The Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints

(London, Nat. Ill. Library, 1851)

  • Title Page   Preface

  • Beginning of Chapter 1
  • Joseph Smith's visions
  • Spalding authorship claims
  • 1839 Sidney Rigdon letter
  • "Persecutions"

  • Transcriber's Comments

  • view enlargements of the frontispiece or the title page cut




    L A T T E R - D A Y   S A I N T S:


    198,  STRAND.


    [ v ]

    P R E F A C E.


    IN the summer of the year 1850, during the course of an inquiry in which he was engaged on the subject of "LABOUR AND THE POOR," the author of this volume had occasion to direct his particular attention to the amount of Emigration from the port of Liverpool. While pursuing his researches, he learned that, independently of the general emigration of English and Irish, amounting, during the fine season, to nearly 20,000 persons per month, there was a peculiar, but smaller stream of emigration, carried on behalf of the religious sect known by the name of the "Mormons," or "Latter-Day Saints." He was informed that many years ago these people had established an Emigrational Agency in Liverpool, having ramifications in all parts of England, Wales, and Scotland, and that the number of Mormon emigrants sailing from that port to New Orleans, on their way to the Great Salt Lake Valley, in California, during the year 1849, had been no less than 2,500, chiefly consisting of farmers and mechanics of a superior class, from Wales, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and the southern counties of Scotland; and that


    vi                                 P R E F A C E.                                

    since 1840 the total emigration of the sect from great Britain had amounted to between 18,000 and 14,000 persons. He was led, in consequence, to devote his attention to the history of the origin and progress of this singular sect, of which comparatively little was known. The results of his investigations were published in the Morning Chronicle a short time afterwars, in three letters of the well-known series undertaken by that Journal. The subject, however, was too interesting, important, and extensive to be thoroughly handled in the limited space at the disposal of a newspaper, and the writer was, in consequence, induced -- having received, in the meantime, a large accession of new, valuable, and authentic materials -- to extend these slight sketches into the volume now offered to the public. It presents the history of Joseph Smith, a great impostor, or a great visionary, -- perhaps both -- but in either case one of the most remarkable persons who has appeared on the stage of the world in modern times. The author has endeavoured to disencumber the conflicting accounts of his disciples on the one hand, and of his enemies on the other, of all the exaggeration for him, or against him, and to state with fairness what appeared to him to be the truth. As far as he is aware, it is the first time that anything which can be called a history of this new religion and its founder has been offered to the public, either in this country, or in the cradle of the Mormons -- the Unired States of America.

    With respect to the Illustrations of this Volume, it may be stated, that embracing, as they do, views of remote places not hitherto portrayed, and representations of events in a wild and


                                    P R E F A C E.                                vii

    very patially settled country, they have, nevertheless, been derived from authentic sources, having been drawn from the rude sketches, or minute descriptions, of persons to whom the spots were familiar, and who were, in many cases, eye-witnesses of the incidents depicted. Such Portraits of the leading Mormons as it has been possible to procure, are from the pencil of a Mormon artist, and other subjects have been copied from prints published under the sanction of the sect.

    LONDON, June 1851.


    [ viii ]

    C O N T E N T S.


    (under construction)


                                    C O N T E N T S.                                ix

    (under construction)


    x                           LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS.                          

    (under construction)


    [ 15 ]


    IN the year 1825 there lived, in a small village in the United States of America, an obscure young man -- of little or no education -- of no fortune, and of but indifferent character. That obscure young man had meditated for five years before this time the establishment of a new religion, In 1830, being then in the twenty-fifth year of his age, he began to carry his design into effect. In the following year he became the head of a sect numbering five persons; amongst whom were included his father and three brothers. In the course of a few


    16                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    weeks, the number of his adherents increased to thirty. At the present time, the sect so established numbers 300,000 people; has its own Bible, and zealous missionaries to preach it in every part of the Christian world, and besides this, inhabits and possesses a fertile and beautiful territory almost as large as England, and aspires to obtain admission, on equal terms, as a free State, into the great confederation of American Republics. The name of this young man was Joseph Smith of his new Bible, the "Book of Mormon" of his sect, the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," or in the parlance of those not members of it, The Mormons, or Mormonites; and of the state or territory of which they have taken possession, Utah or Descret, in New California. The Mormons have thriven amid oppression of the most cruel and pertinacious kind; they have conquered the most astonishing difficulties; they have triumphed over the most vindictive enemies, and over the most unrelenting persecution ; and from the blood of their martyrs have sprung the courage, the zeal, and the success of their survivors. They can boast not only an admirable and complete organization, but the possession of worldly wealth, influence, and power. Their progress within the last seven years has been rapid to a degree unparalleled in the history of any other sect of religionists. The remarkable career of Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Mormons, and the story of the rise of the sect which he founded, is one of the most curious episodes in the modern history of the world. To trace that history with all its fanaticism, all its zeal, all its genuine and sincere faith, all its folly and all its virtue, and to carry it through all the touching scenes in the varied and surprising fortunes of the people who believe in Joseph Smith as the prophet of God, from the day in which the doctrine was first broached amid the hatred and the derision of a few, to the present day, when the sect is too powerful and too sincere to be derided, is the object of the following pages.

