Davis H. Bays
Doctrines and Dogmas...
(St. Louis: Christian Pub. Co., 1897)
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As to the object of this interview all parties are agreed. But as to what was said and done at the time there is quite a difference. The statements of Professor Anthon differ very materially from those made by Mr. Harris. The statement of Mr. Harris has never been verified; in fact, there is no evidence that
he ever made the statement attributed to him. The document is open to at least two serious objections, namely:
1. No competent witness has left his testimony concerning what transpired, except the Professor himself -- no proof that "the words of a book "were presented to Mr. Anthon with a request to read them. If so, who is the witness? and where is his testimony?
2. No competent witness has ever said that Professor Anthon admitted that he could not read or decipher the characters presented to him. If so, who is the witness? when did he testify? and where is his testimony recorded?
These are questions material to the issue. If it transpires that no competent witness has ever testified to the material points in this controversy, the entire case must fail for want of proof. As to the first count in the allegation, it is claimed that, in accordance with Isaiah 29:11, "the words of a book" were presented to Professor Anthon, who was asked to read them, but who, upon learning that a miracle was in some way connected with the discovery of the plates from which the characters were transcribed, and a part of which were sealed, said, "I cannot read a sealed book." (See Presidency and Priesthood, page 203.)
In the circumstances of this visit, it is claimed, were fulfilled that portion of Isaiah's prophecy which relates to "the book that is sealed."
The point we wish to examine in a fair, careful manner is this: Do the facts, as gleaned from the testimony of the witnesses, sustain the allegation? Did Professor Anthon admit that he could not decipher the characters presented to him, as claimed?
As a matter of fact, this is the only answer he could have made in order to meet the demands of this particular case. Had he professed to be able to "read" the words of the so-called "sealed book," the object of Mr. Harris' visit to the Professor would have been signally defeated, and no semblance to a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy would be discoverable.
The terms of this prediction are: "Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed."
The most casual observer cannot fail to notice the striking similarity between the form of words used by Isaiah and that put into the mouth of Professor Anthon by the man who made the so-called report of what he said. This similarity of verbal construction becomes rather significant when we consider the date of the utterance of Professor Anthon and that of the individual by whom it was reported and published.
We have said no competent witness has ever testified to the statement attributed to Professor Anthon. In order to determine this point, let us go to the very bottom of the whole matter, and see if Martin Harris, the man who, it is said, made the visit to Professor Anthon, has ever said one word about it. The statement of Harris is of first importance, as that of any other person, except Professor Anthon himself, would come under the head of "hearsay" evidence, and would therefore be excluded by any court of law on the ground of incompetency.
This remarkable statement appeared for the first time in the church organ, at Nauvoo, Illinois, known as "The Times and Seasons," Vol. 3, No. 13, in the issue for May 2, 1842, and is made, not by Martin Harris, but by Joseph Smith, Jr. Instead of being the testimony of Harris, as it should be to give it
validity, it is but a second-hand statement of Joseph Smith as to what Harris had told him.
If Martin Harris ever made such a statement as that attributed to him, why not produce that statement instead of Joseph Smith's version of it? The very fact of Harris' persistent silence upon a subject of so much importance to those concerned may very properly be construed to mean that he never made the statements attributed to him, and that as a matter of fact they may be, and probably are, but a "revised version" of what he did say, made and published some fourteen years later by an interested party to bolster up an error and a fraud which at the time had obtained a degree of currency that brought it into public prominence.
Produce the published statement of Martin Harris, well authenticated, and it will greatly strengthen this peculiar claim, and at the same time relieve its defenders of the necessity of quoting Joseph Smith's version of that statement. Produce it, and let the world see and read the well-attested statement of Martin Harris himself, over his own signature, that the judgment of an enlightened and intelligent public may be passed upon its merits. From an experience of some thirty-five or forty years in the church, I shall venture the assertion that no such statement of Martin Harris can be produced.
But, for the sake of the argument, let us admit that Harris did present the "words," or characters, to Prof. Anthon, and what do we have? Not a fulfillment of Isaiah 29:11, but the exact opposite, as will appear as we proceed.
Joseph Smith makes Harris to put these words into
Prof. Anthon's mouth: "I cannot read a sealed book."
Every writer who has made any attempt to defend the claims of the Book of Mormon on this ground has urged as an argument full of potency, that the learned professor could not decipher the characters submitted to him. Upon this point Elder Wm. H. Kelley says:
"Both he (Prof. Anthon) and Dr. Mitchell were waited upon by Mr. Harris with a copy of the characters, and they examined them, just as affirmed by Mr. Harris, and as predicted in the twenty-ninth chapter of Isaiah, and eleventh verse, would be done, which is the main point in the investigation, and that neither of them was able to decipher them." (Presidency and Priesthood, p. 205.)
