Jonathan B. Turner
Mormonism in all Ages

(NYC: Platt & Peters, 1842)

Part 1: ch. 1-3  |  Part 2: ch 4-6  |  Part 3: ch. 7-8
  • Title   Intro   Contents   Transcriber's Comments

  • Chapter 4 (pp. 110-148)
  • Chapter 5 (pp. 149-181)
  • Chapter 6 (pp. 182-222)

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    110                     GROUNDS OF THE CREDIBILITY, ETC.                    



    Grounds of caution -- Charter of freedom -- Basis of false schemes of faith -- 1. Force -- 2. Sympathy -- 3. Fanatical experience -- 4. Human testimony -- God's judgment of -- Value of testimony -- Puerility of skeptics -- True grounds for religious belief -- Existence of the Deity -- Personal experience -- Inherent truth of Christianity -- Objections, interpolations, &c. -- Proofs from inevitable inference -- God's mode of furnishing the facts -- Man's mode of explaining them -- Origin of the Bible -- Authority of the Bible -- Laws of nature -- Moral necessity of miracles -- Hume's sophism -- Examples of facts to be explained -- Conclusion.

    IT was our object, in the last chapter, to exhibit the fact, and some of the principal causes of the extreme credulity of mankind in matters of faith. We will now endeavor to derive some further practical inferences from these phenomena, which will lead us to consider the grounds on which a professed revelation from heaven can be made rationally credible to mankind.

    1. And, first, I remark that the facts adduced in the last chapter warn us to scrutinize all such professed revelations with extreme distrust, caution, and care. We cannot believe, if we would, one in a million of those who have had the impudence to challenge the faith of our race. This fact, by itself, shows, if we were to reason only from the general nature and tendency of the human mind to believe in such revelations, that some such revelation of the will of God is at once probable, necessary, and natural, in a moral sense, because the race have been so constituted by their Maker, as universally to expect it. By analogy, this appentency, as

    Pages 111 to 148 not yet transcribed.


                    CLAIMS  OF  THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON.                   149



    Its claims -- Character of Smith -- Contrasted with Moses -- The sainted twelve of Smith -- Testimony of Smith's three witnesses -- Character of Harris by Smith -- by his own wife -- Character of Cowdery and Whitmer by Smith -- by others -- Capacity of witnesses -- Eye of faith, power of God, &c. -- Disinterestedness of witnesses -- Testimony of the eight witnesses -- Smith's mode of translation.

    HAVING briefly considered the general grounds on which a revelation professing to come from God can be rendered credible, we are now prepared to examine the pretensions of Smith. The Book of Mormon claims to be the foundation of the whole scheme; and though this claim is unfounded, as we have shown, still we will first consider its credibility and authority.

    By referring to the general account already given in the origin and history of this book, the reader will at once see that it des not even pretend to base its claims on either of the two grounds, on which a revelation can be rendered credible, viz, on the personal experience and observation of the individuals whom it addresses; nor secondly, on the ground of inevitable inference from known and admitted facts.

    So far as argument is concerned, we might here consign both the book and its author, without further remarks, to the infamy which, in common with all similar impostures, they really deserve.

    But, since Smith's pretensions, not only to the character


    150                               CHARACTER  OF  SMITH.                               

    of a prophet, but also to that of an honest man, rest primarily on this book, we will for the common benefit of the credulous and the curious, proceed to examine the only remaining claims which it ever has, or ever can set up. These are four:

    1. Claims on the ground of known character of its author, Joseph Smith.

    2. Claims on the ground of credibility of the witnesses who have endorsed it.

    3. Claims on the ground of the Scripture prophecies.

    4. Claims on the ground of its own internal excellence.

    1. Our first poinr respects the character and credibility of Joseph Smith, jun., who announces himself on the title-page of the first edition of the Book of Mormon as "the AUTHOR and PROPRIETOR" of that work.

