordinary course of nature, -- and yet, in these cases, he argues divine interference, -- probably upon the ground that nothing under heaven could happen at all without it. In the event of the failure of any prophecy, (which, by the by, is not unusual, when he leaps beyond the rules of natural philosophy) and some one watchful of the prediction reminds him of the short-coming, he has an ample refuge in suggesting the high probability of a misunderstanding either between himself and the angel, or else between himself and the people. And yet the occurrence of any thing, however usual, if only foretold, is regarded with a degree of amazement commensurate with the imposing forms and ceremonies of prediction.
1842.] History of Mormonism. 409
Every new applicant for admission, is subjected to prescribed initiation, attended with an ample share of attractive formality, instigated by a shrewd knowledge of the value of first impressions. To avail themselves of all applications, nothing is said or done, but what might invite the assent of the subject applying. None were ever known to be rejected, as each applicant has the privilege of recommending himself, and should he, unfortunately, have any compunctions upon that point, he is privileged to keep silent; and if any of the saints are aware of his failings, the mention of them would be entirely superfluous, in as much as the fact of the application is construed as the result of a satisfactory penitence. This accommodating arrangement, renders the approach of all applicants smooth and easy, the whole of them protesting that nothing but a thorough and heartfelt conviction of the entire truth of Mormonism ever prompted them to apply, and among the questions of faith, propounded to the disinterested converts, fortunately for the conscience, none are broached, as touching their faith in regard to the present state of the treasury. The most popular time for applications appears to be, just anterior to the period adopted, by established custom, for the distribution of the annual dividends.
Some short time since, the governor of Missouri made a requisition upon the executive of Illinois, for the surrender of Smith, to answer for some of his unatoned old scores, but, from some informality in the process of requisition, the matter was delayed, until the error could be adjusted. In the mean time, Smith got news of the affair, and, thinking a compliance with the demand highly probable, received, about the same time, a divine intimation that he must depart immediately for Iowa, to receive a new revelation from an angel, there in patient waiting. Without delaying for the return mail from Missouri, he started, and, by a happy coincidence, the revelation was concluded simultaneously with a hint from some one in Iowa, that the affair of the requisition would be dropped for the present. No doubt, an adjourned meeting between himself and the angel will be held in Iowa, about the time the governor renews his application.
Smith is in bad repute all over that region. Like the Arab, "his hand is against every man, and every man's
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against him." From the beginning until now, the only object he has had in view, has been, to secure, by his present station, that prominence, regard and authority, which he has not sufficient force of character or talent to secure, under any other circumstances. Nature has endowed him well with art and cunning, which years of duplicity and experience have strengthened, in the prosecution of his ends and purposes. His natural bent of mind is ambitious; though his spirit is timid, and yet he never deserts a favorite point or adventure, unless the opposition is likely to prove serious. Wherever he has been located before, for the furtherance of his designs, some untoward circumstance has intervened for his temporary failure. The germs of disruption are budding among his people now. The numbers are becoming so great, that, from the necessities of the case, new offices must be created, the respective powers of which must abridge and conflict with his own. This cannot occur without instant danger, and when difficulty once commences, anarchy must finish the work. Of this, he is already aware; and the only remedy for prevention, is to close the door upon a further increase of his followers. Yet this he dares not do, for he has declared that his religion will one day be universal, and the act would defeat the hopes of his ambitious spirit
That his efforts can establish a faith so foolish, none but his interested enthusiasts believe; that another relapse is near, is known from the nature of the work. Ambition has drawn some to its adoption, who may have calculated too indiscreetly on its spread; novelty has given it many followers, who hoped to find, in its shifting forms, that food for the wonderful, furnished by no other church; selfishness has sent up its votaries, to feed and fatten on the hard-earned means that others may have brought, and which, by an act of legalized robbery, have become part and parcel of a common stock. Fanaticism like this, if indeed, any of its followers be sincere, can only be excused by the rebuking appeal it carries to the enthusiasm and folly of every age. Greece had her mythology and Pantheon, the islands, the shrines of Neptune; Arabia worshipped the voices that were fancied in the wind; and Persia fell down to the chariot of the sun. But religion had not dawned in those days of false worship and folly. If to the
1842.] History of Mormonism. 411
faith we have delineated its followers are false, and carry their pretence where they would be less safe in sincerity, then, indeed, is a beautiful commentary furnished for the humility, simplicity and truth of the religion of Bethlehem: "hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue."
In addition to these facts, we learn, that in England, to which benighted and heathenish country Mormon missionaries were despatched about two years ago, the spread of the doctrines of the brazen bible has been little less than miraculous, -- the inhabitants of almost one entire shire having become Latter Day Saints, as the Mormons call themselves; many wealthy and long-established families selling out their farms and homesteads, crossing the Atlantic, and threading the Mississippi for more than fifteen hundred miles, to lay their services and their fortunes, at the feet of this impostor! One hundred and thirty of these misguided men passed through New Orleans and St. Louis last summer, on a single steam-boat, on their way to Nauvoo, the "Holy City." At the latter place, we went on board, and looked in vain at the countenances of these victims of so miserable a delusion for some signs of lunacy, or, at least, idiocy. No! In nothing that we could discover, were they different from the mass of Christian emigrants who crowd our steam-boats; and we turned with disgust, as the conviction forced itself upon us, that it was, after all, scarcely even an exaggerated exhibition of human credulity.