    To avoid the appearance of unfriendliness towards men who whatever the character or views of their former leaders may have been, or whatever may be thought of their own fanaticism are carrying on a great and remarkable work, but little understood, or even heard of, in this country, beyond the limits of their own body, we shall whenever it is possible to do so, present their history in the words of their own writers, appending such statements on the other side as may be necessary for the exposition of the truth. The following particulars of the origin of the Book of Mormon, of the early life of Joseph Smith, and of his first appearance in the character of a man divinely inspired to be the new Moses, or Mahomet of his generation are extracted from the "Remarkable Visions," of Mr. Orson Pratt. This gentleman was formerly their emigrational agent at Liverpool,


                          VISIONS  OF  JOSEPH  SMITH.                       17

    and styles himself, in the title page, "One of the twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:" --

    "Mr. Joseph Smith, jun,." says this friendly narrator, "was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, on the 23d December, 1805. When ten years old, his parents, with their family, moved to Palmyra, New York; in the vicinity of which he resided for about eleven years, the latter part in the town of Manchester. He was a farmer by occupation. His advantages for acquiring scientific knowledge were exceedingly small, being limited to a slight acquaintance with two or three of the common branches of learning. He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the ground rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only attainments; while the rest of those branches, so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States, were entirely unknown to him. When somewhere about fourteen of fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence: but how, or in what way, to prepare himself, was a question, as yet undetermined in his own mind: he perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of the same. He retired to a secret place in a grove, but a short distance from his father's house, and knelt down, and began to call upon the Lord. At first he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavoured to overcome him; but he continued to seek for deliverance, until darkness gave way from his mind; and he was enabled to pray, in fervency of the spirit, and in faith; and, while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he at length saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which at first seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees the whole wilderness around was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but, perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hopes of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending, slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and, immediately his mind was caught away, from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled


    18                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    each other in their features or likeness. He was informed that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects which had for some time previously agitated his mind -- namely, that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and consequently that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine, the fulness of the Gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him. After which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable. Some time after having received this glorious manifestation, being young, he was again entangled in the vanities of the world, of which he afterwards sincerely and truly repented.

    "And it pleased God, on the evening of the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, to again hear his prayer. It seemed as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation visible to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and, in a moment, a personage stood before him.

    "Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this Personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, yet it was of a pleasing, innocent, and glorious appearance, so much so, that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul.

    "The stature of this Personage was a little above the common size of men in his age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.

    "This glorious being declared himself to be an angel of God, sent forth, by commandment to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel concerning their posterity was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy.

    "He was informed that he was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvellous purposes


                          VISIONS  OF  JOSEPH  SMITH.                       19

    in this glorious dispensation. It was also made manifest to him, that the 'American Indians' were a remnant of Israel; that when they first emigrated to America, they were an enlightened people, possessing a knowledge of the true God, enjoying his favour and peculiar blessings from his hand; that the prophets, and inspired writers among them were required to keep a sacred history of the most important events transpiring among them, which history was handed down for many generations, till at length they fell into great wickedness. The greatest part of them were destroyed, and the records were safely deposited, to preserve them from the hands of the wicked, who sought to destroy them. He was informed that these records contained many sacred revelations pertaining to the Gospel of the kingdom, as well as prophecies relating to the great events of the last days; and that to fulfill his promises to the ancients, who wrote the records, and to accomplish his purposes in the restitution of their children, they were to come forth to the knowledge of the people. If faithful, he was to be the instrument who should be thus highly favoured in bringing these sacred writings before the world. After giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, he disappeared, and the light and glory of God withdrew, leaving his mind in perfect peace, while a calmness and serenity indescribable pervaded the soul. But before morning the vision was twice renewed, instructing him further and still further concerning the great work of God about to be performed on the earth. In the morning, he went out to his labour as usual, but soon the vision was renewed -- the angel again appeared, and having been informed by the previous visions of the night, concerning the place where those records were deposited, he was instructed to go immediately and view them.

    "Accordingly, he repaired to the place, a brief description of which shall be given in the words of a gentleman named Oliver Cowdery, who has visited the spot:--

    "'As you pass on the mail-road, from Palmyra, Wayne county, to Canandaigua, Ontario county, New York, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, say from three to four, or about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill in the east side of the road

    "'It was at the second-mentioned place, where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830 there were several trees standing -- enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass -- which was also the case when the record was first found.

    "'How far below the surface these records were placed, I am unable to say; but from the fact, that they had been some fourteen hundred


    20                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    years buried, and that, too, on the side of a hill so steep, one is ready to conclude that they were some feet below, as the earth would naturally wear, more or less, in that length of time. But being placed towards the top of the hill, the ground would not remove as much as at two-thirds, perhaps. Another circumstance would prevent a wearing of the earth -- in all probability, as soon as timber had time to grow, the hill was covered, and the roots of the same would hold the surface.

    "'However, on this point, I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion, and form his own speculation: but suffice to say, a hole of sufficient depth was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. As each edge was placed a large quantity of cement, and into this cement, at the four edges of this stone, were placed erect four others; their bottom edges resting in the cement, at the outer edges of the first stone. The four last named when placed erect, formed a box; the corners, or where the edges of the four came into contact, were also cemented so firmly, that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. It is to be observed also that the inner surfaces of the four erect or side stones were smooth. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breastplate such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest from the arrows and weapons of their enemy. From the bottom of the box, or from the breastplate, arose three small pillars, composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these three pillars were placed the records. 'This box containing the records was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being flat, and the upper crowning.'