    Our first remark is, that we cheerfully admit this claim.

    We cannot conceive how any man of common sense could ever have imagined that God, or any other being, except Joe Smith, was either the author or proprietor of such a book. The only difficulty is, to see how God can be responsibile for a work of which Joseph Smith is Author and Proprietor:" and one ground on which such a claim must be sustained, is the admitted excellence and trustworthiness of Joseph Smith's moral character.

    We admit that a man may have great faults, and still be not only worthy of credit, but an accredited and appropriate agent of the Most High.

    All the ancient worthies, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, were frail and sinful men,


                                  CHARACTER  OF  SMITH.                                 151

    Pages 151 to 180 not yet transcribed.


                                  CHARACTER  OF  SMITH.                                181

    if it is right, I will cause that YOUR BOSOM SHALL BURN within you. THEREFORE (!!) you shall FEEL that it is RIGHT. But if it is not right, you shall have no such feelings; but you shall have a STUPOR of thought, that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong THEREFORE (!!) you cannot write that which is sacred, save it be given you from me." 2d ed.

    Here, in the first place, we see that Smith's divinity found it expedient "to deviate a little," and retract the divinity-given gift conferred the same day.

    In the second, we have his patent divine prescription for writing things sacred, in detail; and, of course, the method which Smith has followed in translating his bible, and giving his other revelations to the world. He "STUDIED IT OUT IN HIS OWN MIND," and when he got it right, "his bosom burned," of course. With this patent recipe before him, we see not why any man might not translate, or give revelations, as well as Smith, unless he was afflicted with that unaccountable stuper of thought, which seems to unfit all other Mormons for the work, except Smith. Perhaps, if brother Cowdery should try his hand at it now, since he has had wit enough to leave the Mormons, he would succeed in raising the needful heat better than before.

    Those in other churches, who are in the habit of practicising upon the same principle, would do well to commit Smith's rule to memory, since it accurately describes the process of securing miraculous confirmations of any known or imagined truth.


    182                               EVIDENCE FROM PROPHECY.                              



    Evidences from prophecy -- Internal evidence -- Jared's barges -- One hundred and sixteen pages stolen -- Patent English -- Style, authorship, and titles -- Real origin of the Book of Mormon -- Origin of the stone spectacles -- Smith's four years' vacation -- Testimony of John Spaulding -- of Henry Lake -- The Spaulding Manuscript -- Smith's meeting with Harris -- Probable mode of acquiring the book -- Wonderful providences -- War with Missouri yet to come.

    THE next claim which the Mormons set up is, that they can prove the truth of their book from the prophecies of the sacred Scriptures.

    We confess we enter with reluctance upon a field which has, in all ages, been the favorite resort of enthusiasts and dreamers; the prolific fountain from which fanaticisms of all shapes have leaped forth, like John's frogs out of the mouth of the dragon, to swell and prance for a time, and then retire, and leave the world to gaze at other wonders, equally sublime, equally demonstrable, and equally absurd.

    These self-complacent conjurers can all handle the mystic symbols of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and St. John, with the same ease and grace that a well-bred lady does her teapot; and each can divine the coming destiny of the world, from the resplendent bubbles in his own chosen urn of prophecy, with the same facility and certainty as an old woman can predict the next visitor, from the grounds in her cup.


                              EVIDENCE  FROM  PROPHECY.                           183

    Pages 183 to 204 not yet transcribed.


                          SMITH'S  FOUR  YEARS'  VACATION.                           205

    told him he could not have it. Chase insisted that it was his property. Smith replied, "I do not care who in the devil it belongs to; you shall not have itl" and Chase could never again obtain it.

    In 1830, Chase again asked Hiram Smith for his stone. He told him "he should not have it, for Joseph made use of it in translating his bible." Chase claimed it on the ground of his own right, and of Smith's promise. Smith gave him the lie. Harris, who was present, "flew in a rage, and took Chase by the collar," and Hiram Smith joined in the scuffle, "shaking his fists," and "abusing the witness in a most scandalous manner."