But we have already lingered too long over this topic, which, in the estimation of our readers, is not, perhaps, worthy of such serious notice. We think differently. We solemnly believe that the tendency of the age is towards credulity. Our readers may smile at this, and may deem it absurd to forbode such results, from the intelligence of the present century. We have the Press, they will say. True; and so have the apostles of imposture: and, as Satan is said sometimes to disguise himself in the garb of an angel of light, so is there not one of all the long list of impositions, which now thrive and flourish on the face of the earth, which has not its advocate in the press. The Mormons have newspapers of their own; and right plausibly and ingeniously do they advocate their cause, until, in the eyes of many careless and weak-minded individuals, they "make the worse appear the better reason." They
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make stirring appeals to the sympathy of the world; they cry out "persecution!" they assume a humble and modest demeanor, until they obtain the power to strike another blow for their permanent advancement; while, to the ignorant, who are selected for their proselytes and dupes, the most magnificent prospects of temporal and spiritual rewards are held out, if they will embrace the true faith. The superstitious are frightened by denunciation; the licentious purchased by the promise of indulgence; the avaricious tempted by the allurement of wealth, and the ambitious by glowing prospects of power and honor. There is no imposture so absurd or ridiculous, but those very qualities furnish the foundation for a sophistry, which, to the weak-minded, looks like reason, and for appeals, which, to the soft-hearted, seem to demand sympathy and protection. The much-vaunted universality of education furnishes but a feeble barrier to the march of imposition. In fact, what is that which, amongst the masses of our population, is termed "education?" Is it a capacity to reason, and to discriminate between true and false logic? Is it the faculty of analysing subjects of great and overwhelming interest, connected with the sources of moral, political, and social well-being? Is it the power of examining important questions, upon enlarged and comprehensive views of the powers, duties, attributes, and final destinies of our race? Or is it not rather a meagre familiarity with a few arbitrary forms of speech and writing, to which no higher power is ever attributed, than that they are the means of ordinary communication in the concerns of every day existence? How few of all the thousands, nay millions, of "enlightened men," who live under the influence of this boasted era of intelligence, have power to think, act or judge, from the independent, unaided promptings of their own intellect! In our day, men spend their profitless lives in going about among water-fretted rocks, which stand hundreds of feet above what is now the river's surface, crawling, like earth-worms, into poisonous caves, in search of parti-colored rocks, or burrowing, like short-sighted moles, into the bowels of the earth, after fossil-remains, -- to prove, what? Why, that the section of the earth's surface, upon which they vegetate, was not always what it is; that, perhaps, vast inland seas once flowed above now verdure-crowned and life-resounding fields
1842.] History of Mormonism. 413
and cities; that a race of animals, and, perhaps, men, now extinct, once trod the boundless wilderness around them; in short, that change, in its eternal course, has swept over the earth, and that they, in their wisdom, have been able to discover a few straggling proofs of this self-evident proposition!
Let the empiric in knowledge, who uses these dainty colorings of expression, stand before the pyramids upon the banks of the Nile, and ask where, in the whole range of modern science, he can find even the mechanical power sufficient to erect those mysterious and awe inspiring monuments of a forgotten race. Let him gaze upon the living and immortal beauty, leaping, like rays of light, from the marble of Praxitiles and the canvass of Titian; let him contemplate the grandeur, blending with most exquisite beauty, of those temples which have furnished models to all succeeding time; let him thrill beneath the majestic verse of Homer, or melt under the delicious influences of Sappho's wondrous song,- -- and then, if he can, turn to the present, and find cause for gratulation and vain-glorious self-applause.
M O R M O N I S M.
The sect of the Mormonites, or Latter-Day Saints, has of late years become familiar by these names in Great Britain. They derive their first and standing appellation from a work called the Book of Mormon, assumed by them to be the fruit of inspiration and revelation, and taken as the text-book and bible of the sect. The Book of Mormon, published two or three times in North America, and once in Britain in 1841, had the following origin: --
A number of years since, a young man named Joseph Smith, the founder, apostle, and prophet of the Mormonites, followed the profession of a money-digger in the United States. It is a common belief in some of the maritime districts of that republic, that large sums of money and masses of bullion were there buried in the earth by the buccaneers, as well as, more recently, by persons concerned in the revolution. The pretence of discovering these treasures by incantations was an artifice to which needy and cunning men frequently resorted, and Joseph Smith, according to the best testimony, distinguished himself peculiarly in this line. While he was engaged in these and similar pursuits, he received, as his own story runs, several revelations from heaven relative to the religious sects of the day. On the first occasion when he was thus favoured, he had gone into a grove, and there besought divine aid to show him which, of all the denominations of the Christian church then existing, he ought to reverence and follow as the tree one. A bright light, he said, appeared above his head; he was received up into the midst of it; and he there saw two angelic personages, who told him that all his sins were forgiven, that the whole world was in error on religious points, and that the truth should be made known to him in due time. A second revelation of a similar description informed Smith that the American Indians were a remnant of the children of Israel, and that prophets and inspired men had once existed among them, by whom divine records had been deposited in a secure place, to save them from the hands of the wicked. A third communication, made on the morning of September 22, 1823, informed Smith that these relics were to be found in a cavern on a large hill to the east of the mail-road from Palmyra, Wayne county, state of New York. Here, accordingly, Joseph made search, and, as he says, found a stone-chest containing plates like gold, about seven by eight inches in width and length, and not quite so thick as common tin. On these plates was graven the Book or Bible of Mormon, so called from the name given to the party supposed to have written and concealed it. Smith was not allowed to take away these golden plates until he had learned
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the Egyptian language, in which tongue, or a modern dialect of it, the graven book was composed. At length, in September 1827, Smith was deemed qualified to receive the golden plates, and he transcribed an English version of the characters, which was published in the year 1830. The work made a considerable impression on the poorer classes of the United States, and a sect was formed soon afterwards, calling themselves "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." From their text-book they were more familiarly called the "Mormonites."