    "When it was first visited by Mr Smith, on the morning of the 22d of September 1823, 'a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface, while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass.' From which circumstance, it may be seen, 'that however deep this box might have been placed at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth, so that it was easily discovered, when once directed, and yet, not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer-by.' 'After arriving at the repository, a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light lever, brought to his natural vision its contents.' While viewing and contemplating this sacred treasure, with wonder and astonishment -- behold! the angel of the Lord, who had previously visited him, again stood in his presence, and his soul was again enlightened as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the heavens were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring the angel said, 'Look!' And as he thus spake, he beheld the Prince of Darkness, surrounded by his


                          VISIONS  OF  JOSEPH  SMITH.                       21

    innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, 'And all this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God, and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers, and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one. You cannot at this time obtain this record, for the commandment of God is strict, and if ever these sacred things are obtained, they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world; they were sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of a knowledge which they contain, they are of no worth among the children of men, only for their knowledge. On them is contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his people on this land; and when it shall be brought forth by the power of God, it shall be carried to the Gentiles, of whom many will receive it, and after will the seed of Israel be brought into the field of their Redeemer by obeying it also...

    (pages 21-29 under construction)


    30                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    having fallen in battle, in the fourth or fifth century, one of their prophets, whose name was Mormon, saw fit to make an abridgment of their history, their prophcies, and their doctrine, which he engraved on plates, and afterwards, being slain, the record fell into the hands of his son Moroni, who, being hunted by his enemies, was directed to deposit the record safely in the earth, with a promise from God that it should be preserved, and should be brought to light in the latter days by means of a Gentile nation, who should possess the land. The deposit was made about the year 420, on a hill then called Cumora, now in Ontario county, where it was preserved in safety until it was brought to light by no less than the ministry of angels, and translated by inspiration. And the great Jehovah bore record of the same to chosen witnesses, who declare it to the world." 

    The question will be asked, could Joseph Smith, a notoriously illiterate, though clever man, really write the Book of Mormon? Without pretending to state positively that Joseph Smith was not the sole author of the volume, or that he was not aided by other persons in its composition, we present the following short history, which the American opponents of Mormonism consider to be a true statement of its origin.

    It is stated by them that, in the year 1809, a man of the name of Solomon Spaulding, who had formerly been a clergyman, failed in business at a place called Cherry Valley, in the State of New York. Being a person of literary tastes, and his attention having been directed to the notion which at thaf time excited some interest and discussion, namely, that the North American Indians were the descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel, it struck him that the idea afforded a good groundwork for a religious tale, history, or novel. For three years he labored upon this work, which he entitled The Manuscript Found. "Mormon" and his son "Moroni," who act so large a part in Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon, were two of the principal characters in it. In 1812 the MS. was presented to a printer or bookseller, named Patterson, reiding at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a view to its publication. Before any satisfactory arrangement could be made, the author died, and the manuscript remained in the possession of Mr. Patterson, apparently unnoticed and uncared for. The printer also died in 1826, having previously lent the manuscript to one Sidney Rigdon, a compositor in his employ, who was at the time a preacher in connection with some Christian sect, which the proper designation is not very clearly stated. This Rigdon afterwards became, next to Joseph Smith himself, the principal leader of the Mormons. How Joseph Smith and this person became connected is not known, and which of the two originated the idea of making a new Bible of Solomon Spaulding's novel is equally uncertain. The wife, the partner, several


                          VISIONS  OF  JOSEPH  SMITH.                       31

    friends, and the brother of Solomon Spaulding, affirmed, however, the identity of the principal portions of the Book of Mormon with the novel of The Manuscript Found, which the author had from time to time, and in separate portions, read over to them. John Spaulding, brother to Solomon, declared upon oath that his brother's book was an historical romance of the first settlers in America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the descendants of Jews, or the lost ten tribes. He stated that it gave a detailed account of their journey from Jerusalem by land and by sea, till they arrived in America under the command of Nephi and Lehi; and that it also mentioned the Lamanites. He added that "he had recently read the Book of Mormon, and, to his great surprlse, he found nearly the same historical matter and names as in his brother's writings. To the best of his recollection and belief, it was the same that his brother Solomon wrote, with the exception of the religious matter."

    The widow of Solomon Spaulding afterwards married a Mr. Davison; and a statement, purporting to have been made by her in the following words, was published in a Boston newspaper in May, 1839: --

    "As the Book of Mormon, or Golden Bible (as it was origlnally called) has excited much attention, and is deemed by a certain new sect of equal authority the Sacred Scriptures, I think 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 doing what I can to strip the mask from this monster of sin, and to lay open this pit of abominations.

    "Solomon Spaulding, to whom I was united in marriage in early life, was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and was distinguished for a lively imagination, and a great fondness for history. At the time of our marriage he resided in Cherry Valley, New York. From this place we removed to New Salem, Ashtabula County, Ohio, sometimes called Conneaut, as it is situated on Conneaut Creek. Shortly after our removal to this place, his health sunk, and he was laid aside from active labors. In the town of New Salem there were numerous mounds and forts supposed by many to be the dilapidated dwellings and fortifications of a race now extinct. These ancient relics arrest the attention of the new settlers, and become objects of research for the curious. Numerous implements were found, and other articles evincing great skill in the


