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HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
Of all the religious sects which have originated in Christendom, the most singular in its birth, its fortunes, and its tenets is undoubtedly 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' -- the name by which the Mormon community designates itself. Its founder was a man in whose character, at no period of his career, can we discern the customary lineaments of a saint, a reformer, or even a fanatic; and yet it is certain that he gathered round him a body of zealous and devoted followers, the majority of whom implicitly accepted him as a person divinely inspired and commissioned to regenerate and reconstruct human society. That he was illiterate, and yet achieved so much, is not the remarkable thing about him. Men almost, if not altogether, as illiterate as he have created and perpetuated sects; nor is it the mere fact that before he acquired notoriety as a prophet,
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he was suspected of sheep-stealing and other evil practices -- for moral contradictions as great, if not as grotesque as this, could be found in the history of other 'saints;' still less is it the utterly unintellectual, and in some parts unintelligible rubbish which constitutes Mormon theology and metaphysics -- for history teaches us that there is nothing so foolish that some people will not believe it. The mystery or enigma of his success lies here -- that retaining to the last an essentially low, coarse, unspiritual mind, and a language tainted not only by vulgarities of sentiment, but by positive impurities of phrase, he nevertheless swayed his followers like a Wesley, and, as Captain Burton remarks, is now spoken of by them 'with a respectful reverential sotto voce, as Christians name the founder of their faith.' What we propose to do in the following pages is to narrate the rise and progress of this extraordinary sect, to explain its tenets, and as far as possible to account for its success.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was the son of a farmer, also called Joseph Smith, or more generally, 'Old Father Smith,' and of Lucy Mark [sic], and was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, United States, on the 23d of December 1805. When he had reached the age of ten, his parents removed to Palmyra, in the state of New York, and four years later, to the town of Manchester, about six miles off. The reputation of the family (according to the testimony of neighbours) was of the worst kind; we are told that they avoided honest labour, were intemperate and untruthful, addicted to sheep-stealing, digging for hidden treasures, &c.; but these accusations, though frequently made at a later period, when the new sect was visibly establishing itself in the land, were never definitely proved; and remembering the extreme recklessness of statement prevalent in America, impartial judges will hesitate to allow their validity. There is indeed some ground for supposing that they were not wholly false. Smith himself, when assailed for his antecedents, used to reply, that he had never done anything so bad as was reported of King David, whom his orthodox enemies could not consistently deny to have been a 'man after God's own heart;' and his successor in the prophethood, Brigham Young, seems to acknowledge a certain degree of truth in the hostile charges, when he says: 'The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter; bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else, I do not care.' Perhaps it would not be far from the fact to suppose that Smith's early life had been generally careless, and sometimes immoral, even if we look with suspicion upon the testimony 'under oath' of' upwards of sixty of the most respectable citizens of Wayne Co.', who declared the prophet's family to be 'false, immoral, and fraudulent,' and Joseph to be 'the worst of the whole.' That such a man could be the subject of religious impressions may appear strange to those who have never studied the mysterious vagaries of human nature; but all who are aware that there is no necessary
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connection between religious emotions and moral habits, will not be staggered when they learn that from his boyhood a rude and sensual religiosity was mixed up with his more carnal conduct, and that as early as the age of thirteen, he was 'powerfully awakened by the preaching of Mr. Lane, an earnest Methodist minister.' There is the most satisfactory evidence -- that of his enemies -- to shew that from an early period he was regarded as a visionary and a fanatic. This fact is of the utmost importance, as affording a clue to his real character, and an explanation of that otherwise unaccountable tenacity of purpose and moral heroism which he displayed in the midst of fierce persecution. A mere impostor -- that is, a person who did not in some sense or other partly believe in his own mission, but who, on the contrary, felt that he was simply the liar and cheat that people called him -- would have broken down under such a tempest of opposition and hate as Smith's preaching excited. Mr. Orson Pratt, an eminent Mormon apostle, has furnished us with a record of some of those 'visions' vouchsafed to Smith from time to time. It is extremely difficult for an outsider to discuss them in a rational manner. Although intrinsically absurd and theatrical, we seem to discern in the tone and accessory circumstances a certain strong, morbid susceptibility to religious impressions. How far persons in this condition are capable of speaking the truth, to what extent they are inwardly tempted to discolour, or even fabricate details in their narratives concerning themselves, is a moot-point with psychologists. With this hint to point criticism, we may proceed. According to Pratt, when Smith 'was about fourteen or fifteen years of age, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence.' It was a period of hot revivalism in Western New York, and he went about from one religious denomination to another, but could find nothing satisfactory anywhere -- nothing but 'a great clash in religious sentiment.' Then he began to retire to a secret place in a grove, a short distance from his father's house, and there occupy himself for many hours in prayer and meditation. Once, when so engaged, he 'saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above, which at first seemed to be at a considerable distance;' but as he continued praying,' 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 it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness around was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner.' The account goes on to say that the light '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 inwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled
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each other in their features and likeness.' These wondrous beings informed him that his sins were forgiven; and they furthermore disclosed to him that all the existing religious denominations were 'believing in incorrect doctrines and that, consequently, 'none of them was acknowledged of God as His church and kingdom.' He was expressly forbidden to attach himself to any of them; and received a promise that in due time 'the true doctrine, the fulness of the Gospel,' should be graciously revealed to him; 'after which the -vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace indescribable.'
The narrative proceeds with a curious Old Testament frankness -to tell how Smith, being still young, became 'entangled in the vanities of the world,' and for a while demeaned himself so like a 'vessel of dishonour' as to be rendered temporarily unfit for seeing visions. But after due penitence, the miraculous light reappeared on the 21st of September 1823, and 'it seemed as though the house was filled with consuming fire.' In another moment a 'personage' stood before him, 'with a countenance like lightning,' and 'visible to the extremities of the body.' The apparition of this mysterious stranger restored Smith to his former state of indescribable serenity. He was now informed that he stood in the presence of the angel Moroni, who had been sent forth '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.' Then followed the inevitable announcement that Smith 'was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation.' A historic basis for the new 'dispensation' to rest on was finally revealed by Moroni. He explained that the Indian tribes were a remnant of Israel; that when they originally emigrated to America they were a pious and enlightened people, enjoying the peculiar favour and blessing of God; that prophets and inspired writers had been appointed to keep a sacred history of events happening among them; that this history was handed down for many generations, till at length the people fell into great wickedness, and afterwards the records were hidden, 'to preserve them from the hands of the wicked,' who were seeking to destroy them; 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 Smith, if he proved faithful, would be divinely commissioned to restore them to the world.
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We have now reached that point in Smith's history when criticism becomes possible. So long as a man tells us only of his visions and experiences, we never can be certain to what extent he is deceiving us, to what extent deceiving himself. Religious exaltation (however low the type) so wondrously blends into illusory unity the two worlds of mind and matter, and so strangely dims the clear eye of conscience itself, that when a 'visionary' declares an angel has spoken with him, and has told him a thousand things in detail, he may either literally believe his own words, or, what is more probable, and far worse, he may fancy himself justified in summoning to his presence the heavenly messenger, and manufacturing conversations that never occurred. Smith, brooding much in his dull coarse way over his own confused and motley thoughts, may have deemed himself inspired -- -we rather think he did -- and, his sense of veracity and honour being singularly weak, it would cost him small effort to put into fictitious shape the religious crudities of his brain, and palm them off for revelations without a blush or a twinge. But the next step is a different one. We have got beyond the region of the prophet's visions and experiences, and are face to face with outward fact. To any man who has no faith in the divine origin of Mormonism, the story of the discovery of the lost records -- otherwise known as the Book of Mormon -- must appear a most flagrant falsehood. In this instance, he could not possibly be deceiving himself,, and must have known he was grossly imposing upon others. What upheld him all through his lying story was probably an unexpressed conviction that when a man was really called to found a religion all things were lawful to him. Many people prefer simply to brand Smith as a liar and impostor of the most vulgar description; a man who invented a religion merely to swindle the community; but those who content themselves with this easy solution of the problem of Mormonism find it very hard to account for the fortitude and enthusiasm of the prophet's later career. The truth is, the religious impostor defies the analysis of common minds, who have never studied the strange perversities of human nature, and who do not know what it is capable of. This we may confidently say in regard to the founder of Mormonism, that whoever reads his life, failing to see that it really has a religious side, that he was in earnest about his work, and had a thorough belief in his mission and himself -- whatever were his private thoughts about the 'lost records' -- will entirely miss the most wonderful feature of that life, and, in all likelihood, will misread it through all its stages.
Having, as we hope, furnished the reader with a proper stand-point from which to judge the character and work of Smith, we return to the narrative of his life. Up to the period when the angel Moroni visited him, he had been in the habit of working on his father's farm; and on the morning after this vision he went to his labour as usual, apparently not supposing that his mission as a messenger
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of a new and peculiar gospel was yet to be commenced. But while he was at work, the angel again appeared to him, and gave him direct instructions to go and 'view the records,' which for many ages had been deposited in a place which was pointed out to him. This was 'on the west side of a hill, not far from the top,' about four miles from Palmyra, in the county of Mayne [sic], state of New York, and near the mail-road, which leads thence to the little town of Manchester.
While contemplating this extraordinary treasure with great astonishment, Smith became aware of the presence of the angel who had previously visited him, and who now, with due solemnity, called on him to ' Look!' 'And as he thus spake,' says the Mormonite apostle before quoted, 'he beheld the Prince of Darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said: "All this is shewn, 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 the 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 the knowledge which they contain; they are of no worth among the children of men only for their knowledge. In 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."'
Smith had to wait four years before the records were finally delivered by the angel into his hands. During that time, however, he had numerous interviews with the 'heavenly messenger,' and 'frequently received instructions' from his mouth. At length, on the morning of the 22d of September 1827, when he was about two-and-twenty years of age, he was formally permitted to take possession of his discovery. 'These records,' says our authority, Mr. Pratt, 'were engraved on plates which had the appearance of gold. Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin. They were filled on both sides with engravings in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole. This volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters or letters upon the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, as well as much skill in the art of engraving. With the records
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was found "a curious instrument, called by the ancients the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones, clear as crystal, set in the two rims of a bow. This was in use in ancient times by persons called seers. It was an instrument by the use of which they received revelation of things distant, or of things past, or future.'"
Being in an unknown tongue, the book required to be translated before its contents could be intelligibly communicated to mankind; and- Smith having now provided for himself a separate home, straightway commenced turning this ancient record into English. His mode of procedure was rather suspicious. He hung a blanket across the room, to conceal the sacred records from profane eyes, and then by means of the stone spectacles dictated the translation to one Oliver Cowdery. In this way the work proceeded, as Smith's 'pecuniary circumstances would permit,' until he had finished what he describes as the 'unsealed portion of the records.' This is that part of the revelations which is styled the Book of Mormon, the recognised Bible of the Latter-day Saints, deemed by them of equal authority with the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and represented to contain that 'fulness of the gospel' which was to be revealed in the latter days. An abstract of its contents is given in Burton's City of the Saints.
When the volume was completed, there arose an obvious difficulty respecting its publication. As no man is accounted a prophet in his own country, who would believe the miraculous story about its origin, and the way in which the work had been brought to light? How was any one to know that it was not utterly a fabrication, and that Joseph Smith, junior, was not an arrant knave and impostor? Assuredly there ought to be witnesses to testify concerning the facts set forth, and vouch in some way for the credibility of Smith's pretensions. This circumstance was accordingly provided for; witnesses were providentially 'raised up' in the persons of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris; and when the work was published in 1830 there was appended to it a statement by these three persons (hence known among Mormons as 'the three witnesses'), in which they solemnly 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.' This statement was presently supported by eight other witnesses, who testify expressly that 'Joseph Smith, junior, the translator of this work, has shewn unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands; * * * and we know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates * * * and we give our names unto the world of that which we have seen; and we lie not, God bearing witness to it.' It might strike a sceptic as a suspicious circumstance,
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that the 'eight,' with one exception, belong to two families, evidently on terms of intimacy with each other; and further, that three of them belong to the family of Joseph Smith -- being, in fact, his father and two brothers. What is undoubtedly still more 'suspicious,' is that several years after, 'the three witnesses' having quarrelled with Smith, renounced Mormonism, and avowed the falsity of their testimony. The prophet was enraged by their apostacy; and in a publication of the new sect, called the Elder's Journal, he writes (1837) of Harris in a style of vituperation that is ludicrously feeble: 'There are negroes who have white skins (!) as well as black ones; Granny Parish and others, who acted as lackeys, such as Martin Harris. But they are so far beneath my contempt, that to notice any of them would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make.' In Smith's own neighbourhood the story of the origin of the book did not find much credence; but a shrewd critic will place no value on statements like that of Peter Ingersoll (one of Smith's nonMormon associates), though given upon oath: 'Smith told me the whole affair was a hoax, that he had no such book, and did not believe there was such a book in existence: but, said he, as I have got the fools fixed, I shall carry out the fun.' Such evidence is the mere reckless outcome of vulgar spite and hatred. No man in the process of founding a new religious sect, however corrupt his motives -- no man earnestly interested in its mere success (apart altogether from considerations of its truth), would so express himself. There is nothing in the public career of the prophet to lead us to believe for a moment that he started his system for a 'lark.' It is beyond the power of any but a blockhead to think that the man who was torn by his infuriate enemies from the bosom of his wife, tarred and feathered in a meadow at midnight, and who heroically preached next day 'with his flesh all scarified and defaced,' was merely animated by a desire 'to carry out the fun.'