In the preparation, or at least promulgation of these pretended revelations, Smith was assisted by his father, and by persons called Rigdon, Harris, and others. At first little attention was paid to the imposture; but when it appeared to be undermining the religious belief and habits of the less instructed portion of the community, the respectable citizens of Palmyra and Manchester, where the Smiths formerly resided, felt it their duty to expose the real character of the Smiths. An affidavit was accordingly made by about fifty gentlemen, of various professions, and of diverse religious sentiments. The following is a copy of this document: --
"Palmyra, N. Y., Dec. 4, 1833. -- We, the undersigned, having been "acquainted with the Smith family for a number of years, while they resided near this place, have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly infamous for visionary projects, spent much of their time in digging for money, which they pretended was laid in the earth; and to this day large excavations may be seen in the earth not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits. Martin Harris had acquired a considerable property, and in matters of business his word was considered good; but on moral and religious subjects he was perfectly visionary; sometimes advocating one sentiment, sometimes another. In reference to all with whom we are acquainted that have embraced Mormonism from this neighbourhood, we are compelled to say that they were visionary, and most of them destitute of moral character, and without influence in the community. This is the reason why they were permitted to go on with their imposition undisturbed. It was not supposed that any of them were possessed of sufficient character or influence to make any one believe their book or their sentiments; and we know not a single individual in this vicinity who puts the least confidence in their pretended revelations." (Here follow the signatures of fifty-one persons.) *__________
* Rise, Progress, and Causes of Mormonism, by Professor J. B. Turner. New York: 1844.
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A similar testimony is recorded against the Smiths from respectable citizens in Manchester; and with respect to an assistant in the fraud, named Oliver Cowdery, in an affidavit presented by the authority before us, he is shown to be "a worthless fellow, and not to be trusted or believed." Whitmer, another member of this impious confederacy, is spoken of with equal disrespect.
The religion which these wretched impostors proposed to disseminate, appears to be a mixture of Christianity, drawn from garbled portions of the common English translation of the Scriptures, and the fancies of an irregular and ill-educated mind. The Book of Mormon, on which the deceitful doctrines of the sect are founded, is nearly of the same extent as the Old Testament, and contains, properly speaking, two distinct stories or histories. The history of the Nephites, a portion of the tribe of Joseph, supposed to have emigrated from Jerusalem under a prophet named Nephi, and to have been miraculously led to America, occupies the first part of the work. The Nephites founded, says the story, the Indian race. Many years after their settlement, they are also stated to have discovered the records of the Jaredites, an extinct nation which came to America about the time of the building of Babel. The revelations of various prophets to these Jaredites and Nephites, and direct divine communications respecting "my servant, Joseph Smith," the apostle of the present day, compose the staple matter of the Book of Mormon.
One main, if not the only object of the imposture, has been to exalt Joseph Smith as a grand head and director of the church; the other offices being filled by creatures subordinate to his will, and sharers in the plunder of the dupes. There are two distinct orders of church dignitaries -- 1. The Melchizedec, or High Priesthood, consisting of high priests and elders; 2. The Aaronic, or Lesser Priesthood, consisting of bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons. The former preside over the spiritual interests of the church; the latter administer its ordinances, and manage its temporal concerns. Three of the Melchizedec, or High Priests, are appointed presidents, to preside over all the churches in the world, and are called the First Presidency. There are also subordinate presidencies, ruling over towns or districts, called Stakes; and the appointment of these stakes in new regions in North America affords Mr Smith a favourable opportunity, as it has been observed, for speculating in "town lots."