Here we have the affirmation of Mr. Kelley, (and he is considered good authority,) that the "characters" were presented to the Professor, and that neither he nor Dr. Mitchell was able to decipher them, and that their failure to do so is the main point in the investigation." In this declaration Mr. Kelley but repeats the position, and reflects the sentiment of all the leading minds of the denomination from its rise to the present day. With this view of the case firmly fixed in the mind, let us recall the witness, Martin Harris, for re-direct examination:
Question. Mr. Harris, please state what you know of a conversation which is said to have taken place some time in February, 1828, in the city of New York, between yourself and one Prof. Charles Anthon, concerning the translation of certain characters, which it is claimed were presented to him.
Answer. "I went to the city of New York, and
presented the characters which had been transcribed, with the translation thereof to Prof. Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Prof. Anthon stated that the translation was correct; more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those that were not translated, and he said they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic, and he said they were the true characters." (Presidency and Priesthood, p. 202.)
The above statement is held up to the world as the testimony of Martin Harris, but which, as a matter of fact, as I shall show, is but the unsupported statement of Joseph Smith.
While, in their eagerness to make the prediction of Isaiah and the alleged fulfillment agree, they claim that Prof. Anthon could not decipher these characters, said to be Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic, yet Joseph Smith makes Mr. Harris to assert that Prof. Anthon was not only able to do so, but that he actually did "decipher the characters," and told the plain, "simple-hearted farmer" just what the characters were, and that they had been correctly translated, a thing utterly impossible had the professor not been able to "read," or translate, the characters presented to him.
If this part of the Smith-Harris "testimony" can be relied upon as valid, then the twenty-ninth chapter of Isaiah could not possibly have been fulfilled in this event, for the very good reason that the "learned" man of Isaiah's prophecy says, "I cannot read it, for it is sealed." Instead of Mr. Anthon saying, I cannot, he says, I CAN; and, Smith and Harris being the witnesses, he did read it. What, then, becomes of the claim of Mr. Kelley, and other prominent writers,
that Prof. Anthon "could not decipher the characters?"
Did it ever occur to you that this document, so much relied upon to support this claim for the Book of Mormon, is actually self-contradictory? And yet such is the case.
That part of the statement just quoted, says, in substance, that Prof. Anthon could, and in fact did, "read" the words or characters submitted to him by Martin Harris, while the latter part of the statement represents Mr. Anthon as saying, "I cannot read a sealed book."
If Prof. Anthon really examined the characters and declared them to have been "correctly translated," then it is clear to the most casual observer that he must have been able to decipher the characters in which the "sealed book" was said to have been written.
If by his great learning this distinguished professor of languages could translate the characters in which it is claimed the Book of Mormon was written, then it is absurd in the extreme to urge that Joseph Smith, or any other man, should be divinely inspired in order to their translation.
If Mr. Anthon did not decipher the characters presented to him, then his alleged statement or certificate, that said characters had been correctly translated, is absolutely worthless, and amounts to nothing by way of proving what is claimed for the Book of Mormon.
If he did decipher them -- which he must have done in order to render the alleged certificate of any value -- then it does not come within the range of Isaiah's prophecy, for he declares that when the "words "
were presented, the "learned man" should say, "I cannot read them."
On which horn of the dilemma, think you, will the defenders of Mormonism prefer to fall? Either will prove fatal to their cause.
In view of the facts as they appear upon the face of this document, it seems clear that Prof. Anthon never could have made the statement put into his mouth by the Smith-Harris testimony, namely, "I cannot read a sealed book."
This bit of testimony -- if the statement may be dignified by this title -- is rendered incompetent, as the witness clearly and unmistakably contradicts himself upon what Mr. Kelley declares to be "the main point in this investigation." A witness who contradicts himself upon the principal point involved, invalidates his testimony, and is accounted as of no value in the establishment of the question in controversy.
The so-called testimony of Martin Harris having been examined, let us now call the next, and only other witness ever introduced upon this point. Strange as it may appear, this witness is none other than Prof. Anthon himself. His statement is introduced by another party, and for an entire]y different purpose, namely, to disprove the very thing sought to be established by the advocates of Mormonism.