With the exception of the persons mentioned, we do not find that any other individuals, Mormonites or otherwise, ever professed to have seen the plates. Like Macpherson's Ossianic manuscripts, they have never been forthcoming, however loudly demanded; and of late years, all knowledge or account of them has been confessedly traditional.
The account so far given of the Book of Mormon will be understood to be that of the Mormonites themselves; but there remains to be presented another relation of its origin, which the American opponents of Mormonism consider the true one. According to this account, it would appear that one Solomon Spaulding (born in Ashford, Connecticut, 1761, and a graduate of Dartmouth College), a man who had once been a clergyman, and had afterwards gone into business, having his attention attracted about 1809 by the notion that the North American Indians were descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel, conceived that the idea might be turned to
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account as the groundwork of a religious novel. He accordingly set about a work of that description, which he entitled The Manuscript Found; and labouring at it at intervals for three years, he in that time completed it. Two of the principal characters in this production are Mormon and his son Moroni -- the same who act so large a part in Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon. As early as 1813 (according to the New American Cyclopaedia), the work was announced in the newspapers as forthcoming, and as containing a description of the Book of Mormon. In the year 1812, Spaulding shewed his manuscript to a printer named Patterson, residing at Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania; but before any satisfactory arrangement had been made in regard to its publication, the author died (1816), and the manuscript is said to have remained for some time thereafter in Mr. Patterson's possession. While here, it came under the notice of a compositor in his employment, named Sidney Rigdon, who was also a preacher in connection with some Christian sect, whose proper designation has not been stated. Rigdon (according to a statement published by Spaulding's widow in the Boston Journal, May 18, 1839) borrowed and copied the manuscript; and his possession of a copy was known to all in the printing-office, and was often mentioned by himself. The original manuscript was, however, she says, returned to her husband before his death, and subsequently read by several of her friends. But after her husband's decease, she seems to have spent the next three years in visiting her friends in different parts of the States; and during this period the manuscript was left at her brother's, somewhere near the residence of the Smiths. Whether Rigdon had, as she asserts, taken a copy of it, or whether the original now fell into the hands of Joseph Smith, there is no evidence for deciding. What in any case is a very significant circumstance, is that Rigdon afterwards became, next to Joseph Smith himself, the principal leader of the Mormons. How Smith and this person became connected is not known, but soon after leaving Mr. Patterson's printing-office he came out as a preacher of doctrines very like those afterwards incorporated in the Book of Mormon, and had actually succeeded in obtaining a small body of converts, when Smith and he grew intimate about 1829 -- the year before the appearance in print of the famous work. No sooner was it published than the wife, several friends, and the brother of Solomon Spaulding affirmed 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 declared upon oath that his brother's book was a historical romance, relating to the first settlers in America, endeavouring to shew that the American-Indians were descendants of the Jews, or of the lost ten tribes. He stated that 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; and
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that it also mentioned the Lamanites. He added that 'he had recently read the Book of Mormon, and to his great surprise 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.' Similarly, John N. Miller of Springfield, Pennsylvania, testified, in September 1833, that in 1811 he was in the employment of Spaulding, lodged and boarded in his house, and frequently perused portions of The Manuscript Found, which the author also sometimes read to him. Miller says: 'I have recently examined the Book of Mormon, and find in it the writings of Solomon Spaulding from beginning to end, but mixed up with Scripture and other religious matter, which I did not meet in The Manuscript Found. Many of the passages in the Mormon Book are verbatim from Spaulding, and others in part. The names of Nephi, Lehi, Moroni, and, in fact, all the principal names are brought fresh to my recollection by the gold Bible.' Such evidence (and it might be indefinitely multiplied) is certainly very strong, and will probably constrain most readers to conclude that Spaulding's unpublished romance formed the basis of the Mormon Bible. If our conception of Smith's character be the true one (as we honestly think it is), he was just the kind of man to be charmed by a delusive hypothesis like that which is found in Spaulding's work. It would appeal to his fancy, his ignorance, and his impulsive credulity. He would naturally think it a probable account of the peopling of America, and there was nothing in the region of his moral nature sufficiently stern to deter him from investing the record with the dignity of supernatural sanctions.
As a literary composition, the work is but a bungling affair; the religious matter ingrafted upon the original romance being full of ungrammatical and illiterate expressions. For instance, such phrases as the following very frequently occur: 'Ye are like unto they;' 'Do as ye hath hitherto done;' 'I saith unto them;' 'These things had not ought to be;' 'Ye saith unto him;' 'I, the Lord, delighteth in the chastity of women;' 'For a more history part are written upon my other plates.' Anachronisms are also frequent, and blunders of almost every imaginable kind abound.
In confirmation of the theory that only the 'religious matter' is Smith's, we may here state that this religious matter does not refer to old-world faiths and the practices of an ancient ritual, but to quite modern questions, such, we are told, as were rife in the villages of Western New York about 1830. Calvinism, Universalism, Methodism, Millenarianism, Roman Catholicism, are discussed. Infant baptism is warmly condemned, and polygamy, many will be surprised to learn, is repeatedly denounced; as, for example: 'For, behold, thus saith the Lord, this people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the Scriptures. Behold David and
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Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. Wherefore thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord; for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; for I, the Lord, delighteth in the chastity of women.' Freemasonry is also liberally anathematised, although Smith and his followers were subsequently not only initiated into its puerile mysteries, but modelled their hierarchy on its system of degrees.
Before the publication of the Book of Mormon, Smith had already gathered to himself a small number of adherents. Their notions of what they should preach were apparently rather confused, but moved by the interest then felt in Millenarianism (always a great favourite with the ignorant and superstitious) throughout Western New York, they finally settled into the doctrine that the millennium was close at hand, that the Indians were to be speedily converted, and that America was to be the final gathering-place of the saints, who were to assemble at New Zion or New Jerusalem, somewhere in the interior of the continent. In 1830, the year after Smith began to announce his visions and to speak of the discovery of the plates, his followers amounted to five persons. Among these were included his father and three brothers; but in the course of a few weeks the number increased to thirty. On the 1st of June, in the year just mentioned, the first conference of the sect, as an organised church, was held at Fayetteville, New York, where the prophet at that time resided. As the people of the neighbourhood generally regarded him as an impostor, his proceedings from the outset met with considerable opposition. Smith, on the present occasion, had ordered the construction of a dam across a stream of water, for the purpose of baptising his disciples. But before the ceremony was commenced, a mob collected, and broke down the preparations, using such language towards the prophet as was anything but flattering to him or his followers, threatening him with violence, and accusing him of robbery and swindling. They derided his prophetical pretensions, charged him with having lived the life of a reprobate, and in every way did their utmost to make him the object of ridicule and suspicion. Smith, however, was nothing daunted. With singular tact, as well as courage, he bore down all 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, said he, was not St. Peter illiterate? Were not John
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and the other Christian apostles 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?'
He appears to have had many contests with the preachers and leading people of other religious sects, and to have signally exasperated them against him by the boldness of his self-sufficiency, and the boundless resources of his ingenuity and impudence, in asserting and defending his pretensions. Yet if he was arrogant and presumptuous, they were not less dogmatic and intolerant. When Joseph proved himself utterly invincible by their logic, and not to be put down by any taunts concerning his unworthiness as a man or his incompetency as a scholar, they had recourse to the ordinary expedient of persecution. Their animosity rose so high at last, that the prophet and his followers found the place too strait for them; and, accordingly, to escape from the virulent opposition they had to contend with, the whole family of the Smiths and the most tenacious of their adherents deemed it prudent to remove from Palmyra and Fayetteville, and to settle themselves in other quarters. The place they selected was Kirtland, in Ohio, the birthplace of Sidney Rigdon, where they received considerable accessions to their numbers. It was, however, regarded only as a temporary resting-place. The attention of the sect was directed, from the very commencement of their organisation, to the desirableness of establishing themselves in the 'Far West' territories, where, in a thinly settled and partially explored country, they might squat down or purchase lands at a cheap rate, and clear the wilderness for their own purposes. Shortly after their removal to Kirtland, Oliver Cowdery was sent out on an exploratory expedition, and, coming back, reported so favourably of the beauty, fertility, and cheapness of the land in Jackson County, in Missouri, that Joseph Smith himself determined to go and visit the location.
Leaving his family and principal connections in Kirtland, he proceeded with Sidney Rigdon and some others upon a long and arduous journey, his object being to fix upon a site for the 'New Jerusalem' -- the future city and metropolis of the divine kingdom, where Christ was to reign, over the Saints as a temporal king, in 'power and great glory.' They started, apparently, about the middle of June 1831, travelling by wagons or canal-boats, and sometimes on foot, as far as Cincinnati. From this place they proceeded by steamer to Louisville and St Louis, where at length all the civilised means of transport failed them. The rest of the journey, a distance of three hundred miles, had to be performed on foot. With brave hearts and hopeful faces, however, they toiled along through the wilderness, and finally reached the town of Independence, in Jackson County, in the middle of July. Though footsore and weary, they were not sad; for the country, with its grandeurs and conveniences, surpassed their most sanguine expectations. It is pleasant to see
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how the prophet was enraptured at the sight of it, and how, in his" description, there is even a touch of poetry. Looking intently on the landscape, he notes, 'as far as the eye can glance, the beautiful rolling prairies lay spread around like a sea of meadows.'
That there might be no doubt among his followers that this was assuredly the spot marked out by Providence as their place of settlement, Smith, after the fashion of many greater prophets, produced a direct revelation on the subject -- a practice to which he always had recourse whenever a difficulty presented itself or a novelty had to be introduced. On the present occasion, it was revealed to him that a certain district in Jackson County was 'the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.'
On his return to Kirtland, by the aid of others, members of the church, he established a mill, a store, and a bank. Of the latter, he appointed himself president, and intrusted Sidney Rigdon with the office of cashier. It was the object of himself and of the sect to stay in Kirtland and make money for the next five years; until, in short, the wilderness should be cleared, and the temple built in Zion.
It is impossible to deny that from this point the history of Mormonism becomes something more than respectable. Whatever opinion we may form regarding the character and motives of the founder, none can doubt that henceforth a certain degree of high enthusiasm prevailed among the sect, and that some of the best virtues of common life, industry, order, sobriety, and cleanliness, were strikingly developed. Rigid and unbending critics may be reluctant to admit that a system founded (as is most certain) on fabrication and falsehood, could ever produce such beneficial results ; but it is nevertheless clear, from the testimony of impartial observers, that morally, industrially, and socially, the Mormons were far in advance of their neighbours. The prophet himself seems to have risen in tone with the fortunes of his faith. None of the numerous missionaries of the sect, who spread over the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, &c., everywhere establishing churches, surpassed its founder in zeal, energy, perseverance, and heroic courage. Of course, his success as a propagandist was the signal for an outburst of persecution. One night, in the month of March 1832, 'a mob of Methodists, Baptists, Campbellites,' and other miscellaneous bigots, broke into his peaceable dwelling-house, and dragging him from the wife of his bosom, stripped him naked, and most despitefully maltreated him. Under the bleak midnight sky, they carried him into a meadow a little distance from the house, and there, with curses and wild uproar, anointed his sacred person with that dark impurity which Falstaff mentions as having a tendency to defile; and then rolling him well in feathers, set him at liberty. Sidney Rigdon was similarly handled, and rendered temporarily crazy by the treatment. As to the prophet, it took the whole night for his friends to cleanse his polluted skin. Yet, the next day being the Sabbath, with his
14 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
'flesh all scarified and defaced,' he preached to the congregation as usual, and (for once we record the fact with a certain degree of pleasure) in the afternoon of the same day baptised three individuals. It is but fair to state, however, that the wrath of his enemies was not purely religious, but had also a secular origin. Smith's bank had, it seems, flooded the neighbouring country with notes of doubtful value, and certain business transactions had likewise taken place in which the backwoodsmen thought they had been swindled by the prophet and Rigdon; hence the furious outrage.
Meanwhile the brethren in Missouri continued to prosper, and Smith resolved to pay them a second visit. Accordingly, he started on the 2d of April (eleven days after the tarring and feathering) with a small company of adherents. Some of his inhuman persecutors dogged his steps as far as Louisville, taunting and harassing him by the way; but, getting protection from the captain of a steamboat, he arrived in safety at Independence on the 26th. In obedience to a revelation which he had sent them, a printing-press had been established, and the work of proselytising was advancing vigorously. A monthly periodical, called the Morning and Evening Star, was conducted by Mr. Phelps, the printer to the church; and a weekly newspaper, devoted exclusively to the interests of Mormonism, had been started under the title of the Upper Missouri Advertiser. The number of the disciples amounted to nearly 3000; while in Kirtland, including women and children, they had not yet exceeded 150. Being enthusiastically received by the congregation, and solemnly acknowledged as their 'prophet, seer, and president of the high priesthood of the church,' Smith, after a brief and pleasant sojourn, left the place in perfect confidence that all was going on prosperously.