The harangues of the Mormon preachers, abounding in allusions to the Christian doctrines, are well calculated to confuse and deceive the minds of unlearned hearers; but when investigated, the pretensions on which the whole fabric is reared appear eminently absurd and impious. From beginning to end the Book of Mormon is filled with evidences of forgery and
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imposture. The peculiar style of holy writ is borrowed throughout, and, as regards words and names, many separate languages are drawn upon, proving the assumed writer of early ages to have all the information of our day before him. The difficulty arising from the red colour of the Indian skin, so different from that of the Jews, is overcome by the arbitrary and easy medium of a miracle. Their colour is said to have been changed as a punishment for their sins. Things are spoken of which, it is well known, were not invented till late times. For example, it is said by the prophet Nephi, in allusion to a mutiny that took place on his voyage to America, "And it came to pass, after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it." Besides antedating the discovery of the needle's polarity by several centuries, the writer here evidently misunderstands the use of the compass altogether. A Mormonite elder, being pressed on the subject of this blunder, pointed to the account of St. Paul's voyage, which has this sentence in the English version: "We fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium." The misapprehension of this sentence, the first words of which mean merely, "We made a circuit," had obviously led to the blunder of the composer of the Book of Mormon. According to a paper in the Athenaeum: "The history of the pretended Israelites is continued in the Books of Enos, Jarom, Zeniff, &c. and through them all we find one signal proof not merely of imposture, but of the ignorance of the impostor, repeated with singular pertinacity. Every successive prophet predicts to the Nephites the future coming of Christ: the writer has fallen into the vulgar error of mistaking an epithet for a name; the word 'Christ,' as all educated persons know, is not a name, but a Greek title of office, signifying 'The Anointed,' being in fact a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. It is true that in modern times, and by a corruption which is now become inveterate, the term is used by western Christians as if it were a proper name, or at least an untranslatable designation; but this is a modern error, and it has been avoided by most of the Oriental churches. Now, the use of a Greek term, in an age when the Greek language was unformed, and by a people with whom it is impossible for Greeks to have intercourse, and, moreover, whose native language was of such peculiar construction as not to be susceptible of foreign admixture, is a mark of forgery so obvious and decisive, that it ought long since to have exjoosed the delusion. Unhappily, however, we are forced to conclude, from the pamphlets before us, that the American Methodists, who first undertook to expose the Mormonites, were scarcely less ignorant than themselves.
A second Nephi takes up the history at a period contemporary with the events recorded in the New Testament. It avers that our Lord exhibited himself to the Nephites after his resurrection,
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and the words attributed to him bear still more conclusive evidence of the ignorance of the impostors: --
'Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.' And again, 'I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.'
In addition to the former blunder respecting the name 'Christ,' we have the name ' Jesus ' in its Greek form, and not, as the Hebrews would have called it, 'Joshua;' but we have, furthermore, the names of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet given as a metaphorical description of continued existence to a nation that had never heard of the Greek language. It is quite clear that the writer mistook Alpha and Omega for some sacred and mystic sounds, to which particular sanctity was attached -- a blunder by no means confined to the Mormonites -- and wrote them down without perceiving that they were an evidence of forgery so palpable as to be manifest to schoolboys."
The same authority which we have now quoted gives a hint of the probable origin of this whole imposture; for, as we shall show, Joseph Smith is a man scarcely capable of inventing or writing even the ravings of the Book of Mormon. A clergyman named Solomon Spaulding had left his ministry, and entered into business in Cherry Vale, New York, where he failed in the year 1809. The sepulchral mounds of North America were then exciting some interest, and it struck Spaulding that he might relieve himself from his distresses by composing a novel, connecting these mounds with the lost ten tribes of Israel, supposed by some to have peopled America. Intending to name his work "The Manuscript Found," he wrote it in the old style of the Hebrew compositions. In 1812 the work was taken to a printer named Lamdin, residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; but the author died ere any arrangement could be made for its publication. Lamdin also died in 1826. He had previously lent the manuscript to a person named Sidney Rigdon, and this person it seems to have been who, in connection with his friend Joseph Smith, formed the idea of palming it on the world as a new revelation. The manuscript was well suited to their purposes, and of course they would make such changes as appeared requisite. That this was the true source of the Book of Mormon, is borne out by the testimony of the wife, brother, partner, and several friends of Spaulding, who had heard him read portions of the manuscript, and who recognised many of the names and incidents in the Book of Mormon to be the same with those occurring in Spaulding's novel. The difficulty of supposing paper of any kind to have been so long preserved, appears to have suggested the additional and characteristic device of the "plates of gold" to the money-digger, Mr Joseph Smith. Sidney Rigdon is now the "prophet's" secretary. He, by the way, and a few other persons, have alone been honoured with a sight of the said plates,
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It might be deemed superfluous to say so much on this subject, were it not that the Mormon delusion has spread widely in North America, and even in Great Britain. Joseph Smith and his colleagnes settled in 1831 on the Missouri, whence they were soon after expelled on account of their lawless conduct. They then went to Illinois, and founded a town or city, called Nauvoo, near the Mississippi, said now to contain 1700 able-bodied men, exclusive of women and children. To this place too many emigrants are directing' their course even from Great Britain. What sort of people they will find in the persons of the prophet and his associates, appears very clearly from a little work by Mr. Caswall, who visited the city of the Mormons in the year 1842. The following is his picture of Joseph Smith: --
"I met Joseph Smith at a short distance from his dwelling, and was introduced to him. I had the honour of an interview with him who is a prophet, a seer, a merchant, a 'revelator,' a president, an elder, an editor, and the general of the 'Nauvoo Legion.' He is a coarse plebeian person in aspect, and his countenance exhibits a curious mixture of the knave and the clown. His hands are large and fat, and on one of his fingers he wears a massive gold ring, upon which I saw an inscription. His dress was of coarse country manufacture, and his white hat was enveloped by a piece of black crape as a sign of mourning for his deceased brother Don Carlos Smith, the late editor of the 'Times and Seasons.' His age is about thirty-five. I had not an opportunity of observing his eyes, as he appears deficient in that open straightforward look which characterises an honest man. He led the way to his house, accompanied by a host of elders, bishops, preachers, and common Mormons. On entering the house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and gaping crowd remained standing. I handed a book to the prophet and begged him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I replied that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter, but that I should like to hear his opinion. 'No,' he said; 'it aint Greek at all, except, perhaps, a few words. What aint Greek is Egyptian, and what aint Egyptian is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics.' Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said, 'Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics, and them which follows is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates.' Upon this the Mormons around began to congratulate me on the information I was receiving. 'There,' they said, 'we told you so -- we told you that our prophet would give you satisfaction. None but our prophet can explain these mysteries.'" The error of taking a Greek Psalter for a specimen of Egyptian hieroglyphics, sufficiently proves the slender pretensions of Mr Joseph Smith to be a mystery-expounder.