    Such, then, was the origin of these stones, and of Smith's wonderful gift of clairvoyance, translating, and foreseeing the future, &c. &c.

    In September, 1823, Smith says the angel first appeared to him, and soon after he went to work for a man by the name of Stowell, in Chenango county, N. Y., who employed him to dig for money near Harmony, Penn. In November, 1825, Mr. Hale, his father-in-law, states that he first appeared at his house. Of course he had already been in and about that region two years, or thereabouts. In the fall of 1826, we find him again at home, without funds, and devising stories about silver mines in order to get a passage to Harmony; he succeeds, arrives, and marries, as we have seen, and then persuades his old employer, Stowell, to take a tramp to N. York, and carry Smith and his new bride in quest of bars of gold, where they safely arrive, and leave the old Dutchman to return and hunt his gold at his leisure; and, finally, in the fall of 1827, he goes again to Harmony: Harris makes his appearance there, and the work of translating the new bible goes


    206                      TESTIMONY  OF  JOHN  SPAULDING.                          

    on. This is the first time his father-in-law ever heard of the golden plates; and it seems to be Smith's first effort at translating them.

    The point to be noticed here is, that, from 1823 to 1827, the precise four years in which Smith and his friends, in all the Mormon journals, either by accident or design, omit all accounts of him, he is passing to and fro from his native place to Chenango county, N.Y., and then to Harmony, Penn., which is near by; he is seemingly out of employ, and resources, and friends; and, by his own confession, employed a part of his time in digging for a cave of silver, by Stowell. He was, therefore, in the society of men not only ready to believe, but on the look-out for wonders and sudden speculations.

    Why have neither Smith nor his friends given any history of these four years, between the two miraculous visits of the angel, viz, from Sept. 22, 1823 to Sept. 22, 1827. when he first obtained the plates? Why does Smith pass over this most interesting portion of his life in silence, or speak of it only in vague generalities? The only possible answer is, he dares not give a minute and detailed history of that period, giving places and dates; for if he should, he fears it would lead to his destruction. No other reason can be given, though he may patch up something after these suggestions.

    We will now advert to the history of the famous Spaulding manuscript, of which so much has been said, and which many suppose forms the plot of this contemptible religious comedy, expanded, revised, and mutilated no doubt as the genius of Smith directed.

    Mr. John Spaulding, brother of Solomon, of Crawford county, Penn., testifies as follows:


                          TESTIMONY  OF  JOHN  SPAULDING.                          207

    "Solomon Spaulding was born in Ashford, Conn. in 1761. He graduated at Dartmouth College, and was afterwards regularly ordained as a minister. After preaching three or four years he gave it up, and commenced mercantile business with his brother Josiah, in Cherry Valley, N. Y., where he failed in business, and in the year 1809 removed to Conneaut, Ohio. I made him a visit about four years after, and found him involved in debt. He then told me he had been writing a book, which he intended to have printed, the avails of which he thought would enable him to pay all his debts. The book was entitled the "Manuscript Found," of which he read to me many passages. -- It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews, or the lost tribes. It gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and sea, till they arrived in America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi. They afterwards had quarrels and contentions, and separated into two distinct nations, one of which he denominated Nephites and the other Lamanites. Cruel and bloody wars ensued, in which great multitudes were slain. They buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country. Their arts, sciences and civilization were brought into view, in order to account for all the curious antiquities found in various parts of North and South America. I have recently read the Book of Mormon, and to my great surprise I find nearly the same historical matter, names, &c. as they were in my brother's writings. I well remember that he wrote in the old style, and commenced about every sentence with 'And it came to pass,' or 'Now it came to pass,'