But the very prosperity of the sect deepened the hostility of all the non-Mormon population. Strange rumours also began to spread concerning their peculiarities of intercourse and ways of living. They were accused of communism, and not simply of a community of goods and chattels, but also of a community of wives. This charge appears to have been utterly unfounded, and probably originated in some manifestations of a tendency towards polygamy, a doctrine not yet revealed, however (in fact, as we have seen, contrary to the revealed doctrine on the subject); but it materially helped to inflame the hatred of the impulsive and unscrupulous backwoodsmen. Smith himself affirms that the neighbours of the Saints were 'many of them the basest of men, who had fled from the face of civilised society to the frontier country, to escape the hand of justice.' Be that as it may, a party was secretly formed whose object was to expel them from the state. The printing-office of the Star was razed to the ground, and the types and presses confiscated. A Mormon bishop was tarred and feathered (July 20), and Editor Phelps had a narrow escape from a touch of the like treatment. Outrages of almost every description were committed by armed
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 15
mobs upon the Mormons, till at length they saw no chance or likelihood of ever being left at peace; and the final result was, that -- having no other resource -- the leaders agreed that, if time were given, the people should remove westward to some other situation.
Under circumstances of such peril and humiliation, the Saints despatched Oliver Cowdery to Kirtland with a message to the prophet. Smith proved himself not unfertile in resources. He decided that the Morning and Evening Star should be thenceforth published in Kirtland, and that another newspaper should be started to supply the place of the one lately printed in Missouri. He also resolved to apply to the governor of that state, and to demand justice for the outrages inflicted upon the sect; and on the 8th of October, Elders W. W. Phelps and O. Hyde presented a petition from the Saints praying for redress.
The governor of Missouri responded by a sensible and conciliatory letter. He alluded to the attack upon them as being illegal and unjustifiable, and recommended them to remain where they were, and to apply for redress to the ordinary tribunals of the country. Acting on the strength of this advice, the Mormons commenced actions against the ringleaders of the mob, engaging, by a fee of 1000 dollars, the best legal assistance to support their case. But on the 30th of October, the mob again rose in arms to expel them. Several houses of the Saints were sacked and partially demolished. The Mormons, in some instances, defended their possessions, and a regular battle ensued between them and their opponents. In this encounter, it happened that two of the latter were killed. 'This was the first bloodshed, and the Mormons shed it,' say their opponents with rather silly exultation. Thenceforth the fray became so furious and alarming, that the militia had to be called out to suppress it. The militia, however, being anti-Mormon to a man, took sides entirely against them, and the hapless Saints had no alternative except in flight. They sought refuge across the Missouri river, November 4, and encamped in the open wilderness, but ultimately took up their abode for the most part in Clay County, where they appear to have been received with some degree of kindness.
The public authorities of Missouri, and indeed all the principal people, except those of Jackson County, were exceedingly scandalised at these proceedings, and sympathised with the efforts of the Mormon leaders to obtain redress. The attorney-general of the state wrote to say, that if the Mormons desired to be re-established in their possessions, an adequate public force should be sent for their protection. He also advised them to remain in the state, and organise themselves into a regular company of militia, promising to supply them with arms at the public expense. About the same time a message arrived from the prophet, who had now returned to Kirtland from a missionary tour through Canada, urging them to abide by their possessions, and not in any case to sell any land to which
16 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
they had a legal title, but hold on 'until the Lord in His wisdom should open a way for their return.'
The Mormons, however, were never more restored to their beloved Zion. They remained for upwards of four years in Clay County. The land on which they settled was mostly uncleared, but being an industrious and persevering people, they laid out farms, erected mills and stores, and carried on their business as successfully as in their previous location. But here also the suspicions and ill-feeling of the people were soon aroused against them, and were eventually the cause of their expulsion from the whole state of Missouri. The bearing of the Mormons towards the slavery question, the calumny about their community of wives, their loud pretensions of superior holiness, their repeated declarations that Missouri had been assigned to their possession by divine command, and the quarrels that were constantly resulting, brought about the same kind of misunderstandings and collisions which they had experienced in Jackson County.
On the 3d of May 1834, a conference of elders was held in Kirtland, and the Mormon body was first named ' The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.' Two days later, the prophet marched for Missouri at the head of an organised body of Mormons, one hundred and fifty in number, mostly young men, and nearly all priests, deacons, teachers, and officers of the church. Twenty of them formed the body-guard of the prophet; his brother, Hyrum Smith, being captain, and another brother, George Smith, his armour-bearer. His aim was to put the affairs of his scattered and dispirited disciples into order; but the Missouri mobs were convinced that he meant to conquer the state, and introduce a theocratic government, and accordingly the history of the sect for the next three years is one of strife and contention with their enemies.
Meanwhile, a remarkable accession to their ranks had been received. On the 14th of April 1832, Brigham Young (born 1801) was converted by Elder Samuel Smith, and baptised by Eleazar Millard. In the year following, he came to Kirtland, and soon rose to high honour among the Saints. His wonderful sagacity and force of character, his immovable faith in Mormonism, his ardent but not obstreperous enthusiasm, marked him out from the beginning as a natural leader of the new church; and when in February 1835 a further step was taken in the development of a hierarchy, by the institution of a body of apostles -- twelve in number -- Young was appointed head of the apostolic college. A fortnight later, the organisation of the 'Seventies' was established. On the 3d of May, the apostles departed on their first mission among the Gentiles -- Young being ordered down east among the New Englanders, where he made numerous converts, even among that acute race. Shortly after the departure of the Twelve, a ' discovery' was made of certain rolls of Egyptian papyrus, which contained the writings of Abraham and
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 17
Joseph in Egypt (!); and on the 17th of August, at a General Assembly held at Kirtland, the Book of Doctrines and Covenants, together with the Lectures on Faith delivered by Sidney Rigdon, was accepted as a rule of faith and practice. In other words, the Mormons drew up their creed. On the 4th of January 1836, a Hebrew professorship was established at Kirtland, which one would have thought superfluous to a community which had for three years enjoyed the miraculous gift of tongues. Finally, on the 30th of April in the same year, the copestone was put to the edifice of spiritual despotism which Smith had gradually been rearing, for on that day, as was alleged, in the House of the Lord at Kirtland, the Saviour, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared to him and Cowdery, delivered to them the keys of the several priesthoods, and bestowed unlimited power in things temporal and spiritual.
While the internal organisation of the sect was being thus perfected, its numbers in Missouri went on increasing so rapidly that its opponents were both alarmed and enraged. Smith, Rigdon, and others had been forced to take refuge there in order to escape a sudden outburst of fury on the part of the mob in Kirtland, owing to the awkward stoppage of the Mormon bank there. On arriving in Missouri the prophet found the affairs of his church in the greatest confusion. Conflicts with the anti-Mormon mobs continually occurred, many outrages were committed, and several persons killed on both sides. Worse than all, a great schism (as it has been called), took place in the spring of the year, and the new religion seemed on the point of ruin. Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer (the ' three witnesses' to the Book of Mormon), charged with lying, theft, counterfeiting and defamation of the prophet's character, were cut off from the church, while others of its most influential members apostatised. Among these were Orson Hyde, Thomas B. Marsh (then president of the Twelve Apostles), and W. W. Phelps, who accused Smith in turn of being accessory to several thefts and murders, and of meditating a tyranny not only over the state of Missouri, but over the whole American Republic(!). The language of their affidavits, however (it must be confessed), strikes one as suspiciously extravagant; for example: 'I have heard the prophet say that he would yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies: that if he was not let alone, he would be a second Mohammed to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.' And finally, what deprives their accusations of any real weight is that the renegades themselves subsequently retracted them, sought forgiveness, and were restored to their former privileges. There can indeed be no doubt that violent language was used during this crisis, when foes without and within threatened the very existence of the sect. Toward the close of the year, the conflict assumed the character and proportions of a civil war -- Smith himself and his brother
18 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
Hyrum being twice imprisoned and once sentenced to be shot. The most determined efforts, in fact, were made to expel the Mormons from the state.
- This object was finally effected in April 1839, and the Mormons, to the number of 15,000, took refuge in Illinois. They purchased lands in the vicinity of the town of Commerce, and shortly afterwards changed the name of the place into Nauvoo, or the ' City of Beauty.' The country was rich in agricultural resources, and the Mormons failed not to turn them to account. 'Soon,' says Lieutenant Gunnison, 'the colonists changed the desert to an abode of plenty and richness: gardens sprang up as by magic, decorated with the most beautiful flowers of the Old and New World, whose seeds were brought as mementoes from former homes by the converts that flocked to the new state of Zion; broad streets were soon fenced, houses erected, and the busy hum of industry heard in the marts of commerce; the steam-boat unladed its stores and passengers, and departed for a fresh supply of merchandise; fields waved with the golden harvests, and cattle dotted the rolling hills.' A site for the temple was chosen on the brow of a hill overlooking the town, and the building was commenced according to a plan or pattern which the prophet professed to have received by revelation. In the course of eighteen months, the people had erected about 2000 houses, besides schools and a variety of public buildings. The place became a populous and imposing-looking town. Joseph Smith was appointed mayor, and for a while enjoyed an undisturbed supremacy. His word was law; he was the temporal and spiritual head of the community; and, besides his titles of prophet, president, and mayor, he held the military title of general, in right of his command over a body of militia, which he organised (1841) under the name of the Nauvoo Legion.
As early as 1837, Kimball, Hyde, Richards, and other Mormon leaders had visited England and preached the new gospel. Lancashire has the doubtful honour of furnishing the first converts. On the 20th of July in that year, at Preston, the first Mormon baptism was performed by immersion in the river Ribble. It does not appear, however, that great success attended this effort; but in the autumn after the settlement at Nauvoo, a second attempt was made by a body of enthusiastic 'elders,' among whom was Brigham Young. They cunningly sought the great centres of industry, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, South Wales, and by pictures of worldly prosperity, no less than by the magic influence of fanatical zeal, they charmed and led away multitudes of the 'weary and heavy-laden' poor, to whom the new faith had at once the zest of novelty and the allurements of an earthly Paradise.
At home, affairs did not run quite so smoothly as the prophet wished. Prosperity, in his case, unfortunately involved additional persecution. The more his followers, the more his enemies. It
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 19
was dangerous to boast of the '100,000 Mormons in the' United States,' or to meddle in political elections. Thrice in 1841-42, Smith was arrested on a charge of instigating or attempting the assassination of the United States' authorities, and it gradually became clear to him that even Nauvoo could not be an abiding city. The result of his conviction was a prophecy that 'the Saints would be driven to the Rocky Mountains.' What probably strengthened this conviction was the development about the same time of a new social feature of his system, since become its most distinctive and perilous one: we mean polygamy. In 1842, it began to be whispered about Nauvoo that polygamy was secretly practised among what we may perhaps call the fully initiated Saints, the prophet himself setting a liberal example. It is, we confess, extremely difficult to ascertain what amount of truth was contained in the allegation. Our readers will remember that in the Book of Mormon polygamy is actually denounced, and that up to this date, twelve years after the formation of the sect, no evidence exists that the subject had seriously if at all engaged the thoughts of the Saints. What raised the marriage question into such startling prominence all at once, cannot probably be discovered. Of course, if we are persuaded (with his enemies) that Smith was simply a drunken and licentious reprobate, the explanation is easy. It was mere lust that provoked the new revelation; but when we consider the sobriety and decorum of household life among the Mormons (according to all candid observers), we will be slow to believe that their domestic relations -- however repugnant to our social ideas -- have no better origin than the depraved appetites of one of the leaders. Further, it must not be overlooked that there is a large body of Mormons who positively deny that the prophet is the author of the 'revelation' ascribed to him, or that he ever lived in polygamous relations. That he did not openly live with more than one woman, is admitted by all. 'Emma, Joseph's wife and secretary, the partner of all his toils, of all his glories, coolly, firmly, permanently denies that her husband ever had any other wife than herself. She declares the story to be false, the revelation a fraud. She denounces polygamy as the invention of Young and Pratt -- a work of the devil -- brought in by them for the destruction of God's new church. On account of this doctrine, she has separated herself from the Saints of Utah, and has taken up her dwelling with what she calls a remnant of the true church at Nauvoo.' -- Dixon's New America, sixth edition, vol. i, p. 321. Testimony to the same effect, and no less emphatic, is borne by the four sons of Joseph -- Joseph, William, Alexander, and David -- who have practically formed a great schism in the church. Under the name of Josephites, there exist, particularly in Missouri and Illinois, but also to some extent in Utah, considerable numbers of Mormons who denounce in the strongest language the doctrine of a plurality of wives. On the other hand, most of the elders stoutly
20 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
assert that the prophet had secretly taken or 'sealed' to himself a multitude of wives at Nauvoo, though Young alone seems to know anything about the matter. -' I was pointing out to him,' says Mr Dixon, 'the loss of moral force to which his people must be always subject, while the testimony on that cardinal point of practice is incomplete. If Joseph were sealed to many women, there must be records, witnesses, of the fact: where are those records and those witnesses? "I," said Young vehemently, "am the witness -- I myself sealed dozens of women to Joseph.'" But Young at the same time admitted that his predecessor had no issue by any of these ' dozens of women.' The conclusion at which Mr. Dixon arrives ('after testing all the evidence to be gathered from friend and foe') is one in which we are disposed to agree. He says: 'These ladies, though they may have been sealed to Joseph for eternity, were not his wives in the sense in which Emma, like the rest of women, would use the word wife. I think they were his spiritual queens and companions, chosen after the method of the Wesleyan Perfectionists -- with a view not to pleasures of the flesh, but to the glories of another world. Young may be technically right in the dispute; but the prophet's sons are, in my opinion, legally and morally in the right. It is my firm conviction that if the practice of plurality should become a permanent conquest of this American church, the Saints will not owe it to Joseph Smith, but to Brigham Young.'