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In another part of the book Mr. Caswell relates a few personal anecdotes of this worthy, mentioned to him by credible witnesses; but they refer to such scenes of drunkenness and profanity, that we should not feel justified in transcribing them. Enough, we think, has been said to expose the character of a dangerous impostor, and to prevent individuals amongst our working population from expending their little all on the faith of such a man's promises. We have before us a letter from an unfortunate cotton-spinner of Lancashire, which shows how necessary such a caution is. The Mormon preachers in England had described Nauvoo to him as a land overflowing with milk and honey, and a place where the Divine Being had commanded a temple to be built, that might be a refuge to all mankind. Joseph Smith, at least, had certainly commanded this, as the following very unequivocal passages from his writings will show: -- "Verily, verily, I say unto you, let all my saints come from afar, and send ye swift messengers, yea, chosen messeng'ers, and say unto them, 'Come ye with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones, and with all your antiquities; and all who have knowledge of antiquities that will come may come; and bring the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth; and with iron, and with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth, and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein; for there is not a place found upon earth that he may come and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.'"
By such blasphemous and deceitful stuif as this the poor cotton-spinner, like too many others, was induced to go to Nauvoo, where, like other victims of delusion, he was wretchedly used. It is needless to carry our notice of this matter further. Every shadow of evidence yet obtained tends to prove Mormonism to be a gross imposture, and one unworthy of notice, save on account of the dangers which have here been described and exposed.
Since writing the above, intelligence has arrived in England that Joseph Smith, the leader of the Mormons, was killed by a lawless mob on the 27th of June at Carthage, state of Illinois. This event is to be deplored, not only on account of its being a barbarous murder, but because it will be considered in the light of a martyrdom by the infatuated followers of the deceased, and no way tend to abate the Mormon delusion.
Vol. 64. London, U. K. November, 1848. No. ?
LIFE IN THE "FAR WEST."
No sooner was it known that Los Americanos had arrived, than nearly all the householders of Fernandez presented themselves to offer the use of their "salas" for the fandango which invariably celebrated their arrival. This was always a profitable event; for as the mountaineers were generally pretty well "flush" of cash when on their "spree," and as open-handed as an Indian could wish, the sale of whisky, with which they regaled all comers, produced a handsome return to the fortunate individual whose room was selected for the fandango....
... From him they learned also that a large band of Mormons were wintering on the Arkansa, en route to the Great Salt Lake and Upper California; and as our hunters had before fallen in with the advanced guard of these fanatic emigrants, and felt no little wonder that such helpless people shonld undertake so long a journey through the wilderness, the stranger narrated to them the history of the sect, which we will also shortly transcribe for the benefit of the reader.
The Mormons were originally of the sect known as "Latter-day Saints," which sect flourishes wherever Anglo-Saxon gulls are found in sufficient numbers to swallow the egregious nonsense of fanatic humbugs who fatten upon their credulity. In the United States they especially abounded; but, the creed becoming "slow," one Joe Smith, a smart man, arose from its ranks, and instilled a little life into the decaying sect.
Joe, better known as the "Prophet Joe," was taking his siesta one fine day, upon a hill in one of the New England States, when an angel suddenly appeared to him, and made known the locality of a new Bible or Testament, which contained The history of the lost tribes of Israel; that these tribes were no other than the Indian nations which possessed the continent of America at the time of its discovery, and the remains of which still existed in their savage state; that, through the agency of Joe, these were to be reclaimed, collected into the bosom of a church to be there established, according to principles which would be found in the wonderful book and which church was gradually to receive into its bosom all other churches, sects, and persuasions, with "unanimity of belief and perfect brotherhood."