    32                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    arts. Mr. Spaulding being an educated man, and passionately fond of history, took a lively interest in these developments of antiquity; and in order to beguile the hours of retirement and furnish employment for his lively imagination, he conceived the idea of giving an historical sketch of this long lost race. Their extreme antiquity led him to write in the most ancient style, and as the Old Testament is the most ancient book in the world, he imitated its style as nearly as possible. His sole object in writing this historical romance was to amuse himself and neighbors. This was about the year 1812. Hull's surrender at Detroit occurred near the same time, and I recollect the date well from that circumstance. As he progressed in his narrative the neighbors would come in from time to time to hear portions read, and a great interest in the work was excited among them. It claimed to have been written by one of the lost nation, and to have been recovered from the earth, and assumed the title of 'Manuscript found.' The neighbors would often inquire how Mr. Spaulding progressed in deciphering the manuscript; and when he had sufficient portion prepared, he would inform them, and they would assemble to hear it read. He was enabled from his acquaintance with the classics and ancient history, to introduce many singular names, which were particularly noticed by the people, and could be easily recognized by them. Mr. Solomon Spaulding had a brother, Mr. John Spaulding, residing in the place at the time, who was perfectly familiar with the work, and repeatedly heard the whole of it read. From New Salem we removed to Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania. Here Mr. Spaulding found a friend and acquaintance, in the person of Mr. Patterson, an editor of a newspaper. He exhibited his manuscript to Mr. Patterson, who was very much pleased with it, and borrowed it for perusal. He retained it for a long time, and informed Mr. Spaulding that if he would make out a title-page and preface, he would publish it, and it might be a source of profit. This Mr. Spaulding refused to do. Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons, was at that time connected with the printing-office of Mr. Patterson, as is well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated, became acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, and copied it. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all connected with the printing establishment. At length the manuscript was returned to its author, and soon after we removed to Amity, Washington County, &c., where Mr. Spaulding deceased in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands, and was carefully preserved. It has frequently been examined by my daughter, Mrs. M'Kenstry, of Monson, Massachusetts, with whom I now reside, and by other friends.

    "After the book of Mormon came out, a copy of it was taken to New Salem, the place of Mr. Spaulding's former residence, and the very place where the Manuscript found was written. A woman-preacher appointed a meeting there; and in the meeting read and repeated copious extracts from the book of Mormon. The historical part was immediately recognized by all the older inhabitants as the identical work of Mr. Spaulding, in which they had all been so deeply interested years before. Mr. John Spaulding was present and recognized perfectly the work of his brother. He was amazed and afflicted that


                          VISIONS  OF  JOSEPH  SMITH.                       33

    it should have been perverted to so wicked a purpose. His grief found vent in a flood of tears, and arose on the spot, and expressed in the meeting his sorrow and regret that the writings of his deceased brother should be used for a purpose so vile and shocking. The excitement in New Salem became so great, that the inhabitants had a meeting, and deputed Dr. Philastus Hurlbut, one of their number, to repair to this place and to obtain from me the original manuscript of Mr. Spaulding, for the purpose of comparing it with the Mormon Bible, to satisfy their own minds, and to prevent their friends from embracing an error so delusive. This was in the year 1834. Dr. Hurlbut brought with him an introduction and request for the manuscript, which was signed by Messrs. Henry Lake, Aaron Wright, and others, with all of whom I was acquainted, as they were my neighbors when I resided at New Salem. I am sure that nothing would grieve my husband more, were he living, than the use which has been made of his work. The air of antiquity which was thrown about the composition, doubtless suggested the idea of converting it to the purposes of delusion. Thus, an historical romance, with the addition of a few pious expressions, and extracts from the sacred Scriptures, has been construed into a new Bible, and palmed off upon a company of poor deluded fanatics as Divine. I have given the previous brief narration, that this work of deep deception and wickedness may be searched to the foundation and the authors exposed to the contempt and execration they so justly deserve. 


    The Dr. Hurlbut mentioned in Mrs. Davison's statement was once a believer in Joseph Smith, and a member of the church. According to his own account, he seceded, because his eyes were opened to the imposture and delusion of which he had been the victim. According to the Mormon account, he was expelled for adultry and other immorality. With this preface, the following coarse denial of Mrs. Davison's statement, and fierce denunciation of Dr. Hurlbut, will be intelligible. The denial was made by Sidney Rigdon, who was himself accused of being the principal agent of the fraud, and was addressed, on the 27th of May, 1839, to the editors of the Boston Journal. It will be seen from the tone and spirit, no less than from the grammatical construction of the letter, that Sidney Rigdon, although a compositor, was by no means so well educated as the bulk of his fellow-workmen in that intellectual branch of mechanical industry, and that his literary abilities were of the meanest order: --

    "Commerce, May 27, 1839.    

    Messrs. Bartlett and Sullivan: -- In your paper of the 18th instant, I see a letter signed my somebody calling herself Matilda Davison, pretending to give the origin of Mormonism, as she is pleased to call it, by relating a moonshine story about a certain Solomon Spaulding, a creature with the knowledge of whose earthly existence I am entirely indebted to this production;


    34                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    for, surely, until Dr. Philastus Hurlbut informed me that such a being lived, at some former period, I had not the most distant knowledge of his existence; and all I now know about his character is, the opinion I form from what is attributed to his wife, in obtruding my name upon the public in the manner in which she is said to have done, by trying to make the public believe that I had knowledge of the ignorant, and, according to her own testimony, the lying scribblings of her deceased husband; for if her testimony is to be credited, her pious husband, in his lifetime, wrote a bundle of lies for the righteous purpose of getting money. How many lies he had told for the same purpose, while he was preaching, she has not so kindly informed us; but we are at liberty to draw our own conclusions, for he that would write lies to get money, would also preach lies for the same object. This being the only information which I have, or ever had, of the said Rev. Solomon Spaulding, I, of necessity, have but a very light opinion of him as a gentleman, a scholar, or a man of piety, for had he been either, he certainly would have taught his pious wife not to lie, nor unite herself with adulterers, liars, and the basest of mankind. 