But if the calmer and less prejudiced verdict of posterity is likely to free Smith from the imputation of having introduced the obsolete Turkish harem to the modern society of the New World, it was a very different affair with his Gentile contemporaries and enemies in 1842-44. Every wild slander was greedily caught up, and intensified by circulation. Women recklessly accused him of offensive conduct; apostates from the faith furnished the world with 'revelations' of his secret character; persons expelled from the Mormon community for misdemeanours of their own, kept up an incessant fire of malignant recriminations. Finally, in May 1844, a paper in Nauvoo, called the Expositor, and edited by some Mormon renegades, made the most specific and offensive charges against the prophet, who was then mayor of the city. A council was convened, and measures instantly taken to silence the defamers. The marshal and municipal officers, with a posse, destroyed their printing-press, scattering the types in the streets, and burning an edition of their paper. After finishing this work of demolition, they repaired to headquarters, and were complimented by the prophet and his brother Hyrum, and received from them the promise of some appropriate reward. This, however, they never got, for a grand and fatal outrage was presently transacted, which brought both the power and the life of the prophet suddenly to an end.
It being impossible to bring the Mormon mob to justice through the Nauvoo courts, the officer who undertook to deal with them
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 21
procured a county writ, and attempted to enforce it in the manner resorted to against ordinary offenders. But this attempt was opposed and prevented by the people and troops in Nauvoo; and when at length the militia were called out, Joseph Smith, as mayor and commanding-general of the legion, declared the city under martial law. Thereupon an appeal was made to Governor Ford of Illinois, who forthwith ordered out three companies of the state militia, to bring the prophet and his adherents to submission, and to enforce their obedience to the laws. An officer was despatched to arrest Joseph and his brother Hyrum; but to avoid the indignity, they crossed over the Mississippi into Iowa, and there remained to watch events, keeping up by a boat a correspondence with the Mormon council. At length (June 24), the governor persuaded them to surrender, pledging his word, and the faith and honour of the state, that no harm should befall them in consequence, and that they should have a fair trial. They accordingly repaired to Carthage, the seat of government, and were there indicted for treason, and, in company with two of their apostles, were lodged in the county jail.
It is related that the prophet had a presentiment of evil in this affair, and said, as he surrendered: 'I am going like a lamb to the -slaughter, but I am calm as a summer morning; I have a conscience void of offence, and shall die innocent.' As the mob still breathed vengeance against the prisoners, and as the militia sided with the people, and were not to be depended on in the way of preventing violence, the governor was requested by the citizens of Nauvoo and other Mormons to set a guard over the jail. But the governor, seeing things apparently quiet, discharged the troops, and simply promised justice to all parties. It now began to be rumoured that there would be no case forthcoming against the Smiths, and that the governor was anxious they should escape. Influenced by this belief, a band of about two hundred ruffians conspired to attack the jail, and take justice into their own hands. 'If law could not reach them,' they said, 'powder and shot should.' On the 27th of June 1844, they assaulted the door of the room in which the prisoners were incarcerated, and having broken in, fired upon the four all at once. Hyrum Smith was instantly killed. Joseph, with a revolver, returned two shots, hitting one man in the elbow. He then threw up the window, and attempted to leap out, but was killed in the act by the shot of the assailants outside. Both were again shot after they were dead, each receiving no less than four bullets. One of the two Mormons who were with them was seriously wounded, but afterwards recovered; and the other is said to have escaped 'without a hole in his robe.'
Here, then, ends the life and prophetic mission of Joseph Smith. Henceforth, the Mormons are left to be guided by another leader. Of himself it has been said:' He founded a dynasty which his death
22 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
rendered more secure, and sent forth principles that take fast hold on thousands in all lands; and the name of Great Martyr of the nineteenth century is a tower of strength to his followers. He lived fourteen years and three months after founding a society with six members, and could boast of having 150,000 ready to do his bidding when he died; all of whom regarded his voice as from heaven. Among his disciples he bears a character for talent, uprightness, and purity, far surpassing all other men with whom they ever were acquainted, or whose biography they have read. But few of these admirers were cognizant of other than his prophetic career, and treat with scornful disdain all that is said in disparagement of his earlier life.' The man had faults enough, no doubt; but it would be the grossest injustice to deny that he had also some sterling and commanding qualities. Whatever of the liar or vagabond he may have been in his youth and the beginnings of his career, any one who carefully observes his progress cannot fail to perceive that his character and designs became developed into something that was at least partially commendable. A rude, uncouth genius, who, like many another genius, for a long while apprehended not his mission; knew not the things which Nature had appointed him to do; and yet, with a blind unconscious instinct -- manifested through many follies and insincerities -- he struggled, and could not help but struggle, to make felt the influence and administrative power which he was born to exercise among mankind. We may call him a sort of mongrel hero, and non-commissioned leader of the unguided; a charlatan-fanatic, whose work was half-knavery and half-earnest, and whom, probably, Nature had ordained to do the rough pioneering of civilisation in the waste places of her kingdoms. That he had available powers for leading and for ruling men, there is proof in the multitude and successful consolidation of his adherents. Saint or sinner, Joseph Smith must be reckoned a remarkable man in his generation; one who began and accomplished a more extraordinary work than he was aware of; and whose name, whatever he may have been whilst living, will take its place among the notabilities of the world.
After his death, the Mormons were somewhat agitated by the question of the succession to his seership. Sidney Rigdon and others came forward with claims and pretensions to the office; but finally, on the 7th of August, the council of the twelve unanimously elected Brigham Young. 'This man,' says Lieutenant Gunnison, 'with a mien of the most retiring modesty and diffidence in ordinary intercourse in society, holds a spirit of ardent feeling and great shrewdness; and when roused in debate, or upon the preacher's stand, exhibits a boldness of speech and grasp of thought that awes and enchains with intense interest -- controlling, soothing, or exasperating at pleasure the multitudes that listen to his eloquence.
One of the first things which the new president had to do, carrying
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 23
out the prophecy of the founder, was to conduct the removal of the Mormons from Nauvoo, and to establish them in a settlement where they should no longer be molested. Almost as soon as he was elected, arrangements began to be made for abandoning the city. For the hostility of the Gentiles continued unabated; the houses of the Saints were frequently burned down, and even the charter of the city was repealed by the state legislature. Several places were proposed: Vancouver's Island, Texas, California, &c.; but finally they decided in favour of the barren valleys of the Rocky Mountains.
'Beyond the western prairies,' says Dixon, 'lay a howling wilderness of salt and stones, a property which no white man had yet been greedy enough to claim. Some pope, in the middle ages, had bestowed it on the crown of Spain, from which it had fallen as a paper waste, to the Mexican Republic; but neither Spaniard nor Mexican had ever gone up north into the land to possess it. In the centre of this howling wilderness lay a Dead Sea, not less terrible than Bahr Lout, the Sea of Lot. One-fourth of its water was known to be solid salt. The creeks which run into it were said to be putrid; the wells around it were known to be bitter; and the shores for many miles were crusted white with saleratus. These shores were like nothing else on earth except the Syrian Ghor, and they were more forbidding than the Syrian Ghor in this particular, that the waters of Salt Lake are dull, impure, and the water-lines studded with ditches and pools, intolerable to the nostrils of living men. To crown its repulsive features, this desert of salt, of stones, and of putrid creeks, was shut off from the world, eastward by the Rocky Mountains, westward by the Sierra Nevada, ranges of Alps high as the chain of Mont Blanc, and covered with eternal ice and snow. The red men who roamed over this country in search of roots and insects, were known to be the most savage and degraded tribes of their savage and degraded race. A herd of bison, a flight of gulls, a swarm of locusts peopled the plain with a fitful life. In spring, when a little verdure rose upon the ground, a little wild sage, a few dwarf sunflowers, the locusts sprang from the earth and stripped the few green plants of every leaf and twig. No forests could be seen; the grass, where it grew, appeared to be rank and thin. Only the wild sage and the dwarf sunflower seemed to find food in the soil, plants which are useless to man, and were then thought to be poisonous to his beast.'
But though the Indian and the trapper alike held it unfit for a human dwelling-place, Young thought otherwise, and in February 1846 the westward exodus began. Two thousand Mormons crossed the frozen Mississippi, and formed a temporary camp at Council Bluffs in Iowa; others gradually followed, till the remnant of Saints left at Nauvoo was so small that their enemies expelled them from their homes with ease. Yet, with singular magnanimity, the new prophet, in the midst of perplexities and brutal persecutions, furnished
24 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
to the United States' government, then entering on the Mexican campaign, a Mormon battalion of five hundred youths, 'the flower of the migrating bands.'
'Weakened by the departure of this living force, the Mormons -crossed the Missouri river in a ferry made by themselves, entering on the great wilderness, the features of which they laid down on a map, making a rough road, and throwing light bridges over streams as they went on; collecting grass and herbs for their own use; sowing corn for those who were to come later in the year; raising temporary sheds in which their little ones might sleep; and digging caves in the earth as a refuge from the winter snow. Their food, was scarce, their water bad, and such wild game as they could find, in the plains, the elk, the antelope, and the buffalo, poisoned their blood.' From their winter-quarters, Omaha nation on the west bank of the Missouri river, a pioneer band of 143 men, headed by Brigham Young, started on the 14th of April, and after terrible hardships, entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake on the 24th of July. The rest of the people soon followed in greater or smaller parties.
The journey ended, work was instantly commenced. The industry of the Mormons has, ever since they became a sect, been preeminently exemplary. In five days a field was consecrated, fenced, ploughed, and planted! Tents and cabins were rapidly erected for the temporary service of the emigrants; but very shortly a city was laid out, and a fort, enclosing about forty acres, built for its protection. Everywhere the most cheerful and prosperous activity went on. As yet, however, the hardships of the Mormons were not ended. During the first year, every month was so mild that they constantly ploughed and sowed; but though the winter was thus auspicious, and all things promising, they were so reduced in provisions as to be obliged to eat the hides of the slaughtered animals, and even eagerly searched for them out of the ditches, and tore them from the roofs of the houses, to boil them for that purpose. They also dug up the wild roots used for food by the Indians. But, we are' informed, the most formidable enemy they had to contend with, as the crops were nearing maturity, was an army of black ungainly crickets, which, descending from the mountain-sides, destroyed every bit of herbage in their way. No wonder the Mormon farmers considered it a miracle, when, in despair from the ravages of these 'black Philistines,' they at length were visited by large flights of beautiful white gulls, which in a short time exterminated the enemy. The next season they came earlier, and thereby saved the wheat from any harm whatever; and since then they have regularly appeared, and move hither and thither about the settlement, as tame as household pigeons. Since the first year, the crops of the Mormons have amply met their wants; and for the last three years there has been a surplus of food among them, which was sold to the gold emigrants at a less price than provisions were selling four
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 25
hundred miles nearer the States, and of course that distance further from the California diggings.
Among no people is the dignity of labour held more sacred than among the Mormons. The excellency and honourableness of work is exemplified in their whole polity and organisation. 'A lazy person,' we are told, 'is either accursed, or likely to be; usefulness is their motto; and those who will not keep themselves, or try their best, are left to starve into industry. * * * The labour for support of one's self and family is taught to be of as divine a character as public worship and prayer. In practice, their views unite them so as to procure all the benefits of social Christianity without running into communism. The priest and the bishop make it their boast that, like Paul the tent-maker, they earn their bread by the sweat of their brow; and teach by example on the week-day what they preach on the Sabbath.'
The territory of Utah is extensive, but it is calculated that hardly one acre in ten is fit for profitable cultivation. Immense tracts of pasturage around the cultivable spots are held in common, and are not intended to be given up to the possession of individuals. It is worthy of being mentioned, that when the Mormons arrived in the valley, they did not quarrel about the fertile, eligible plots, but put a portion under cultivation jointly, and made equitable apportionment of the proceeds of the crop, according to the skill, labour, and seed contributed. The city was laid off into lots, which, by mutual consent, were assigned by the presidency, on a plan of equitable and judicious distribution. It is true, after the assignments were made, some persons commenced the usual speculations of selling according to eligibility of situation; but this called forth anathemas from the spiritual power, and no one was permitted to traffic for the sake of profit. If any sales were to be made, the first cost and actual value of improvements were all that was to be allowed. 'The land belongs to the Lord,' it was said, 'and his Saints are to use so much as each can work profitably.'
The Great Salt Lake City, which is laid out in squares, is described as a place of great attractions. The streets are 132 feet wide, with 20 feet side-walks; and a creek which runs through the city is so divided as to run along each walk and water a colonnade of trees, and is made likewise to communicate with the gardens. The iots contain nearly an acre each, with eight lots in every block. The site of the city is slightly sloping, with the exception of a part to the north, where it rises into a sort of natural terrace. It is four miles square, and is watered by several small streams, and a canal twelve miles long, besides being bounded on the western side by the Jordan river. Besides this central city, there are other four colonies which have branched off from it; and towns, with thickly populated and rapidly growing suburbs, extend along a line of 200 miles of country. Various public edifices have
26 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
been built, or are now in progress of erection. In one place, a large and commodious state-house was completed in 1850; and there is a wooden railway laid down to certain quarries some miles distant, for the purpose of transporting the fine red sandstone to a situation called the Temple Block, 'where a gorgeous pile is to be erected, which shall surpass in magnificence any yet built by man, and which shall be second only to that finally to be constructed by themselves, when the presidency shall be installed at the New Jerusalem, on the temple-site of Zion.'