    208                   TESTIMONY  OF  MARTHA  SPAULDING.                      

    the same as in the Book of Mormon; and according to the best of my recollection and belief, it is the same as my brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter. By what means it has fallen into the hands of Joseph Smith, Jun., I am unable to determine.
                 Signed,                   JOHN SPAULDING.
    Martha Spaulding, the wife of John Spaulding, also testifies as follows:

    . "I was personally acquainted with Solomon Spaulding, about twenty years ago. I was at his house a short time before he left Conneaut. He was then writing an historical novel, founded upon the first settlers of America. He represented them as an enlightened and warlike people. He had for many years contended that the aborigines of America were the descendants of some of the lost tribes of Israel; and this idea he carried out in the book in question. The names of Nephi and Lehi are yet fresh in my memory, as being the principal heroes of his tale.... I have read the Book of Mormon, which has brought fresh to my recollection the writings of Solomon Spaulding; and I have no manner of doubt that the historical part of it is the same that I read, and heard read, more than twenty years ago. The old, obsolete style, and phrases, 'And it came to pass,' are the same.
                 Signed,                   MARTHA SPAULDING.
    Mr. Henry Lake, former partner of Solomon Spaulding, testifies as follows:

    .                            Conneaut, Ashtabula co., Ohio, Sept., 1833.  
    "I left the state of N. York late in the year 1810, and arrived at this place about the 1st of January following.


                            TESTIMONY  OF  HENRY  LAKE.                             209

    Soon after my arrival, I formed a copartnership with Solomon Spaulding, for the purpose of re-building a forge which he had commenced a year or two before. He frequently read to me from a manuscript which he was writing, and which he entitled the 'Manuscript Found,' which he represented as being found in this town. I spent many hours in hearing him read said writings, and became well acquainted with its contents. He wished me to assist him in getting it printed, alleging that a book of that kind would meet with a rapid sale. This book represented the American Indians as the lost tribes, gave an account of their leaving Jerusalem, their contentions and wars, which were many and great. One time when he was reading to me the tragic account of Laban, I pointed out to him what I considered an inconsistency, which he promised to correct; but by referring to the book of Mormon, I find, to my surprise, that it stands there, just as he read it to me then. Some months ago I borrowed a golden bible, put it into my pocket, carried it home, and thought no more of it. About a week after, my wife found the book in my coat pocket, as it hung up, and commenced reading it aloud as I lay on the bed. She had not read twenty minutes before I was astonished to find the same passages in it that Spaulding had read to me more than twenty years before, from his 'Manuscript Found.'

    Since that, I have more fully examined the said golden bible, and have no hesitation in saying that the historical part of it is principally, if not wholly, taken from the 'Manuscript Found.' I well recollect telling Mr. Spaulding, that the so frequent use of the words 'And it came to pass,' 'Now it came to pass,' rendered


    210                          SPAULDING'S  MANUSCRIPT.                              

    it ridiculous. Spalding left here in 1812, and I furnished him the means to carry him to Pittsburg, where he said he would get the book printed, and pay me. But I never heard any more from him or his writings, till I saw them in the Book of Mormon.
                   Signed,                    HENRY LAKE.

    These testimonies are confirmed by Messrs. Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, Nahum Howard, of Ohio, Atremas Cunningham, of Geauga county, John N. Millar, of Pennsylvania, former acquaintance of Mr. Spaulding; and by other gentlemen, whose testimony it is not important to quote at length, as well as by the widow and daughter of Mr. Spaulding. The widow is now quite aged, and her daughter was but a mere child during her father's life, which has tended to render their testimony somewhat indefinite, and the Mormons say, discordant, as perhaps it is natural that it should be, in some of the details, considering the extreme age of the one and the youth of the other. This the Mormons have not failed to trumpet abroad, while they have never made a single successful effort to refute the testimony of the witnesses here adduced, and numerous others of equal credibility, indeed they seem reluctant to notice them at all. But from these sources, the following facts can be fully substantiated, viz:

    Mr. Spaulding wrote a manuscript, while living in Ohio, in the years 1810, '11, and '12, which he called the "Manuscript Found." It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the lost tribes, [or] the descendants of the Jews, giving an account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and by sea, until they


                              SPAULDING'S  MANUSCRIPT.                              211

    arrived in America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi; in short, the leading features of the work were so similar to the historical parts of Smith's book, that numbers recognized it, as soon as they heard it, as being the same story.