    "It is only necessary to say, in relation to the whole story about Spaulding's writings being in the hands of Mr. Patterson, who was in Pittsburgh, and who is said to have kept a printing office, and my saying that I was concerned in the said office, &c., &c., is the most base of lies, without even the shadow of truth. There was no man by the name of Patterson, during my residence at Pittsburgh, who had a printing office; what might have been before I lived there I know not. Mr. Robert Patterson, I was told, had owned a printing office before I lived in that city, but had been unfortunate in business, and failed before my residence there. This Mr. Patterson, who was a Presbyterian preacher, I had a very slight acquaintance with during my residence in Pittsburgh. He was then acting under an agency, in the book and stationery business, and was the owner of no property of any kind, printing office or anything else, during the time I resided in the city. 

    "If I were to say that I ever heard of the Rev. Solomon Spalding and his hopeful wife until Dr. P. Hurlbut wrote his lie about me, I should be a liar like unto themselves. Why was not the testimony of Mr. Patterson obtained to give force to this shameful tale of lies? The only reason is, that he was not a fit tool for them to work with; he would not lie for them, for, if he were called on, he would testify to what I have here said. 

    "Let me here, Gentlemen, give a history of this Dr. P. Hurlbut and his associates, who aided in getting up and propagating this batch of lies.

    "I have seen and heard, at one time and another, by the persecutors and haters of the truth, a great deal said about the eminent physician, Doctor Hurlbut. I never thought the matter worthy of notice, nor probably ever should, had it not made, its appearance in your paper, or some one of equal respectability. And I believe, Gentlemen, had you known the whole history of this budget of lies, it would never have found a place in your paper. But to my history:

    "This said Doctor was never a physician at any time, nor anything else but


                          VISIONS  OF  JOSEPH  SMITH.                       35

    a base ruffian. He was the seventh son, and his parents called him Doctor: it was his name, and not the title of his profession.

    "He once belonged to the Methodist Church, and was excluded for immoralities. He afterwards imposed himself on the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and was excluded for using obscene language to a young lady, a member of said Church, who resented his insult with indignation, which became both her character and profession.

    "After his exclusion he. swore -- for he was vilely profane -- that he would have revenge, and commenced his work. He soon found assistance; a pious old deacon of the Campbellite church, by the name, of Onis [sic - Orris?] Clapp, and his two sons, Thomas J. Clapp and Matthew S. Clapp, both Campbellite preachers, abetted and assisted by another Campbellite preacher, by the name of Adamson Bentley. Hurlbut went to work, catering lies for the company. Before Hurlbut got through, his conduct became so scandalous that the company utterly refused to let his name go out with the lies he had collected, and he and his associates had made, they therefore substituted the name of E. D. Howe. The change, however, was not much better. There were scandalous immoralities about the Howe family of so black a character, that they had nothing to lose, and became good tools for this holy company to work with. A man of character would never have put his name to a work which Hurlbut was concerned in. But while Hurlbut was busily employed in the service of the company, old Deacon Clapp was employed in taking care of his wife. How many others of the company aided in this business must be left to futurity to disclose. At a certain time, Hurlbut being out till a late hour in the night, returned to his house, and in going to his bed-room where his wife was, behold and lo! there was the pious old deacon, either in bed with his wife or at the side of it. He had a five-dollar bank note in his hand, and his dress was rather light to suit the doctor's taste; for he was not quite as well off as was Aaron when he offered sacrifice, not even having on a pair of 'linen breeches.' Hurlbut laid hold of him, and called for help, which soon came to his assistance. The pious old deacon was arraigned before a justice of the peace, and was on the eve of being bound over for his appearance to the county court, when, to put an end to the evils which might result from his pious care of Mrs. Hurlbut, he kindly offered a yoke of oxen and a hundred dollars. This was accepted. Hurlbut took his wife and left the county forthwith; and the pious old deacon and his sons, and the good Mr. Bentley, are left to wear out the shame of their great effort to destroy the character of innocent men whom they never dared to meet in argument. The tale in your paper is one hatched up by this gang before the time of their explosion.

    "It has always been a source of no ordinary satisfaction to me to know, that my enemies have no better weapon to use against me, or the cause in which I am engaged, than lies; for if they had any better they would certainly use them. I must confess, however, that there is some consistency in our persecutors; for, as truth never can destroy truth, it would be in vain for our persecutors to use truth against us, for this would only build us up; this they seem to know; and lay hold of the only available means they have, which


    36                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    are lies; and this, indeed is the only weapon which can be, or ever has been, used against the truth. As our persecutors are endeavoring to stop the progress of truth, I must confess that they act with a degree of consistency in the choice of means, namely, lies; but if truth would do it, they would surely not have recourse to lies.

    "In order to give character to their lies, they dress them up with a great deal of piety; for a pious lie, you know, has a good deal more influence with an ignorant people than a profane one. Hence their lies came signed by the pious wife of a pious deceased priest. However, his last act of piety seems to have been to write a bundle of lies, themselves being witnesses; but then his great piety sanctifies them, and lies become holy things in the hands of such excessive piety, particularly when they are graced with a few Reverends; but the days have gone by when people are to be deceived by these false glossings of Reverend's sanctions; the intelligent part of the communities of all parts of the country, know that Reverends are not more notorious for truth than their neighbours.