The system of government under which the Mormons live is described by themselves as a 'Theo-democracy.' They are organised into a state, with all the order of legislative, judicial, and executive offices, regularly filled, under a constitution said to be eminently republican in sentiment, and tolerant in religion. Its priesthood, who rule in matters temporal and ecclesiastical, are divided into various orders. The highest is the First Presidency, composed at present of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Daniel C. Wells -- the successors of Peter, James, and John in the Gospel Church. Of these, Brigham Young acts as chief. The first presidency is elected by the whole body of the church, and possesses supreme authority. The second office in point of dignity is that of Patriarch, held at present by the nephew of Joseph Smith, whose chief duty is to administer blessings. Then follows the council of 'The Twelve,' whose functions are of great practical importance. They ordain all other officers, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons; they baptise, administer the sacraments, and take the lead in all meetings. Next come the Seventies (of whom there are many). They are under the direction of the 'Twelve Apostles' -- and are the great propagandists, missionaries, and preachers of the body. The fifth order is that of High-priests, composed usually of men advanced in years. Their duty is to officiate in all the offices of the church when there are no higher authorities present. After these come the Bishops, who are 'overseers' of the church chiefly in secular matters, attending to the registration of births, marriages, and deaths, the support of 'literary concerns' (such as newspapers and magazines), house-visiting, and the settlement of private grievances. The duties of the Elders are not very precise; they are charged with the conduct of meetings, and exercise a general surveillance over the Priests, who correspond to the 'fixed ministry' of other sects, that is, they preach, exhort, and expound the Scriptures. The lowest orders are the Teachers and Deacons, the former are simply assistants to the priests, elders, and bishops, and act as catechists; the latter are church-collectors, treasurers, &c. -- The whole priesthood is divided into two classes, the Melchisedek and the Aaronic. To the first belong the offices of apostle, seventy, patriarch, high-priest, and elder; to the second, those of bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. The latter can be held only by
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 27
'literal descendants of Aaron,' who are pointed out by special revelation.
The Mormon church calls itself universal, because it claims to have preached in almost every nation, and in every congressional district of the United States; and to have established societies called ' Stakes of Zion,' on the model of the home-assembly, on the islands of the ocean, and on both continents. All are bound to obey the presidency -- at home, in all things; and abroad, in things spiritual, independent of every consideration -- and the converts are commanded to gather to the mountains as fast as may be convenient and compatible with their character and situation.
The Doctrine which has gradually evolved itself out of the history, experience, and crude speculation of the Mormon leaders generally, and more particularly of Orson Pratt, about 1848-49, is incredibly materialistic. Their Godhead is formed on Buddhistic principles. While professing to believe in the Trinity, they explain that God was once a man, who has, however, so advanced in intelligence and power that he may now be called (comparatively speaking) perfect, infinite, &c., but that he has still the form and figure of a man; he has even 'legs,' as is evident (according to Mr. Pratt, an eminent Mormon) from his appearance to Abraham; though he has this advantage over his creature, that ' he can move up or down through the air without using them.' Christ is the offspring of the 'material' union, on the plains of Palestine, of God and the Virgin Mary -- the latter being duly married after betrothal by the angel Gabriel. Yet he is believed to have had a previous existence, to have even made the universe out of 'unformed chaotic matter as old as God,' and his worship is enjoined as Lord of all. The Holy Spirit is vaguely described, but is also material. It would appear, however, that there is an older Trinity, that of' Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael, which is Adam.' Adam, again, is declared to be the 'god' of Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ the god of Joseph Smith; and Joseph Smith is now the god of this generation. But the whole affair is a mass of unintelligible jargon. The human intellect probably never sank into more absolute nonsense; all that can be definitely set before the mind is, that Mormons believe that by faith, obedience, holiness, any man may rise into a deity, and acquire the power of making, peopling, and ruling a 'world' for ever. The second article of the Mormon creed affirms that ' men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgressions' -- an opinion which, if not very orthodox, is considerably more rational than those embodied in the first article. The third article states that 'through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.' The fourth article affirms these 'ordinances' to be:
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus (which is very curiously expounded).
2. Repentance. 3. Baptism (which takes place at eight years of age -- that being, according to the Saints, the period at which moral
28 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
responsibility begins). They also baptise for the dead, in accordance with St Paul's saying (i Cor. xv. 29), and assert that, at the resurrection, all the persons for whom a man has been baptised will be added to his family. 4. Imposition of hands by the gift of the Holy Spirit. 5. The Lord's Supper, administered kneeling. The Saints, who are much averse to strong drinks, use water instead of wine in the sacrament, which is taken every week. The fifth article declares that 'men must be called to the work of God by inspiration;' the sixth, that the same organisation must now exist that existed in the primitive church; the seventh, that miraculous gifts -- ' discerning of spirits, prophecy, revelations, visions, healing, tongues,' &c. -- have not ceased. The 'discerning of spirits' led Smith into a variety of curious speculations. He believes that the soul of man was not created, but 'coexisted equal with God. "God," he says, "never did have power to create the spirit of man at all -- the very idea lessens man in my estimation -- I know better."' He also believes in the transmigration of souls. Rebellious spirits descend into brute tabernacles, till they yield to 'the law of the everlasting gospel.' The eighth article is decidedly liberal; it expresses a belief that the word of God is recorded not only in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but in 'all other good books.' As for the contradictions that exist in the first, Smith admits them, but alleges that they are 'corruptions,' and that they can be removed by his or any other prophet's inspired explanations. It is said that he has left an 'inspired translation' of the whole Bible in manuscript. The ninth article expresses a belief in all that God has revealed, is revealing, or will yet reveal. The tenth affirms the literal gathering of Israel, the restoration of the ten tribes (the 'American Indians,' who are, in consequence, treated with considerable humanity by the Saints), the establishment of the New Zion on the western continent -- the millennial reign of Christ on earth, and the transformation of earth into a Paradise. The eleventh article maintains 'the literal resurrection of the body' -- to 'flesh and bones,' but not blood -- blood being, according to Smith, ' the principle of mortality.' The twelfth article asserts the absolute liberty of private judgment in matters of religion; the thirteenth declares it the duty of the Saints and all others to be ' subject to the powers that be,' whether monarchical or republican. The fourteenth and last is worthy of being universally accepted: 'We believe in being honest, true, chaste, temperate, benevolent, virtuous, and upright; and in doing good to all men; * also, that 'an idle or lazy person cannot be a Christian, neither have salvation.'
The religious views of the Mormons are, it will thus be seen, an extraordinary jumble. They have something in common with nearly every sect that has ever been known. Hebraism, Persian Dualism, Brahmanism, Buddhistic apotheosis of saints; Christianity, both in its orthodoxy and heterodoxy; Mohammedanism, Drusism, Freemasonry,
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 29
and latterly, Methodism, Swedenborgianism, Mesmerism, and Spirit-rapping, have all contributed something. The Saints do not deny this. Smith, in fact, declares that as every religion in the world 'has a little truth mixed with error,' it is the duty of his followers to pick it out, that' all the good and true principles may be gathered together;' 'otherwise,' he adds, 'we shall never become pure Mormons.'
We are told that the preaching from the pulpit and the usual extempore teachings are restricted to the promulgation of doctrines like those commonly inculcated by the Christian sects which hold to faith, repentance, baptism, and the resurrection of the body. 'Their mode of conducting worship,' says Gunnison, 'is to assemble at a particular hour, and the senior priest then indicates order by asking a blessing on the congregation and exercises, when a hymn from their own collection is sung, prayer made extempore, and another sacred song, followed by a sermon from some one previously appointed to preach, which is usually continued by exhortations and remarks from those who "feel moved upon to speak." Then notice of the arrangement of the tithe-labour for the ensuing week, and information on all secular matters interesting to them in a church capacity, is read by the council-clerk, and the congregation dismissed by a benediction.' Everything of a gloomy or sombre character is excluded from the ordinances; and during the assembling and departure of the congregation, their feelings are exhilarated by an excellent band of music playing marches, waltzes, and animating anthems.
In all their social and domestic relations, the Mormons are represented as being uniformly cheerful. Though professedly living in anticipation of a miraculous millennium, they object not to enjoy the hour that now is, and cordially participate in all the healthful and gladdening satisfactions which this temporary state affords. It is one of their peculiarities to blend the serious with the gay, and to invest their most light and frivolous pastimes with a kind of religious sanction. 'In their social gatherings and evening-parties,' says Lieutenant Gunnison, 'patronised by the presence of the prophets and apostles, it is not unusual to open the ball with prayer, asking the blessing of God upon their amusements, as well as upon any other engagement; and then will follow the most sprightly dancing, in which all join with hearty good-will, from the highest dignitary to the humblest individual; and this exercise is to become part of the temple-worship, to "praise God in songs and dances." These private balls and soirees are frequently extended beyond the time of cock-crowing by the younger members; and the remains of the evening repast furnish the breakfast for the jovial guests. The cheerful happy faces, the self-satisfied countenances, the cordial salutation of brother or sister on all occasions of address, the lively strains of music pouring forth from merry hearts in every domicile,
30 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
as women and children sing their " songs of Zion," while plying the domestic tasks, give an impression of a happy society in the vales of Deseret.'
The testimony of Captain Burton in his clever but somewhat irritating and mocking book, The City of the Saints, and of Mr. Dixon, in his New America (the most valuable work on Mormonism that has yet appeared), is equally emphatic. The latter gives a description of the Mormon theatre erected by Brigham Young that is positively charming; and, in fact, it is beyond all question that the Mormon community of Utah is one of the happiest and most comfortable in the world. The time is gone by when the public can be excited by the monstrous calumnies of infuriated and reckless adversaries, who sought to persuade us that the Salt Lake City was an earthly Gehenna, where every vice was practised without shame or restraint; that men were drawn to it by the vilest of motives, and that the character of its inhabitants had its counterpart only in our dens of infamy at home. This notion, or any, even the faintest approach to it, is utterly false. The Mormons are not a sensual, or impure, or demoralised community at all: they are exactly the opposite. We must, if we honestly wish to understand them and their system, try to subordinate our preconceived theories to the facts. Whatever aversion we may entertain to polygamy, either as a thing wrong in itself (because tending to the dishonouring of women as a class, with all the injurious consequences to the family), or as a barbarous attempt to restore an obsolete form of domestic life, we are driven to allow that its evils have not yet become apparent. They may be at work, and may one day come to the surface, but in the meantime the Mormons are entitled to assert that their community is free of the horrible sin and viciousness that prevail elsewhere; the obtrusive and loathsome vices which are the reproach of our large cities are almost unknown; there are no wretched prostitutes, no illegitimate children, no vile seducers; their wives, as far as can be ascertained, are happy, virtuous, and healthy; and, in a word, they boldly challenge comparison, in regard to their domestic and social purity and felicity, with any monogamic community in the world.
The later history of this extraordinary sect may be briefly sketched. After founding the Salt Lake City, an emigration fund was established, and settlers poured in from all parts of Europe and America. In 1850, the government of the United States admitted the region occupied by the Mormons into the Union as a territory, under the name of Utah, and Brigham Young was appointed governor by President Fillmore. District judges were also appointed by the federal government, but these were looked upon with great suspicion and mistrust by the Saints, who finally drove them out of the country in 1851. Brigham Young was now suspended from his office of governor, and Colonel Steptoe of
HISTORY OF THE MORMONS. 31
the United States' army was appointed his successor. He arrived in Utah in 1854, but found it prudent, after some time, to withdraw from the country. During the next two years, the collisions between the United States' officers and the Saints became more and more frequent, and in the spring of 1856, the whole of the former were forced to flee from the territory. A new governor, Alfred Cumming, was appointed by the authorities at Washington in 1857, and also a new superintendent of Indian Affairs; besides, a force of 2500 men was sent to enforce obedience to the laws of the United States. The Saints attacked their supply-trains, and compelled the enemy to winter at some distance from the Salt Lake. In the early part of next year, negotiations were entered into between the contending parties; the Mormons submitted to the federal authority, and the federal troops were allowed to encamp on the western side of Lake Utah, about forty miles from Salt Lake City, where they remained till 1860, when they withdrew.
The exact number of the Saints cannot be ascertained, but it is believed to amount to at least 200,000, of whom perhaps one half are scattered over the Old World; the rest are chiefly in Utah.