After a certain probation, Joe was led in body and spirit to the mountain by the angel who first appeared to him, was pointed out the position of the wonderful book, which was covered by a flat stone, on which would be found two round pebbles, called Urim and Thummim, and through the agency of which the mystic characters inscribed on the pages of the book were to be deciphered and translated. Joe found the spot indicated without any difficulty, cleared away the earth, and discovered a hollow place formed by four flat stones; on removing the topmost one of which sundry plates of brass presented themselves, covered with quaint and antique carving; on the top lay Urim and Thummim, (commonly known to the Mormons as Mummum and Thummum, the pebbles of wonderful virtue,) through which the miracle of reading the plates of brass was to be performed.
Joe Smith, on whom the mantle of Moses had so suddenly fallen, carefully removed the plates and hid them, burying himself in woods and mountains whilst engaged in the work of translation. However, he made no secret of the important task imposed upon him, nor of the great work to which he had been called. Numbers at once believed him, but not a few were deaf to belief, and openly derided him. Being persecuted, (as the sect declares, at the instigation of the authorities,) and many attempts being made to steal his precious treasure, Joe, one fine night, packed his plates in a sack of beans, bundled them into a Jersey waggon, and made tracks for the West. Here he completed the great work of translation, and not long after gave to the world the "Book of Mormon," a work as bulky as the Bible, and called "of Mormon," for so was the prophet named by whose hand the history of the lost tribes had been handed down in the plates of brass thus miraculously preserved for thousands of years, and brought to light through the agency of Joseph Smith.
The fame of the Book of Mormon spread over all America, and even to Great Britain and Ireland. Hundreds of proselytes flocked to Joe, to hear from his lips the doctrine of Mormonism; and in a very brief period the Mormons became a numerous and recognized sect, and Joe was at once, and by universal acclamation, installed as the head of the Mormon church, and was ever known by the name of the "Prophet Joseph."
However, from certain peculiarities in their social system, the Mormons became rather unpopular in the settled
States, and at length moved bodily into Missouri, where they purchased several tracts of land in the neighbourhood of Independence. Here they erected a large building, which they called the Lord's Store, where goods were collected on the common account, and retailed to members of the church at moderate prices. All this time their numbers increased in a wonderful manner, and immigrants from all parts of the States, as well as Europe, continually joined them. As they became stronger, they grew bolder and more arrogant in their projects. They had hitherto been considered as bad neighbours, on account of their pilfering propensities, and their utter disregard of the conventional decencies of society -- exhibiting the greatest immorality, and endeavoring to establish amongst their society a universal concubinage. This was sufficient to produce an ill feeling against them on the part of their neighbours, the honest Missourians; but they still tolerated their presence amongst them, until the Saints openly proclaimed their intention of seizing upon the country, and expelling by force the present occupants -- giving, as their reason, that it had been revealed to their prophets that the "Land of Zion" was to be possessed by themselves alone.
The sturdy Missourians began to think this was a little too strong, and that, if they permitted such aggressions any longer, they would be in a fair way of being despoiled of their lands by the Mormon interlopers. At length matters came to a crisis, and the Saints, emboldened by the impunity with which they had hitherto carried out their plans, issued a proclamation to the effect that all in that part of the country, who did not belong to the Mormon persuasion, must "clear out," and give up possession of their lands and houses. The Missourians collected in a body, burned the printing-press from which the proclamation had emanated, seized several of the Mormon leaders, and, after inflicting a summary chastisement, "tarred and feathered" them, and let them go.
To revenge this insult, the Mormons marshalled an army of Saints, and marched upon Independence, threatening vengeance against the town and people. Here they met, however, a band of sturdy backwoodsmen, armed with rifles, determined to defend the town against the fanatic mob, who, not relishing their appearance, refused the encounter, and surrendered their leaders at the first demand. The prisoners were afterwards released, on condition that the Mormons left that part of the country without delay.
Accordingly, they once more "took up their beds and walked," crossing the Missouri to Clay County, where they established themselves, and would Anally have formed a thriving settlement but for their own acts of wilful dishonesty. At this time their blasphemous mummery knew no bounds. Joe Smith, and other prophets who had lately arisen, were declared to be chosen of God; and it was the general creed that, on the day of judgment, the former would take his stand on the right hand of the judgment-seat, and that none would pass into the kingdom of heaven without his seal and touch. One of their tenets was the faith in "spiritual matrimony." No woman, it appeared, would be admitted into heaven unless "passed" by a saint. To qualify them for this, it was necessary that the woman should first be received by the guaranteeing Mormon as an "earthly wife," in order that he did not pass in any of whom he had no knowledge. The consequence of this state of things may be imagined. The most debasing immorality was a precept of the order, and an almost universal concubinage existed amongst the sect, which at this time numbered at least forty thousand. Their disregard to the laws of decency and morality was such as could not be tolerated in any class of civilised society.
Again did the honest Missourians set their faces against this pernicious example, and when the county to which the Mormons had removed became more thickly settled, they rose to a man against the modern Gomorrah. The Mormons, by this time, having on their part gained considerable accession to their strength, thought to set the laws at defiance, organised and armed large bodies
of men, in order to maintain the ascendency over the legitimate settlers, and bid fair to constitute an "imperium in imperio" in the State, and become the sole possessors of the public lands. This, of course, could not be tolerated. Governor Boggs at once ordered out a large force of State militia to put down this formidable demonstration, marched against the Mormons, and suppressed the insurrectionary movement without bloodshed. From Clay County they moved still farther into the wilds, and settled at last in Caldwell County, where they built the town of "Far West," and here they remained for the space of three years.