    "The only reason why I am assailed by lies is, that my opposers dare not venture on argument, knowing that if they do they fall. They try, therefore, to keep the public from investigating, by publishing and circulating falsehoods. This I consider a high encomium on both myself and the cause I defend.     Respectfully,

    "S. RIGDON."    

    We believe that upon this evidence, the question authorship of the original romance on which the Book of Mormon was founded will be decided by the reader in favor of Solomon Spaulding. As regards the Book of Mormon itself, Joseph Smith and the vulgar and abusive Sidney Rigdon seem to have acted in concert in its concoction from materials thus provided for them...

    (pages 36-37 under construction)


    [ 38 ]



    In addition to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith originated and partly composed a book of Doctrines and Covenants, purporting to be direct revelations from heaven upon the temporal government of their church, the support of the poor, the tithing or taxation of the members, the establishment of cities and temples, the allotment of lands, the emigration of the "saints," the education of the people, the gathering of moneys, and other matters. This book abounds in grammatical inaccuracies, even to a greater extent than the Book of Mormon: -- "God, that knowest thy thoughts" "a literal descendant of Aaron" -- "an hair of his head shall not fall" -- "your Father who art in heaven knoweth" -- "and the spirit and the body is the soul of man" -- "the stars also giveth their light as they roll upon their wings in glory" -- "her who sitteth upon many waters" -- "thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon" -- form but a sample of hundreds of similar phrases that might be culled, were it worth while. A few specimens of


                             JOSEPH'S  "REVELATIONS."                         39

    (pages 39-54 under construction)


    [ 55 ]




    The truth that no absurdity of fanaticism is too outrageous to attract believers, finds continual corroboration. The learned and the unlearned, the rich and the poor, the gentle and the simple, alike break through the trammels of reason, and become the dupes of religious impostors, or of persons who are still more dangerous the religious maniacs, who strengthen their cause by their own conscientious belief in it. To whichever of these two classes Joseph Smith is most properly consignable, it is certain that his doctrine was no sooner preached than he began to make converts of the people around him. The idea of the "Latter Days," or days immediately prior to the second coming of Christ to establish the Millenium, is one that has a great hold upon the imagination of large classes of persons. Joseph Smith worked upon this idea, and every earthquake recorded in the newspapers, every


    56                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    new comet discovered, every falling meteor that was observed, every war and rumour of a war in Europe or America, every monstrous birth among inferior animals, every great public calamity, tempest, fire, or explosion, was skilfully and pertinaciously adduced as a proof and a warning of the "Latter Days." He had two great elements of success in his favour, sufficient novelty and unconquerable perseverance. His doctrine was both old and new. It had sufficient of the old to attract those who would have been repelled by a creed entirely new, and it had sufficient of the new to rivet the attention and inflame the imagination of those on whose minds an old creed, however ably preached, would have fallen and taken no root. Basing his doctrine upon isolated passages of the Bible; claiming direct inspiration from the Almighty: promising possession of the earth, all temporal power and glory, and the blessing of Heaven upon true believers; and being gifted with a courage and audacity that despised difficulty and danger; Joseph Smith soon found himself the recognised head of a small but increasing body of ardent disciples. On the 1st of June, 1830, the first conference of the sect, as an organized church, was held at Fayette, which place was for some time the "prophet's" residence, and the head-quarters of the sect. The numbers of the believers, including the whole family of the Smiths, was thirty. Even at this early period in the history of the sect, they met considerable opposition from the people. Joseph ordered the construction of a dam across a stream of water, for the purpose of baptizing his disciples. A mob collected, and broke it down, and used language towards Joseph that was anything but flattering to him or his followers, threatening him with violence and assassination, and accusing him of robbery and swindling. He was nothing daunted, however. With a rare tact, as well as courage, he broke the keen edge of detraction, by confessing boldly that he had once led an improper and immoral life; but, unworthy as he was, "the Lord had chosen him had forgiven him all his sins, and intended, in his own inscrutable purposes, to make him weak and erring as he might have been the instrument of his glory." Unlettered and comparatively ignorant he acknowledged himself to be; but then was not St. Peter illiterate? Were not St. John, and the other apostles of Christ, men of low birth and mean position, before they were called to the ministry? And what had been done before, might it not be done again, if God willed it? By arguments like these, he strengthened the faith of those inclined to believe in the divinity of his mission, and foiled the logic of his opponents. But the more difficult that it became for the preachers of rival sects to meet him on Scriptural grounds, and to disprove his pretensions, either by his unworthiness as a man which he


                            EXPEDITION  TO  MISSOURI.                         57

    owned, or his incompetency as a scholar which he as freely admitted, the more virulent became their animosity; until, at last, the family of the Smiths, father and brothers, who all joined in the scheme of Joseph for founding a new religion, removed from Palmyra and Fayetteville to Kirtland, in Ohio. The attention of the little band was directed, from the very commencement of their organization, to the policy and expediency of fixing their head-quarters in the Far West, in the thinly-settled and but partially explored territories belonging to the United States, where they might squat upon, or purchase good lands at a cheap rate, and clear the primeval wilderness. They required "elbow room," and rightly judged that a rural population would be more favourable than an urban one to the reception of their doctrine. Oliver Cowdery having been sent on an exploratory expedition, reported so favourably of the beauty, fertility, and cheapness of the land in Jackson County, Missouri, that Joseph Smith, after remaining but a few weeks in Kirtland, determined to visit this land of promise himself. Leaving his family and principal connections in Kirtland, he proceeded with Sidney Rigdon and some others upon a long and arduous journey to the wilderness, to fix upon a site for the "New Jerusalem;" the future city of Christ, where the Lord was to reign over the Saints as a temporal king in "power and great glory."