    In 1812, Spaulding left Ohio and went to Pittsburg, where he resided about two years; during which time it has been supposed that he left his manuscript at the printing office of Patterson & Lambdier [sic: Lambdin], and that Sidney Rigdon found it there when he went to Pittsburg to live, in 1822. Of this, however, there is no proof; and I cannot imagine that a man of Rigdon's talent, power of language, and knowledge of the Bible, ever could have jumbled together such a bundle of absurdities as the Book of Mormon is. No. Whoever got the Spaulding manuscript, Joe Smith, and Joe alone, is sole "author and proprietor" of its offspring, the Book of Mormon. There is not, probably, another man on the globe that could write such a book, except Joe Smith; and he would not have done it, had not some materials been furnished to his hand to suggest the outline of his story.

    Whether Rigdon helped him to the manuscript, or aided him in the work, we cannot tell. It is certain that, from 1822, he was out of business, and professed to be in Pittsburg studying the Scriptures for three years, while Smith was away from home, no one knows precisely where, except that a part of the time he was in Harmony, East Pennsylvania.

    During the three years in which Smith was translating his bible, it is also certain that Rigdon was as actively engaged as he could be in building up a church


    212                        MRS.  SPAULDING'S  REMOVALS.                            

    for him in Ohio; whether by intrigue or accident, we will not pretend to say.

    But, to resume our narrative of facts: Mr. Spaulding left Pittsburg in 1814, and removed to Amity, Washington co., Penn., I where he lived two years, and died in 1816. Whether Mr. Spaulding took his manuscript with him, or whether he left it behind at Lambdier's [sic: Lambdin's] office, in Pittsburg, his widow, now Mrs. Davidson, of Monson, Mass., is not positively certain; and the Mormons have asserted that she has told different stories about the matter, which, considering her age and infirmity of memory, is not improbable. After the death of Mr. Spaulding, she, however, removed to Onondaga co., N.Y., in 1817 or '18, where she resided about one year. This place is in the vicinity of the Smiths.

    At this time she had in her possession a small trunk, containing the writings of her deceased husband, Rev. Mr. Spaulding; but of the number and character of these writings she cannot positively affirm. From this place she went to Hartwick, Otsego co., and other places in that vicinity, on a visiting tour. She married again in Hartwick, in 1820, where she resided until 1832. She then again removed to Massachusetts. During a part of the time, from 1817 to 1820, she left the said trunk at her brother's house, Mr. Harvey Sabine, at Onondaga Hollow, not very far from the Smiths, as may be seen on the map. After her marriage, in 1820, the trunk was taken to Hartwick, where she left it, in 1832, with Mr. Jerome Clark.

    Hartwick is not far from the residence of the famous Stowell, in whose employ Smith dug for money, as he says, i n 1823. To this place also he was passing and repassing, for four years afterwards, as we have seen,


                                ROMAN  MANUSCRIPT.                                 213

    without ostensible object of business, except, as it, appears from the testimony of the people of Bainbridge, he was once or twice arrested as a common vagabond, and finally ran away, to escape the sentence of the law. The trunk and manuscripts were, then, in this vicinity from 1820 to 1832, and of course during the four years of Smith's life, on which he is so silent, as it regards himself. He was, in reality, loitering about these regions, as we learn from other sources.