In drawing what we have written to a close, it may safely be asserted that though the Mormon metaphysics are for the most part nonsense, and their Bible a clumsy, dull, and illiterate forgery, yet what the Mormons do is in many ways commendable. The world may very well permit them to indulge in their millennial fancies and patriarchal crotchets, so long as they live peaceably and honestly among themselves, and make no intolerant aggressions on the beliefs and religious systems that differ from their own. Their steadfast and honourable industry, the unity of aim and sentiment that subsists among them, their zealous devotion to a central idea, their reverent, if perverted, recognition of a Supreme Power over them, the pleasant fellowship that results from their social regulations, and the robust and sterling independence by which they are distinguished as a community; these, and other highly creditable qualities and characteristics, assuredly entitle them to the honest respect of all candid and discriminating persons. Their grand danger as a sect is the practice of polygamy. Sooner or later, they must come into collision with the forces of a monogamic civilisation. The opening of the Pacific Railway in 1869, at once brings them in contact with the ordinary usages and notions of the civilised world, and places them at the mercy of the United States' executive. It was no doubt very prudent and politic of Dr Richards, one of the chief Mormon dignitaries, to grace the ceremony of opening that magnificent line of railway with his presence; but though its immediate effect may be beneficial to the Saints, its ultimate but no less certain effect must be not only hurtful but absolutely ruinous. Mormonism has achieved wonders, but in order to give itself a chance of life, it has been
32 HISTORY OF THE MORMONS.
continually forced to retreat (like the Red Indian) before the imperious march of modern society. The one thing it will never do is to convert the people of the United States to a belief in the lawfulness, or the wisdom, or the purity of polygamy; and when the time comes in which the westward-pressing settlers of the New World stand once more face to face with these modern imitators of the patriarchal system, they will either have to abandon their practice of plurality, or submit to be 'wiped out.' Perhaps the instinct of self-preservation may be strong enough to convert them into 'Josephites' (see page 19), even before the approach of that critical hour, especially if the lapse of years shall have removed from their midst the iron will and commanding soul of Brigham Young. *
* Since the above was written, news has reached this country that Brigham Young himself has resolved to take time by the forelock, by bringing out a 'revelation' enjoining a return to the practice of monogamy.
Note 1: Chambers' 1870 "History of the Mormons" was a fully re-written improvement upon an earlier tract, "The Mormonites," first published in 1852. From the 1870 printing, the main features of the updated article were carried over into various editions of Chambers's Encyclopedia. Excerpt example: [from the 1860 1st edition and 1874 revised edition]: "About 1829, Smith became acquainted with one Sidney Rigdon, originally a compositor and preacher, but who by this time had begun to promulgate a species of incipient Mormonism, and had managed to found a little sect of his own. It is conjectured by the opponents of Mormonism that Rigdon (into whose hands Spalding's romance is supposed to have fallen for some time) gave it to his new associate to further his purposes, and that of the latter..." See also Chambers' earlier "Impostors" tract with a section on Joseph Smith, which was still being occasionally reprinted, as late as the 1870s.
Note 2: In 1875 Joseph Smith's younger brother, William Smith, wrote a sketchy and disjointed reply to Chambers' 1870 article. Smith's notes were never published during his lifetime, but are reproduced here, from a transcript taken from the LDS Church Archives (spelling and punctuation corrected): "Respected Friend: -- In this work of Chambers Miscellany, I find near sixteen pages devoted (as it is called) the History of Mormonism. On a close examination of this history I find but little to praise and much to condemn... --- We quote from 1 Page of Chambers "History of the Mormons" --- " Of all the religious Sects which have originated in Christendom the most Singular in its birth its fortunes and its tenets is undoubtedly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the name by which the Mormon community designates itself / 2. Its founder was a man in whose character at no period of his career can we discern the Customary lineaments of a Saint a reformer or even a fanatic and yet it is certain that he gathered round him a body of zealous and devoted followers the majority of whom implicitly accepted him as a person divinely inspired and commissioned to regenerate and reconstruct human society. / 3. That he was illiterate and yet achieved so much is not the remarkable thing about him. Men almost if not altogether as illiterate as he have created and perpetuated sects, nor is it the mere fact that before he required notoriety as a Prophet he was suspected of sheep stealing."
In this remark of sheep stealing the writer evidently designs to libel the character of the prophet. The declaration "Nor is it the mere fact that before he (Joseph Smith) required notoriety as a prophet he was suspected of sheep stealing." -- Here it is proper to observe that my Brother Joseph was not at no period of his life guilty of the crime alleged (viz.) sheep stealing -- nor was he ever suspected of committing such an offence. -- The charge is a base and willful slander and carries the evident marks of falsehood upon the face of it.--- "The mere fact that he was suspected" as stated by the writer "of sheep stealing" -- based upon the testimony of Mr. Chambers does not prove the fact that Joseph Smith was ever suspected of such an offence. Nor was it the mere "fact" That [he did] because somebody said so, based upon the testimony of the same authority that any body ever did say any such thing of the character of Joseph Smith before entering upon his mission as a Prophet. Thus you see this man Chambers makes himself responsible for the statement he makes on this sheep stealing question as he gives out the falsehood in the [light] of truth. Take particular notice -- "Nor was it the mere fact That he Joseph Smith was suspected of sheep stealing." --- (The writer continues) "and other evil practices, for moral contradictions as great if not as grotesque as this could be found in the history of other saints, still less is it the utterly unintellectual and in some parts unintelligible rubbish which constitutes Mormon theology and metaphysics for history teaches us that there is nothing so foolish that some people will not believe it." -- Speaking of Joseph Smith the writer continues "The mystery or enigma of his success lies here, that retaining to the last an essentially low, coarse unspiritual mind and a language tainted not only by vulgarities of sentiment but by positive impurities of phrase" -- (A most unmitigating falsehood as thousands of Latter day Saints would bare witness to that have conversed with him in private and who have listened to his discourses and sermons in public) -- (Still the writer continues) "He (Joseph Smith) nevertheless swayed his followers like a Wesley and as Captain Burton remarks -- is now spoken of by them with a respectful reverential sotto voice as Christians name the founder of their faith." --- Chambers fails to solve the mystery or enigma of the prophet's success. ...
The next we notice is the Short Sketch given by Chambers as the history of my father's family. The sketch contains two mistakes although of minor importance and one slander of some considerable magnitude. Upon the subject of character, the same old story is resorted to -- That because somebody said so the charge of sheep stealing is in this paragraph -- magnified into such monster size that it is now applied to the whole family. We give the words of the writer verbatim -- "The reputation of the family (according to the testimony of neighbors) was of the worst kind. We are told that they avoided honest labor, were intemperate and untruthful, addicted to sheep stealing, digging for hidden treasures &c." -- It is needless for me to say that the charges brought out in this paragraph is false -- for the [things] shows for [themselves]. My statement on this subject is that the charges are false. My father's family were a peaceable, quiet and a church-going people -- and nothing of these calumnies was ever heard of; not until after his profession as a prophet. My brother Joseph Smith came out with his profession as a prophet and since this period of time of all the heterogeneous mass and contradictory rubbish of priestly lies and falsehood that could be thought of, has for the last thirty years of Mormon experience been bandied from pulpit to press and circulated by lying priests, falsehood & lies of their own manufacturing, until the world has been filled up with a mass of almost incomprehensible foolish and simple stuff -- got up and told on the character of my father's family for no other reason but to put down the influence of Mormonism; for one to listen to the lies they will tell, so ridiculous to tell of, or monstrous to believe [does not] merit a reply. It is enough to create an earthquake among intelligent men and to frighten the natives into spasmodic fits, or to beget a spirit of ridicule and laughter in the minds of honest book writers. That [can] only [be quieted] by the reflection of that most grave and solemn thought, that by uncontradictory and uncontrovertable testimony, Mormonism has been proven a humbug, the character of the Smith family of bad repute, and Joseph Smith an impostor and all -- Because somebody said that somebody heard that somebody said so. --- In my next Dear friend I will give you a more full history of my father's family, also narrate the story of finding the tablets by my brother Joseph and reply to the story of the Spaulding romance, with a brief sketch of the true doctrine and faith of Mormonism.
Chapter third -- The next we notice agreeable to promise is the story of finding the tablets from which the Mormon revelation was translated. It is hardly necessary to enter very largely upon this subject as all the particulars relating to the prophet's mission is related in the sketch that Chambers has given in his Miscellany, sketched from Mormon authority. No credit to Mr. Chambers [however] for this account [given] of the prophet's vision, or interview with the angel, that first gave Joseph Smith the knowledge of the tablets [and their place of deposit], as this recital comes from persons who have been familiar for many years with the testimony -- that my brother Joseph and gave others gave relative to the facts. -- As to any deception being practiced on the subject of [the] tablets, this is not a supposable case.
Joseph Smith at the age of 17 years with the moral training he had received from strictly pious and religious parents, could not have conceived the idea in his mind of palming off a fabulous story, such as seeing angels connected therewith, the discovery of golden plates upon which should be recorded the history of a once enlightened people, their rise, their progress, their origin, and their final overthrow, that once inhabited this American continent -- all this and many other things was told him by the angel of God that appeared to him in heavenly vision. --- These statements briefly sketched, are more fully written out in the recital Chambers has given on this subject. --- Consequently we will not pursue this history any further for the present. Suffice to say however, that there was not a single member of the family of sufficient age to know right from wrong but what had implicit confidence in the statements made by my brother Joseph concerning his vision and the knowledge he thereby obtained concerning the plates. The fact also that these tablets of which I have spoken were seen by a number [of] persons, who testify that they not only saw with their eyes, but handled with their hands the said records, is conclusive proof that this Mormon revelation was not a transcript taken from any romance written by Solomon Spaulding or by any other person. The witnesses, all of them, being men of respectable standing in society.... It is due [also] to say that for many years I have been personally acquainted with the persons whose names are given in testimony of the record found and translated by my brother Joseph Smith -- and were I under oath I could not say aught of these men for respectability or for their truthful veracity -- no persons to my knowledge has ever attempted to impeach, nor has either or any one of these witnesses even, to my knowledge, counteracted the testimony as given above concerning the real existence of these Mormon tablets.
We now come to speak especially of the charge of Mr. Chambers in his strictures on religious inspiration, the remark that Joseph Smith was not entitled to the credit of being even a religious imposter. -- It is not only singular but strange that persons who have undertaken to write out a history of Mormonism have never seen Joseph Smith, nor have they ever heard from his own lips the doctrine that he taught, much less to be personally acquainted [with] the moral character of the prophet. Had Mr. Chambers had the moral training that Joseph had, when he was but a boy, for honesty and truth, he would never have penned his libels upon the character of the prophet. --- It is to be remembered that Joseph Smith was only 17 years of age when he first began his professional career in the ministry. That he was illiterate to some extent is admitted, but that he was entirely unlettered is a mistake. In syntax, orthography, mathematics, grammar, geography with other studies in the common schools of his day, he was nonovice and for writing he wrote a plain intelligible hand....The improvements made on this farm was first commenced by building a log house at no small expense, and at a later date a frame house at a cost of several hundred dollars. --- After noticing these facts we leave the reader of this article to judge whether there was much time for indolence or for indulgence in immoral or intemperate habits. Here I wish to remark that I never knew my father Joseph Smith to be intoxicated or the worse for liquor, nor was my brother Joseph Smith in the habit of drinking spirituous liquors. Neither did my father's family spend their time or any portion of their time in idle habits. Such was the prevailing circumstances of the family, connected with the want of money and the scarcity of provisions that necessity made an imperativedemand upon every energy, nerve or member of the family for both economy and labor, which demands had to be met with the strictest kind of industry. And no persons speaking the truth can say to the contrary. My father's religious habits was strictly pious & moral -- his faith in the Universal restoration doctrine, however, often brought him in contact with the advocates of the doctrine of endless misery. The belief [in] the ultimate and final restoration of all mankind to heaven and happiness, brought down upon my father the opprobrium or slur of "Old Jo Smith." --- My father's religious customs often become irksome or tiresome to me, while in my younger days, as I made no profession of Christianity. Still I was called upon to listen to prayers both night and morning. My father's favorite [evening] hymn runs thus -- The day is past and gone / The evening shades appear / O may we all / Remember well / The night of death draws near --- Again and again was this hymn sung while upon the bending knees. My parents, Father and Mother, poured out their souls to God the donor of all blessings, to keep and guard their children & keep them [from] sin and from all evil works. --- Such was the strict piety of my parents.
My mother's maiden name was Lucy Mack, not Lucy Mark as Chambers has it in his spurious history of the Mormons. My mother was a praying woman. She with three other members of the family belonged to the Presbyterian Church, of whom the Rev Mr. Stockton [was the] presiding pastor or shepherd. --- My father Joseph Smith's family consisted of six brothers and three sisters. The oldest of the male members of the family was Alvin Smith, the next was Hyrum, Joseph, Samuel, William, and Don Carlos Smith. My sisters' names are as follows: Sophronia, Catharine Lucy Smith. These last named members of the family at this writing are still living in or [near the town of] Colchester, Illinois. --- My father & mother are both dead some 20 years. Since [then] my brothers also are all dead. My oldest brother, Alvin Smith, died on the farm I have named in this account of the family -- died of an over dose of calomel, while having a sick spell of the bilious colic. Hyrum & Joseph was murdered [in] Carthage Jail in Hancock Co., Illinois. Samuel Smith died in Nauvoo, supposed to have been the subject of conspiracy by Brigham Young. Don Carlos died of chills & fever and his remains deposited in the City of the Saints, Nauvoo, where all [of my fatherís family] that are dead, except one, are [now] sleeping in their dusty beds ....