    [ graphic - not copied ]

    They started about the middle of June, travelling by waggons or canal boats, and sometimes on foot, as far as Cincinnati. From this


    58                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    (pages 58-61 under construction)


    62                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    [It was an awful responsibility to write in] the name of the Lord. The elders and all present, who witnessed the vain attempt of this man to imitate the language of the Lord Jesus Christ, renewed their faith in the revelation which the Lord had given through my instrumentality." Joseph, at the same time, was obliged to combat some charges which were brought against his character by one Ezra Booth, formerly in his council, and whom he denounced as an apostate, and as a man who, by the exposure of his own wickedness and folly, had left himself "a monument of shame for the whole world to wonder at." His strange doctrines, and these charges against his character, brought forward by men who had once been in his confidence, united to the hatred with which other fanatics more violent than himself regarded his preaching, created much ill-feeling against him. On the 25th of January, being then resident at a village called "Hiram," he was dragged out of his bed at midnight, from the side of his wife, "by a mob of Methodists, Baptists, Campbellites," and miscellaneous ruffians, who stripped him naked and tarred and feathered him. Sidney Rigdon was similarly treated by the same lawless and cowardly assemblage.

    The following account of this outrage, the first of a long series, was given by Joseph some years afterwards:
    "According to previous calculations, we new began to make preparations to visit the brethren, who had removed to the land of Missouri. Before going to Hiram to live with Father Johnson, my wife had taken two children (twins) of John Murdock to bring up. She received them when only nine days old, and they were now nearly eleven months. I would remark that nothing important had occurred since I came to reside in Father Johnson s house in Hiram. I had held meetings on the Sabbaths and evenings, and baptized a number. Father Johnson s son, Olmsted Johnson, came home on a visit, during which I told him that if he did not obey the Gospel, the spirit he was of would lead him to destruction; and then he went away. He would never return to see his father again. He went to the Southern States and Mexico; on his return, took sick, and died in Virginia. In addition to the apostate Booth, Simmonds Rider, Eli Johnson, Edward Johnson, and John Johnson, junior, had apostatized.

    "On the 20th of March, the twins before mentioned, which had been sick of the measles for some time, caused us to be broke of our rest in taking care of them, especially my wife. In the evening, I told her she had better retire to rest with one of the children, and I would watch with the sickest child. In the night, she told me I had better lay down on the trundle-bed, and I did so, and was soon after awoke by her screaming murder! when I found myself going out of the door in the hands of about a dozen men; some of whose hands were in my


                            OUTRAGE  ON  THE  "PROPHET."                         63

    hair, and some had hold of my shirt, drawers, and limbs. The foot of the trundle bed was towards the door, leaving only room enough for the door to swing. My wife heard a gentle tapping on the windows, which she then took no particular notice of (but which was unquestionably designed to ascertain whether we were all asleep), and soon after the mob burst open the door, and surrounded the bed in an instant, and, as I said, the first I knew, I was going out of the door in the hands of an infuriated mob. I made a desperate struggle, as I was forced out, to extricate myself, but only cleared one leg, with which I made a pass at one man, and he fell on the door-steps. I was immediately confined again: and they swore by God they would kill me if I did not be still, which quieted me. As they passed around the house with me, the fellow that I kicked came to me, and thrust his hand into my face all covered with blood (for I hit him on the nose), and with an exulting horse laugh muttered: 'Ge, Gee, God d__n ye, I'll fix ye.'

    "They then seized my throat, and held on till I lost my breath. After I came to, as they passed along with me, about thirty rods from the house, I saw Elder Rigdon stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by the heels. I supposed he was dead.

    "I began to plead with them, saying: You will have mercy, and spare my life, I hope! To which they replied, 'God d__n ye, call on your God for help, we'll show you no mercy;' and the people began to show themselves in every direction: one coming from the orchard had a plank, and I expected they would kill me, and carry me off on the plank. They then turned to the right, and went on about thirty rods further, about sixty rods from the house, and thirty from where I saw Elder Rigdon, into the meadow, where they stopped; and one said, 'Simmonds, Simmonds' (meaning, I suppose, Simmonds Rider), 'pull up his drawers, pull up his drawers, he will take cold.' Another replied, A'nt ye going to kill him? a'nt ye going to kill him?' when a group of mobbers collected a little way off, and said, 'Simmonds, Simmonds, come here;' and Simmonds charged those who had hold of me to keep me from touching the ground (as they had done all the time), lest I should get a spring upon them. They went and held a council, and as I could occasionally overhear a word. I supposed it was to know whether it was best to kill me. They returned after a while, when I learned that they had concluded not to kill me, but pound and scratch me well, tear oft my shirt and drawers, and leave me naked. One cried, 'Simmonds, Simmonds, where's the tar bucket?" I don't know, answered one, 'where 'tis, Eli's left it.' They ran back, and fetched the bucket of tar, when one exclaimed,


    64                                   THE  MORMONS.                                  

    'God d__n it, let us tar up his mouth;' and they tried to force the tar-paddle into my mouth; I twisted my head around, so that they could not; and they cried out: 'God d__n ye, hold up your head, and let us give ye some tar.' They then tried to force a phial into my mouth, and broke it in my teeth. All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar; and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat, and then muttered out: 'God d__n ye, that's the way the Holy Ghost falls on folks.'