    Mrs. Davidson is not certain that the "Manuscript Found" was in said trunk; nevertheless, it was thought best to examine it; and when examined, instead of a variety of manuscripts, but: one single one, was found, which purported to be a short unfinished Romance, describing the, origin of the Indians [as being] from Rome, by a ship driven to the American coast, while on a voyage to Britain, before the Christian era,

    This manuscript was taken and shown to several of the above-named witnesses, who say that Mr. Spaulding, at first, began his romance in this way, and wrote, as it seems, a quire or so of paper to that effect; but finally concluded to give up that plan, go further back, and derive their origin from the Jews, as in the Book of Mormon. The failure of finding this latter manuscript, I think, has been misinterpreted by both the friends and enemies of Smith.

    If Mrs. Davidson had a trunk full of manuscripts in Otsego county, who took them all away but one? Why was Smith prowling about there for four years? During that time, both he and his family were telling strange stories about a book or manuscript that, was to be found, as we shall see in the sequel. Why did he go to Harmony, Penn., to translate his book? If he


    214                               LOST  MANUSCRIPT.                                  

    really succeeded in getting the manuscript from Mrs. Spaulding's trunk, or if some one did it for him, this accounts for its disappearance, and for all other known facts in the case. That all the writings are missing, and cannot be found, with the exception of this one small romance of the later origin, is a known fact. That Mr. Spaulding wrote another and larger edition of the work, similar in all its leading features to the "more history parts" of the inspired translation of the Book of Mormon, is also certain. That it might have been taken from Pittsburg is possible; but that it was taken from the trunk in Otsego county, and finally fell into the hands of Smith, while in connection with Stowell, is far more probable. That it is gone, and that Smith had both seen and read it before his prophetic mission, is as certain as it is that the Book of Mormon exists.

    If we do not admit this, we must believe that all these witnesses to its contents testify falsely, without any possible motive for so doing, while they corroborate and sustain each other in their evidence, without any possibility of collusion, and explain all known facts, even before the facts to be explained had been made public. However, be that as it may, Smith is undoubtedly the "author and proprietor" of the book, as it now stands. There are also facts to show that at first he had no idea of what would come out of the thing, and was, for a long time, beating round the bush, and trying to raise the wind in some way, he knew not precisely how. It will be recollected, that the story given at the outset of this work is the stereotyped edition, which Smith himself gave, after the appearance of the book.


                SMITH'S  INDECISION -- TRIAL.  WITH  HIS  FATHER.           215

    (under construction)


    216                       EXPERIMENT  WITH  THE  SAND.                          

    (under construction)


                                   SMITH  FIXES  HIS  PLAN.                              217

    (under construction)


    218                          GOES  TO  PENNSYLVANIA.                              

    affidavits show. With these prospects ahead, Smith starts off to Pennsylvania again, although it was but a few months since he moved his family from that state, and Harris soon followed. Whether Smith went down there to get the manuscript, or only to translate it more at his leisure, or both of these, it is not certain; but he goes and translates, or pretends to translate, and Harris writes for a time, until the devil begins to bother them, and then Cowdery appears on the stage, and acts as scribe. His first pretended verbal revelation, that has been made public, was given at Harmony, July, 1828,* after Martin had lost the manuscript of one hundred and sixteen pages. From that time on, revelations seem to have been frequently necessary, both to keep up the courage of the scribes, Harris and Cowdery, and also to prepare the minds of the dupes who were to constitute the first Mormon church in New York.

    In these revelations, Smith committed himself upon many points, which he has been obliged to alter in the subsequent editions, showing clearly that he had no idea whereunto the thing would grow. But after his fortunate union with Rigdon, as has been related, his scheme at once expanded, and assumed a form and reach which rendered it indispensable to alter, mutilate, and add to, the first revelations frequently, as occasion required.

    It is evident that, as early as 1822, Smith began to dabble with his stone spectacles. Some time previous to June, 1827, he had probably got some idea of the Spaulding manuscript, and was practicing his wits upon the old man and others, to see what he could do with

    * See Book of Cov., 156.

    (pages 219-222 not yet transcribed)

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