During this time they were continually receiving converts to the faith, and many of the more ignorant country people were disposed to join them, being only deterred by the fear of incurring ridicule from the stronger minded. The body of the Mormons seeing this, called upon their prophet, Joe Smith, to perform a miracle in public before all comers, which was to prove to those of their own people who still doubted the doctrine, the truth of what it advanced -- (the power of performing miracles was steadfastly declared to be in their hands by the prophets) -- and to enlist those who wavered in the Mormon cause.
The prophet instantly agreed, and declared that, upon a certain day, he would walk across the broad waters of the Missouri without wetting the soles of his feet. On the appointed day, the river banks were thronged by an expectant crowd. The Mormons sang hymns of praise in honour of their prophet, and were proud of the forthcoming miracle, which was to set finally at rest all doubt as to his power and sanctity.
This power of performing miracles, and effecting miraculous cures of the sick, was so generally believed by the Mormons, that physic was never used amongst them. The, prophets visited the beds of the sick, and laid hands upon them, and if, as of course was almost invariably the case, the patient died, it was attributed to his or her want of faith; but if, on the contrary, the patient recovered, there was universal glorification on the miraculous cure.
Joe Smith was a tall, fine-looking man, of most plausible address, and possessed the gift of the gab in great perfection. At the time appointed for the performance of the walking-water miracle, he duly attended on the river banks, and descended barefoot to the edge of the water.
"My brethren!" he exclaimed in a loud voice, "this day is a happy one to me, to us all, who venerate the great and only faith. The truth of our great and blessed doctrine will now be proved before the thousands I see around me. You have asked me to prove by a miracle that the power of the prophets of old has been given to me. I say unto you, not only to me, but to all who have faith. I have faith, and can perform miracles -- that faith empowers me to walk across the broad surface of that mighty river without wetting the soles of my unworthy feet; but if ye are to see this miracle performed, it is necessary that ye have faith also, not only in yourselves, but in me. Have ye this faith in yourselves?"
"We have, we have!" roared the crowd.
"Have ye the faith in me, that ye believe I can perform this miracle?"
"We have, we have!" roared the crowd.
"Then," said Joe Smith, coolly walking away, "with such faith do ye know well that I could, but it boots not that I should, do it; therefore, my brethren, doubt no more" -- and Joe put on his boots and disappeared.
Being again compelled to emigrate, the Mormons proceeded into the state of Illinois, where, in a beautiful situation, they founded the new Jerusalem, which, it had been declared by the prophet Mormon, should rise out of the wilderness of the west, and where the chosen people should be collected under one church, and governed by the ciders after a "spiritual fashion."
The city of Nauvoo soon became a large and imposing settlement. An enormous building, called the Temple of Zion, was erected, half church, half hotel, in which Joe Smith and the other prophets resided -- and large storehouses were connected with it, in which the goods and chattels belonging to the community were kept for the common good.
However, here, as every wlrere else, they were continually quarrelling with their neighbours; and as their numbers increased, so did their audacity. A regular Mormon militia was again organised and armed, under the command of experienced officers, who had joined the sect; and now the authority of the state government was openly defied. In consequence, the executive took measures to put down the nuisance, and a regular war commenced, and was carried on for some time, with no little bloodshed on both sides; and this armed movement is known in the United States as the Mormon war. The Mormons, however, who, it seemed, were much better skilled in the use of the tongue than the rifle, succumbed: the city of Nanvoo was taken, Joe Smith and other ringleading prophets captured; and the former, in an attempt to escape from his place of confinement was seized and shot. The Mormons declare he had long foretold his own fate, and that when the rifles of the firing party who were his executioners were levelled at the prophet's breast, a flash of lightning struck the weapons from their hands, and blinded for a time the eyes of the sacrilegious soldiers.
With the death of Joe Smith the prestige of the Mormon cause declined; but still thousands of proselytes joined them annually, and at last the state took measures to remove them altogether, as a body, from the country.
Once again they fled, as they themselves term it, before the persecutions of the ungodly! But this time their migration was far beyond the reach of their enemies, and their intention was to place between them the impassable barrier of the Rocky Mountains, and to seek a home and resting-place in the remote regions of the Far West.
This, the most extraordinary migration of modern times, commenced in the year 1845; but it was not till the following year that the great body of the Mormons turned their backs upon the settlements of the United States, and launched boldly out into tho vast and barren prairies, without any fixed destination as a goal to their endless journey. For many months, long strings of Pittsburg and Conostaga waggons, with herds of horses and domestic cattle, wound their way towards the Indian frontier, with the intention of rendezvousing at Council Bluffs on the Upper Missouri. Here thousands of waggons were congregated, with their tens of thousands of men, women, and children, anxiously waiting the route from the elders of the church, who on their parts scarcely knew whither to direct the steps of the vast crowd they had set in motion. At length the indefinite destination of Oregon and California was proclaimed, and the long train of emigrants took up the line of march. It was believed the Indian tribes would immediately fraternise with the Mormons, on their approaching their country; but the Pawnees quickly undeceived them by running off with their stock on every opportunity. Besides these losses, at every camp, horses, sheep, and oxen strayed away and were not recovered, and numbers died from fatigue and want of provender; so that, before they had been many weeks on their journey, nearly all their cattle, which they had brought to stock their new country, were dead or missing, and those that were left were in most miserable condition.