    "They then left me and I attempted to rise, but fell again; I pulled the tar away from my lips, &c., so that I could breathe more freely, and after a while I began to recover, and raised myself up, when I saw two lights. I made my way towards one of them, and found it was Father Johnson s. When I had come to the door I was naked, and the tar made me look as though I had been covered with blood; and when my wife saw me, she thought I was all smashed to pieces, and fainted. During the affray abroad, the sisters of the neighbourhood had collected at my room. I called for a blanket; they threw me one, and shut the door; I wrapped it around me and went in.

    "In the meantime, Brother John Poorman heard an outcry across the cornfield, and running that way met Father Johnson, who had been fastened in his house at the commencement of the assault, by having his door barred by the mob; but, on calling to his wife to bring his gun, saying he would blow a hole through the door, the mob fled, and Father Johnson seizing a club ran after the party that had Elder Rigdon, and knocked one man down, and raised his club to level another, exclaiming, What are you doing here? They then left Elder Rigdon and turned upon Father Johnson, who, turning to run towards his own house, met Brother Poorman coming out of the cornfield; each supposing the other to be a mobber, an encounter ensued, and Poorman gave Johnson a severe blow on the left shoulder with a stick or stone, which brought him to the ground. Poorman ran immediately towards Father Johnson's, and arriving while I was waiting for the blanket, exclaimed, 'I'm afraid I've killed him.' 'Killed who?' asked one; when Poorman hastily related the circumstances of the rencounter near the cornfield, and went into the shed and hid himself. Father Johnson soon recovered so as to come to the house, when the whole mystery was quickly solved concerning the difficulty between him and Poorman, who, on learning the facts, joyfully came from his hiding-place.

    "My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar, and washing and cleansing my body; so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again. This being Sabbath morning, the people assembled for meeting at the usual hour of worship, and among those


                            DEPARTURE  FOR  MISSOURI.                         65

    came also the mobbers; viz., Simmonds Rider, a Campbellite preacher, and leader of the mob; one McClentic, son of a Campbellite minister; and Pelatiah Allen, Esq., who gave the mob a barrel of whiskey to raise their spirits; and many others. With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals.

    "The next morning- I went to see Elder Rigdon, and found him crazy, and his head highly inflamed, for they had dragged him by his heels, and those, too. so high from the earth he could not raise his head from the rough frozen surface, which lacerated it exceedingly; and when he saw me he called to his wife to bring him his razor. She asked him what he wanted of it? and he replied to kill me. Sister Rigdon left the room, and he asked me to bring his razor; I asked him what he wanted of it? and he replied he wanted to kill his wife and he continued delirious some days. The feathers which were used with the tar on this occasion, the mob took out of Elder Rigdon's house. After they had seized him, and dragged him out, one of the banditti returned to get some pillows; when the women shut him in, and kept him some time."

    Joseph, after this cruel treatment, thought it high time to absent himself for a little, and on the 2nd of April he started, in company with some of his adherents, for Missouri, "to fulfil the revelation." Although he left secretly, his inhuman persecutors received notice of his design, and tracked him for several hundred miles, until he arrived at Louisville, where he was sheltered and protected from his assailants by the captain of a steam-boat. He arrived at "Zion," or Independence, on the 26th...

    (remainder of text under construction)


    Charles Mackay (1814-1889)

    Transcriber's Comments

    This 1851 British history of the Mormons is sometimes credited to Henry Mayhew (1812-1887), and English writer of the times. Other sources sometimes cite it as the work of another English writer, Charles Mackay (1814-1889). Since Mackay was the assistant editor of the Morning Chronicle, wherein the text was first serialized, he appears to be the likely author. The book was quickly reprinted in USA, with editions made available in 1851 and 1852, An edited, enlarged version was prepared by Samuel M. Smucker (or Schmucker) and published in America in 1856. This latter edition, in turn, was again expanded by Mr. S[ch]mucker in 1881.

    This book, in its various editions, is noteworthy primarily because it first publicized the May 27, 1839 "Rigdon denial letter" addressed to "Messrs. Bartlett and Sullivan," who edited and published the Quincy Whig newspaper (published near Nauvoo, Illinois). The original writer of the book, living in the United Kingdom, no doubt reproduced the Rigdon letter directly from the pages of Parley P. Pratt's 1840 pamphlet, Plain Facts Showing the Falsehood and Folly of the Rev. C. S. Bush..., which had been published in Manchester as a Church tract. Several writers in later years would reproduce the false citation for Rigdon's rebuttal letter having appeared in an 1839 issue of the Boston Journal. The Rigdon letter was never reprinted in the Boston region. It was intended for "home consumption" among the western Illinios readers of the Quincy Whig.

    Although this British volume was indeed, one of the very first book-length histories of the Latter Day Saints, the author appears to have conducted very little original research. His treatments of the Book of Mormon, the Spalding authorship claims, etc., are lackluster re-statements gleaned from earlier publications. The author, at one point, says that D. P. Hurlbut, "because his eyes were opened to the imposture and delusion of which he had been the victim," eventually "seceded" from the Mormons, "according to his own account." Hurlbut left behind no such "account" justifying his brief career as a Mormon. A couple of his extended family members later offered similar notions as to why Hurlbut joined and the quit the Mormons, but none of their accounts are fully reliable.

    (The remainder of this text is still under construction.)

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