In my previous notes on Chambers history of the Mormons I mentioned two mistakes, or rather errors, [which the writer] is guilty of, while attempting to give a short sketch of the Smith family. Although the subject is of very trite consequence I refer to it in order to show that Mr. Chambers is not only ignorant of the history of the family -- he condemns as immoral previous to the rising up of Mormonism -- but is all together incompetent as a historian to give a true and faithful history of the faith or tenets of that peculiar sect or class of people. --- The correction of the errors alluded to will be seen in the history I propose now to give as the true state of facts. My father was born [and raised principally] in the Town of Topsfield, Mass.; his occupation in early life was that of a school teacher. He was a man well lettered in common branches of our English studies. He also was a teacher of music [by] note to a considerable extent. It was from [him] I learned to sing Old Hundred and Grunvik when I was but a child. After marriage my father engaged in merchandising about the time of the opening of the war in 1812 but not being successful he removed from the town of Royalton, Vermont to the State of NY and settled for a short time in the town of Palmyra. Here my father engaged in a coopering business for a livelihood. --- The times [being] hard just at the closing up of the war, it required much hard labor and toil to gather up a support for the family. At this period of the history there were none of my brothers old enough to render much help to the family in the way of support and manual labor. It is still in my memory -- provisions very high, corn at one dollar fifty cents per bushel, wheat 3 dollars, and not much to be [had] at that price. At a later period we moved into the Township of Manchester, a distance of two miles only (Mr. Chambers has it six miles). Here my father purchased one hundred acres of new land, heavily timbered and in the clearing up of this land, which was mostly done in the form [of] fire. [For] six and seven years it required the utmost exertion [and] industry of the family."
(London: Longans, Green & Co.)
"The Original Prophet"
The Original Prophet.
Among the Mormons commonly, three things only are stated of the founder of their faith -- that an angel appeared to him, that he translated the Book of Mormon by Divine inspiration, and that he sealed his testimony by a martyr's death. And the better informed among them, and even their teachers and apostles, the personal friends of Joseph Smith in old days, have little more to say. I was surprised at the scantiness of the information to be obtained. Mormons of standing like Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Squire Wells, and Miss Snow seemed perfectly willing to tell me all they could recollect about the prophet, but almost all particulars of his method of life, his ways of speaking and acting, had apparently faded from memory, too indistinctive to have left a deep trace. No one could recollect of him those small personal incidents, or characteristic habits, or striking pieces of expression, which are usually treasured so carefully of noted personages. Nor have I succeeded in finding many such particulars in print. It is possible that the Mormons dimly suspect that the less precise their knowledge of the prophet, the more profound their veneration is likely to be.
The accounts of Joseph Smith given by anti-Mormons are similarly barren of such pieces of personal information as might serve to reveal his inner character, and are besides written commonly with a rancour so intense as to impair their authority as statements of fact.
The prophet has left behind a voluminous autobiography; but, to one's disappointment, it is found to consist almost exclusively of a mass of verbose revelations republished in the authoritative Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and forming, with the exception of the Book of Mormon, the most puerile and tedious reading in the world.
I suggested to a number of the leading saints that anecdotes and matters of interest connected with the prophet should be searched for and placed on record before tho generation that knew him has passed away. On one of these occasions the Church librarian at Salt Lake City seconded myproposal earnestly.
'But what is the use of it, brother Campbell,' Apostle Orson Pratt replied solemnly, 'since we shall have brother Joseph among us again soon?'
The example of the Evangelists was urged by some one present. They had been told that some among them 'should not see death' before the Saviour reappeared, yet this did not deter them from writing the Gospels.
'It does not follow that because they were mistaken we shall be also,' was the answer. 'No: brother Joseph will be amongst us again, at least in our children's time.'
There was a general agreement in the descriptions given me of Joseph Smith's personal appearance. He seems to have been a large man, well made, of an unusually muscular development. As a young man he was the great wrestler of the district; and he was fond of showing his strength after he rose to his sacred dignity. His complexion was singularly transparent, his eyes large and full, and very penetrating. When excited in conversation or in preaching his face became 'illuminated,' as Apostle Q. Cannon expressed it,
226 The Original Prophet. [February
and he would say things 'of astonishing depth.' Ordinarily his talk was quiet and commonplace. His manner was generally sedate, but at times he would grow 'buoyant and playful as a child.' It is said that he used sometimes to get excited with drink. It is not denied that he had a strongly sensual temperament. No one who had personally known him would allow to me that he had a specially religious or nervous organisation. His was no brain 'turned by rapt and melancholy musings.' He was no religious fanatic, they insisted. 'All was calm conviction and assurance.'
In Mr. J. H. Beadle's Life in Utah, published in Philadelphia, 1870, one of the most moderate anti-Mormon publications, I find the following characteristic description of the prophet: 'He was full of levity, even to boyish romping, dressed like a dandy, and at times drank like a sailor, and swore like a pirate. He could, as occasion required, be exceedingly meek in his deportment, and then again rough and boisterous as a highway robber; being always able to satisfy his followers of the propriety of his conduct. He always quailed before power, and was arrogant to weakness. At times he could put on the air of a penitent, as if feeling the deepest humiliation for his sins, and suffering unutterable anguish, and indulging in the most gloomy forebodings of eternal woe. At such times he would call for the prayers of his brethren in his behalf with a wild and fearful energy and earnestness. He was full six feet high, strongly built, and uncommonly well muscled. No doubt he was as much indebted for his influence over an ignorant people to the superiority of his physical vigour as to his greater cunning and intellect.'
A large oil-painting of the prophet is carefully preserved in Brigham Young's reception-room at Salt Lake. No malicious report of his enemies is so damning to Joseph Smith's character as that portrait. The face is large; the eyes big, watery, and prominent; the cheeks puffy; the upper lip long, the lips thick and sensual. The chin is small; the cheek-bones are unpleasantly prominent; the forehead recedes in a fashion scarcely human. The prophet has long brown hair, straight, and lumped at the ears. He wears a high collar with a redundant white neck-cloth. The whole appearance of the head, bulky, awkward, ill-set, with bulbous eyes, and the horridly receding forehead, is abnormal, and repulsive in the extreme. A conviction seizes irresistibly on the spectator that it must be the head of a criminal or of an idiot. No believer in the prophet should be suffered to see that painting.
[ added graphic -- not in original 1873 article ]
To avoid a conflict of claims among the cities of America to tin honour of having produced the modern prophet, he is careful to give us in his autobiography full information. 'I was born,' he writes. 'in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, on the twenty-third of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor County. State of Vermont.' Like many another man who has risen to greatness by unaided genius, Joseph Smith came of mean parentage. 'As my father's worldly circumstances were very limited,' he tells us, 'we were under the necessity of labouring with our hands, hiring by day's work and otherwise, as we could get opportunity.' The lowly origin of the regenerator of modern society naturally excites the fervour of the Mormon muse. In her Fragments of an Epic, Miss Snow rapturously exclaims:
Had he been bred in courts, or dandled on
The lap of luxury? Or was
His name emblazoned on the spire of Fame?
1873] The Original Prophet. 227
Nor could he be denominated great
If balanced in the scale of worldly rank.
The history of the migrations of the family has been preserved both in prose and in stately verse:
And blooming cheeks, may boast the honour of
The prophet's birth-place.
Ere ten summers' suns
Had bound their wreath upon his youthful brow,
His father with his family removed;
And in New York, Ontario County, since
Called Wayne, selected them a residence:
First in Palmyra, then in Manchester.
'Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester,' Joseph Smith writes, 'there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country....
'I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father's family were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith.'
'During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness.... La process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect; but so great was the confusion and strife among the different denominations,' that it was not possible to 'come to any certain conclusion who were right, and who were wrong.'
He narrates that in his perplexity a great effect was produced on his mind by the passage in the Epistle of James, 'If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.' 'I reflected on it again and again,' he says, 'knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did.'
He retired to the woods; 'it was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of 1820.' A vision appeared to him: 'I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually till it fell upon me.' Then straightway he 'saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above' him in the air. One of these told him plumply that he was to join none of the churches, 'for they were all wrong; that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight, and that those professors were all corrupt.'
The boy communicated his vision to some Methodist preachers and 'professors.' They took the matter seriously, and argued against his assertions. From that moment his destiny in life as a 'revelator' was fixed. He expresses very naively the effect produced on his boyish vanity: 'It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labour, should be thought a character
228 The Original Prophet. [February
of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most populous sects of the day, so as to create in them a spirit of the hottest persecution and reviling.'
The spectacle of the boy, exposed to the long arguments of the Methodist local preachers and the unbelieving ridicule of his companions, moves deeply the compassion of Miss Snow's great-souled muse:
Of persecution fell upon him, hurl'd
By the rude blast of cleric influence!
Contempt, reproach, and ridicule were poured
Like thunderbolts, in black profusion, o'er
His youthful head.
I have italicised some of the expressions in this confession for a special reason. In the copy of the Autobiography in the Historian's Office, Salt Lake, from which I made these extracts, the words I have thus marked are crossed through with ink. It will be perceived that if the passage be reprinted as thus trimmed, the sense will be much modified. This is but a trivial example of the way in which piety will lend itself to fraud for the honour of religion, and is scarcely perhaps worth mentioning. If Mormonism lives, as it promises to do, the process of purifying and exalting the prophet's character will no doubt be carried to great lengths.
Joseph Smith states that throughout these three years of gaiety and self-indulgence he was 'all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men,' because, he writes, 'I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision.' If neither the prophet's memory nor imagination makes a slip here, he must at this time already hare learnt the lesson that immorality of life could subsist with exceptional religious pretensions.
In September, 1823, Joseph had his second vision. 'A personage appeared at my bed-side,' he says, 'standing in the air.... His whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning.' This was none other but Nephi, the inspired writer of the early part of the Book of Mormon, who had descended to earth to bring the young man the nattering intelligence that his name 'should be had for good and evil among all nations,' and that there existed a book 'written upon gold plates,' containing 'the fulness of the everlasting gospel,' which Joseph would be permitted to translate by means of Urim and Thummim, two stones set in silver like vast spectacles, when the fulness of the appointed time was come.
The vision was repeated three times, and he was told to visit yearly a certain hill, 'convenient to the village of Manchester,' until the plates should be given him. On September 22, 1827, 'the name heavenly messenger delivered them up' to him. During these three years young Smith does not appear to have risen in the public estimation. He is represented as being an idler and vagabond, with a sincere dislike of honest work, and a considerable talent for imposition, cultivated by pretences of the discovery of gold, hidden treasure, and springs of salt and of oil. These charges appear to have been made out conclusively
1873] The Original Prophet. 229
against the young man before various justices, according to a number of 'proceedings' which have since been collected and published.
During my stay in Salt Lake permission was courteously accorded me to copy out a set of such judicial proceedings not hitherto published. I cannot doubt their genuineness. The original papers were lent me by a lady of well-known position, in whose family they had been preserved since the date of the transactions. I reproduce them here, partly to fulfil a duty of assisting to preserve a piece of information about the prophet, and partly because, while the charges are less vehement than some I might have chosen, the proceedings are happily lightened by a touch of the ludicrous.
STATE OF NEW YORK v. JOSEPH SMITH.
Warrant issued upon written complaint upon oath of Peter G. Bridgeman, who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an impostor.
230 The Original Prophet. [February
Yeomans went in search of it; that Smith arrived at spot first; was at night; that Smith looked in hat while there, and when very dark, and told how the chest was situated. After digging several feet, struck upon something sounding like a board or plank. Prisoner would not look again, pretending that he was alarmed on account of the circumstances relating to the trunk being buried, [which] came all fresh to his mind. That the last time he looked he discovered distinctly the two Indians who buried the trunk, that a quarrel ensued between them, and that one of said Indians was killed by the other, and thrown into the hole beside the trunk, to guard it, as he supposed. Thompson says that he believes in the prisoner's professed skill; that the board which he struck his spade upon was probably the chest, but on account of an enchantment the trunk kept settling; away from under them when digging; that notwithstanding they continued constantly removing the dirt, yet the trunk kept about the same distance from them. Says prisoner said that it appeared to him that salt might be found at Bainbridge, and that he is certain that prisoner can divine things by means of said stone. That as evidence of the fact prisoner looked into his hat to tell him about some money witness lost sixteen years ago. and that he desoribed the man that witness supposed had taken it, and tho disposition of the money:It was among an ignorant and credulous people of this kind, capable of believing in the necromantic virtues of a big stone held in a hat, and of treasure descending perpetually under the spades of the searchers by enchantment, a people already prepared for any bold superstition by previous indulgence in a variety of religious extravagances, that Joseph Smith found his early coadjutors and his first converts.
The work of translating the mysteriously-given golden plates lasted two full years. The first edition of the Book of Mormon was published in 1830. During this period a number of contemptible quarrels occurred between the prophet and his helpers, which were all decided in the prophet's favour by verbose tautological revelations of unendurable wearisomeness. The picture given us of the prophet at work is characteristic of the whole business. He would sit behind a blanket hung across the room to screen the sacred plates from mortal eyes, and read aloud slowly his translation, made by the aid of the big spectacles, to a friend who wrote it down. Mr. Orson Pratt told me that 'brother Joseph' ceased to use the Urim and Thummim, however, 'when he became thoroughly embued with the spirit of revelation.'
Martin Harris, afterwards an apostate, was the first transcriber; through his treachery, or that of his wife, or possibly from a desire on their part to put the prophet's pretensions to a test, the new religion came near to perishing in the birth. The earlier portion of the manuscript work was secreted by one or other of the couple. The 'Revelations ' to Joseph Smith on this matter are extremely trying to the patience of a reader. A fragment from the mass will serve as a sample of the character and style of these compositions, and will show how the prophet escaped from, his perplexity.