They had started so late in the season, that the greater part were compelled to winter on the Platte, on Grand Island, and in the vicinity, where they endured the greatest privations and suffering from cold and hunger. Many who had lost their stock lived upon roots and pig-nuts; and scurvy, in a most malignant form, and other disorders, carried off numbers of the wretched fanatics.
Amongst them were many substantial farmers from all parts of the United States, who had given up their valuable farms, sold off all their property, and were dragging their irresponsible and unfortunate families into the wilderness -- carried away by then -- blind and fanatic zeal in this absurd and incredible faith. There were also many poor wretches from different parts of England, mostly of the farm-labouring class, with wives and families, crawling along with helpless and almost idiotic despair, but urged forward by the fanatic leaders of the movement, who promised them a land flowing with milk and honey to reward them for all their hardships and privations.
Their numbers were soon reduced
by want and disease. When too late, they often wished themselves back in the old country, and sighed many a time for the beer and bacon of former days, now preferable to the dry buffalo meat (but seldom obtainable) of the Far West.
Evil fortune pursued the Mormons, and dogged their steps. The year following, some struggled on towards the promised land, and of these a few reached Oregon and California. Many were killed by hostile Indians; many perished of hunger, cold, and thirst, in passing the great wilderness; and many returned to the States, penniless and crestfallen, and heartily cursing the moment in which they had listened to the counsels of the Mormon prophet. The numbers who reached their destination of Oregon, California, and the Great Salt Lake, are computed at 20,000, of whom the United States had an unregretted riddance.
One party had followed the troops of the American government intended for the conquest of New Mexico and the Californias. Of these a battalion was formed, and part of it proceeded to Upper California; but the way being impracticable for waggons, some seventy families proceeded up the Arkansas, and wintered near the mountains, intending to cross to the Platte the ensuing spring, and join the main body of emigrants on their way by the south pass of the Rocky Mountains.
In the wide and well-timbered bottom of the Arkansas, the Mormons had erected a street of log shanties, inwhich to pass the inclement winter. These were built of rough logs of cotton-wood, laid one above the other, the interstices filled with mud, and rendered impervious to wind or wet. At one end of the row of shanties was built the "church" or temple -- a long building of huge logs, in which the prayer-meetings and holdings-forth took place. The band wintering on the Arkansas were a far better class than the generality of Mormons, and comprised many wealthy and respectable farmers from the western states, most of whom were accustomed to the life of woodmen, and were good hunters. Thus they were enabled to support their families upon the produce of their rifles, frequently sallying out to the nearest point of the mountains with a waggon, which they would bring back loaded with buffalo, deer, and elk meat, thereby saving the necessity of killing any of their stock of cattle, of which but few remained.
The mountain hunters found this camp a profitable market for their meat and deer-skins, with which the Mormons were now compelled to clothe themselves, and resorted there for that purpose -- to say nothing of the attraction of the many really beautiful Missourian girls who sported their tall graceful figures at the frequent fandangoes. Dancing and preaching go hand in hand in Mormon doctrine, and the "temple" was generally cleared for a hop two or three times during the week, a couple of fiddles doing the duty of orchestra. A party of mountaineers came in one day, bringing some buffalo meat and dressed deer-skins, and were invited to be present at one of these festivals.
Arrived at the temple, they were rather taken aback by finding themselves in for a sermon, which one of the elders delivered preparatory to the "physical exercises." The preacher was one Brown -- called, by reason of his commanding a company of Mormon volunteers, "Cap'en Brown," -- a hard-featured, black-coated man of five-and-forty, correctly got up in black continuations and white handkerchief round his neck, a costume seldom seen at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The Cap'en, rising, cleared his voice, and thus commenced, first turning to an elder (with whom there was a little rivalry in the way of preaching,) "Brother Dowdle!" (brother Dowdle blushed and nodded -- he was a long tallow-faced man, with black hair combed over his face,) "I feel like holding forth a little this afternoon, before we glorify the Lord, -a -a -in the -a -holy dance. As there are a many strange gentlemen now -a, -present, it's about right to tell 'em -a -what our doctrine just is, and so I tells 'em right off what the Mormons is. They are the chosen of the Lord; they are the children of glory, persecuted by the hand of man: they flies here to the wilderness, and, amongst the Injine and the buffler, they lifts up their heads, and cries with a loud voice, Susannah, and hurray for the promised land! Do you believe it? I know it.
"They wants to know whar we're going. Whar the church goes -- thar we goes. Yes, to hell, and pull the devil off his throne -- that's what we'll do. Do you believe it? I know it...