From the 'Revelation,' May 1829.Behold. I say unto you, that you shall not translate again those words which have gone forth out of your hands; for behold they shall not accomplish their evil designs in lying against those words. For behold, if you shall bring forth the same words, they will say that you have lied; that you have protended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself; and behold, they will publish this, and Satan will harden the hearts of the people, to stir them up to anger against you. that they will not believe my words. Thus Satan thinketh to overpower your testimony in this generation; but behold, here is wisdom; and because I show unto you wisdom, and give you commandments concerning these things what you shall do, show it not unto the world until you have accomplished the work of translation....
And now verily I say unto you, that an
1873] The Original Prophet. 231
account of those things that you have Written, which have gone out of your hands, are engraven upon the plates of Nephi; yea and you remember it was said in those writings that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.
And now, because the account which is emgraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which in my wisdom I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account, therefore you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi down even till you come to the reign of King Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained; and behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi, and thus will I 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.
The result of the unbelief of Martin Harris has been to inflict on the faithful Mormon a still more unconscionable quantity of matter in his sacred book than was originally intended.
With his second amanuensis, Oliver Cowdery, who also finally apostatised, Joseph Smith had likewise much difficulty. On the whole, however, this man proved for a long time sufficiently submissive, and was rewarded by receiving, through the prophet, a number of verbose revelations of the usual tedious character.
It was this man who enjoined the remarkable honour of being associated with Joseph Smith in receiving back to earth the long-lost powers of the apostolic priesthood. On May 15, 1829, in a certain spot in the woods, no less a personage than John the Baptist appeared to these two favoured mortals, placing his hands on them, and ordaining them with these words: 'Unto you, my fellow-servants, in the name of the Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for tie remission of sins.'
Whereupon the two went straightway to water and baptised each other, and immediately 'experienced great and glorious blessings,' and 'standing up, prophesied concerning the rise of the church, and many other things.'
A number of Smiths and others were shortly afterwards baptised, and a small church was already in existence when the new sacred book appeared in print.
The Golden Bible, as this book was called at first, contains an account of the early peopling of the American continent by a colony of Jews; the history of the faithful Nephites; their wars with the Lamanites, a people condemned for their sins to wear red skins, and 'become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety,' the American Indians of our day; the visit of Christ to the Nephites after the resurrection, and the establishment among them of Christianity; the destruction of the Nephites by the heathen Lamanites; the hiding away of the historical plates on the hill Cumorah, where the final stand of the Christian forces was made, and where they were found fourteen centuries after by Joseph Smith. No fuller account of the book is necessary: it can be obtained at a small cost through any bookseller.
This poor performance, a dull and verbose imitation of the English version of the Old Testament, can scarcely bo considered in its conception and execution beyond the capacity of the money-digger and his little clique of helpers. Yet it seems that so much honour is not rightly their due. The real origin of the book appears to be one of the most singular incidents ever connected with the rise of a new faith. The Mormon Bible turns out, apparently, to be a modified and diluted version of a poor historical romance, that could never find a publisher.
It seems that one Solomon Spalding,
232 The Original Prophet. [February
a graduate of Dartford [sic], an unsuccessful preacher, and then a failing tradesman, a writer of unread novels, conceived the idea of writing a romance based on a notion, then somewhat popular in the States,'that the red men were the descendants of the much-abused lost tribes of Israel. The work was completed, and, under the title of The Manuscript Found, vainly offered for publication. The widow of Solomon Spalding declares that the MSS. were placed in a printing office with which Sidney Rigdon was connected. Mr. Patterson, the printer, died in 1826; the MSS. were never recovered. 'Mr. Spalding had another copy,' Mr. Beadle says in his book already quoted; 'but in the year 1825, while residing in Ontario County, N.Y., next door to a man named Stroude [sic], for whom Joe Smith was then digging a well, that copy also was lost. She thinks it was stolen from her trunk. Depositions are given in the New American Cyelopaedia, and in various other works, of a number of persons to whom Spalding had read parts of his romance, who testify to a general resemblance in the plot and style of the history, and in the names employed, with those of the Book of Mormon.
In their turn the Spalding party are accused by the Mormons of having invented this story to cast reproach on a holy work. It is a singular quarrel. I am not aware that any impartial and adequate examination of the alleged facts has yet been made, but this should be done. Failing this, the Mormons or their enemies must bear the stigma of perpetrating a gross imposition, according to our estimate of the moral worth of each party, and of the probabilities of the case.
It has been suggested that the original intention of Joseph Smith and his assistants in the enterprise was simply to publish the altered romance as a commercial speculation, and that they were unfeignedly astonished themselves to find that people were ready to believe in their talked of Golden Bible. Even if this were the fact, it would scarcely add to the strangeness of the origin of this new religion. It is scarcely to be doubted, however, that Joseph Smith's earlier experiences had prepared him to play the bolder part of an inspired prophet.
The new church, established in 1830, increased rapidly in numbers. Tedious revelations, to the Whitmers, Pratts, Sidney Rigdon, and others, thicken. The first Latter-day miracle was performed by Joseph Smith on a man possessed by an unclean spirit. 'I rebuked the devil,' the prophet writes, 'and commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to depart from him; when, immediately, Newel spoke out and said that he saw the devil leave him, and vanish from his sight.'
In 1831, by a revelation through Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, where there existed a flourishing Mormon Church, the mass of the converts were required to go forth through the land by twos, lifting up their voice as the voice of a trump, declaring the word like unto angels of God, preaching the Gospel of immersion in water for the remission of sins. In this particularly long and tedious commission, the following injunction occurs: 'Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.' The idea of plural marriage had not yet dawned on the minds of the leaders.
In June this year a conference of priests and elders was held in Kirtland, when 'the Lord displayed his power in a manner that could not be mistaken. The Man of Sin was revealed, and the authority of the Melchisedec Priesthood was manifested, and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders.'
The preachers were started again on their mission by a revelation,
1873] The Original Prophet. 233
while Joseph Smith, with a small party, set ont in search of a suitable spot for founding a Mormon city. The place was found beyond St. Louis, on the limits of the prairie. 'This is the land of promise,' said a revelation, 'and the place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your God: if you will receive wisdom, here is wisdom. Behold the place which is now called Independence is the centre place, and the spot for the temple is lying westward; wherefore it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the Saints.'
A prosperous settlement was made here by the Mormons in the following year, 1832. The prophet about this time met with a gross indignity: he was tarred and feathered by a mob, on some charges of fraudulent dealing, but really through excited religious feeling. At a conference held in the beginning of 1833 the prophet began to speak in an unknown tongue, and was quickly followed in this miraculous manifestation by many other saints. He then proceeded to wash the feet of some of his followers, 'wiping them,' he writes, 'with the towel with which I was girded.' In February he 'received' the celebrated Word of Wisdom, advising, but not enjoining, an abstinence from wine, strong drinks, and tobacco.
The first expulsion of Mormons took place at the close of 1833. The ordinary settlers in Missouri appear to have disliked extremely their new neighbours, who came in ever-increasing numbers to establish 'Zion.' In a published address they made the formal statement that most of the saints were 'characterised by the profoundest ignorance, the grossest superstition, and the most abject poverty.' They expressed their fear of being 'cut off' by this people, and having their 'lands appropriated.' They said that with the increasing immigration the civil power would soon be in the hands of the Mormons, and that then existence in the place would be intolerable. In the strongest language they begged the Mormon leaders to stop the coming of their people, and to remove the settlement. It is further commonly reported that the people of Jackson County offered to buy the lands and improvements of the Mormons at valuation, 'with an hundred per cent, added thereon.'
The Mormons, not yet aware of the strength of the enmity felt against them, refused to leave; upon which mobs assembled and clamoured, destroyed the Star printing office, and afterwards a number of dwellings, and in November effected the expulsion of the obdurate saints.
During several years the Mormons made settlements in various parts of Ohio and Missouri, but none of these were permanent. Everywhere they managed to excite the strongest religious or political ill-will. Outrages were committed on both sides. Joseph Smith and other of the leaders were charged with treason, felony, and other offences. Smith broke from gaol. The Mormons armed against the State militia, but were overwhelmed. Expelled finally from Missouri, they found refuge in Illinois, then a scarcely-broken prairie wilderness. Here they received a friendly welcome as an unjustly persecuted people.
In the summer of 1839 Nauvoo rose 'as if by magic' in the new State. The name signifies 'in the Reformed Egyptian' The Beautiful. The scattered Mormons rapidly assembled here. The site of the city was determined by revelation, and happened to fall within the limits of a large tract of land of which Joseph Smith had become possessed. The city obtained a charter. Joseph Smith controlled
234 The Original Prophet. [February
all votes, and was elected mayor, a chief justice of the municipal court, and lieutenant-general of the Mormon militia, termed the Nauvoo Legion. When the young boy began looking into the 'dark-coloured stone' in his hat, it is probable that he saw in the future no vision of dignities awaiting him like these.
From the founding of Nauvoo, or perhaps earlier, Smith had entered into equivocal relations with various female saints. His wife became violently jealous. Upon which, in July 1843. the celebrated Revelation on Celestial Marriage was communicated in confidence by the prophet to a number of the leaders in the church. In this composition the examples of Abraham and the patriarchs, of David and Solomon, are cited in favour of the practice of polygamy; Joseph Smith is justified in his past course, and his wife is commanded to yield acquiescence. 'Let mine handmaid, Emma Smith,' says the revelation, 'receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me. And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and no one else. But if she will not abide this commandment, she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord.... And again, Verily, I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses... and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice.'
It would be interesting to discover, were it possible, to what extent Mormonism owed its early success to its professions of exceptional purity, and its promise of a moral as well as a religious reformation. It seems certain that it was esteemed too dangerous a course to let the saints generally know that plural marriage was to be allowed in the church. The new revelation, however, soon began to be talked of, and caused great scandal and disturbance both within and without the Mormon body.
It appears that a number of women solicited by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others, to enter' Celestial ;Marriage,' complained to their husbands, many of whom were Mormons. A Dr. Foster, with one William Law and others, who held themselves injured, hereupon began to publish in Nauvoo itself, in May 1844, a newspaper, The Expositor, to expose the Mormon leaders. In the first number the affidavits of sixteen women were given, testifying to the dishonourable proposals made to them. A tumult arose. A body of Mormons sacked the Expositor office. Foster and Law got away to Carthage, a town eighteen miles distant, and obtained warrants against their injurers. Joseph Smith refused to obey the summons, and the constable who served it was driven from Nlvuvoo. The State Militia was called out on one side, the Nauvoo Legion on the other. Governor Ford hastened to the scene. Seeing the excitement of the Carthage people, he addressed them on the necessity of employing only legal measures. 'The officers and men,' he says, 'unanimously voted, with acclamation, to sustain me in a strictly legal course.' He therefore held himself justified in promising the Mormons protection from violence. He proceeded to Nanvoo and found it 'one great military camp.' The Mormons, trusting to the Governor's promises of security, surrendered to him three cannon and two hundred and fifty stand of small arms. A number of the leaders entered into recognisances to appear for trial, but Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were detained in Carthage Gaol on a second charge of treason. Their end had come.
The bitter quarrel between the Mormons and their enemies was intensified by political jealousies.
1873] The Original Prophet. 235
The Mormons, always voting solidly at the dictation of their leaders, exercised an influence disproportiobed to their numbers. Joseph Smith, intoxicated by a success heyond his wildest imagination, conceived the ambition of becoming the ruler of the United States, if indeed his vanity did not aspire still further. In the spring of 1844 he striously proposed himself as a candidate for the Presidency at the approaching election. The Mormons commenced a most vigorous canvass. Their opponents became more incensed against them than ever. The celestial marriage scandals occurred at the moment to inflame the passions of the Gentile mob to madness. The Mormons deny that the specific charges of Dr. Foster were sustainable. But the revelation itself affords proof that irregularities had occurred, and were to be justified in the new faith.
On the two Smiths being committed to Carthage Gaol a guard was stationed over them for protection. The precaution was necessary, but the guard was insufficient. A mob of one or two hundred men well armed assembled in the evening of June 27, 1844, broke open the gaol, and shot down the two prisoners. John Taylor and Willard Richards, who were in the room at the time, managed to escape. The strange farce had ended in tragedy.
A just and adequate criticism of the character of this extraordinary adventurer remains to be written. He appears to have had one of those energetic natures by which ordinary people are irresistibly attracted and held in willing bondage. Men and women everywhere became his fast friends and his obedient disciples. He must have had, too, an immense power of will, and a wonderful capacity of self-assertion, to have advanced and maintained unflinchingly his preposterous pretensions.
As yet the Mormons are not all convinced that the founder of their religion was a man of blameless character and unsullied life. Brigham Young is reported to have made an admission to the contrary in the following significant language:
'That the prophet was of mean birth, that he was wild, intemperate, even dishonest and tricky in his youth, is nothing against his mission. God can and does make use of the vilest instruments. Joseph has brought forth a religion which will save us if we abide by it. Bring anything against that if you can. I care not if he gamble, lie, swear -- got drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbour's wife every night -- for I embrace no man in my faith. The religion is all in all.'
But the ecclesiastical or mythical judgment of the prophet's character pronounces it great and pure. To the Mormon church of the future he will be the inspired teacher, the exalted martyr, the pure and holy founder of a new Divine revelation. The last section of the authoritative Book of Doctrine and Covenants speaks of him in the following terms:
Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world than any other man that ever lived in it.... He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people, and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his work with his own blood, and so has his brother Hyrum.... They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward, prom ago to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.
On this, one would think, somewhat shaky basis, a human community, famous out of all proportion to its numerical force, has managed and does manage to exist. C.M.