This witness was introduced by E. D. Howe, in a work called "Mormonism Unveiled," published in 1834. The object in publishing this statement of Prof. Anthon was to prove the Book of Mormon a fraud, and the "characters" but a bungling attempt to deceive the credulous.
As this entire case depends upon what both parties
to the controversy call the testimony of Prof. Anthon, it becomes necessary, in order to understand the true status of this question, to here quote such part of the testimony of this witness as relates directly to the subject under consideration. Relative to this matter, Prof. Anthon says:
"Some years ago a plain, apparently simple-hearted farmer, called on me with a note from Dr. Mitchell, of our city, now dead, requesting me to decipher, if possible, a paper which the farmer would hand me, and which Dr. Mitchell confessed he had been unable to understand. When I asked the person who brought it how he obtained the writing, he gave me, as far as I now recollect, the following account. A gold book, consisting of a number of plates of gold fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of gold spectacles. These spectacles were so large that if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to he turned toward one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the human face.
"Whoever examined the plates through the spectacles was enabled not only to read them, but understand their meaning. All of this knowledge, however, was confined, at that time, to a young man who had the trunk containing the plates and spectacles in his sole possession. He put on the spectacles, or rather looked through one of the glasses, and deciphered the characters in the book, and having committed some of them to paper, handed copies to a person outside.
"This paper was in fact a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets, Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes. Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar given by Humboldt." (Presidency and Priesthood, pp. 203, 204, as quoted by W. H. Kelley from E. D. Howe's works, p. 272).
This quotation is made by Mr. Kelley with the view to strengthen the statement of Martin Harris concerning the latter's visit to Prof. Anthon, as will appear from the following:
"This statement of Martin Harris is corroborated and confirmed by Prof. Anthon himself. " (Presidency and Priesthood, p. 203).
We now have before us two several statements, namely, one made by Martin Harris in a second-hand way through Joseph Smith, as touching the visit of Harris to Prof. Anthon in 1828, with a paper containing a transcript of the characters from the gold plates; and another declared to be the verified statement of the Professor concerning the same visit, and his conversation with the "simple-hearted farmer" concerning the plates and characters in question.
It will doubtless be observed that these statements differ materially as to what occurred on that occasion. Harris states that Prof. Anthon declared they were "the true characters," and that said characters were
"Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic," and that Smith's translation of them was correct.
But Prof. Anthon flatly contradicts this statement, as clearly appears from the above quotation. Instead of pronouncing them "true characters," he avers that the paper presented by Harris "was in fact a strange scroll," consisting of "all kinds of crooked characters," with some "Greek and Hebrew letters (as he remembered it) crosses and flourishes," but not one word about either Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian or Arabic. Which of the statements are we to believe?
It is quite apparent that the witnesses radically disagree upon the material points in issue. When witnesses disagree upon a point material to the issue, the credibility of such witnesses must be taken into consideration in order to the arrival at just conclusions.
A witness who has no personal interest in the questions involved, and who is of good moral character, is entitled to full credence. But if the witness be an interested party, or if his general veracity is bad, then his testimony must be received with a degree of allowance commensurate with existing facts.
The only two witnesses in this case are Prof. Charles Anthon on the one hand, and Martin Harris on the other. To apply the above rule (and it is a rule by which courts of justice are invariably governed, and the justice of which is never questioned), let us inquire whether these witnesses, or either of them, were interested, directly or indirectly, in the question now under consideration.
It certainly cannot be maintained with any degree of candor that Joseph Smith and Martin Harris, the
two moving spirits in the "golden plate" scheme, were not directly interested in a matter fraught with so much importance to themselves. If they succeed, bright prospects of both wealth and renown are before them. If they fail, poverty and ignominy are their lot. At the time of this interview they were unknown to the public, having nothing to lose, but everything to gain in the event of success.
On the other hand, Prof. Anthon was a scholar and linguist of great renown, and a gentleman of unquestionable veracity, having in view, as a man of letters, only the development of such facts as would tend to the general advancement of literature and science. Hence, his only interest in this paper handed him by the "simple-hearted farmer" was to arrive at the exact truth concerning the peculiar characters which the paper contained. He had no reputation either to make or to lose in this transaction. The result of the examination could not in the least affect his standing before the general public, either as a gentleman or scholar, and he cannot, therefore, be considered in any sense an interested witness in the case.
This, to the writer, seems to be a fair and impartial view of the matter as it now stands.
I am quite aware, however, that the genuineness of Mr. Anthon's statement, as published by E. D. Howe, is questioned by those interested in the defense of the Book of Mormon, on the ground that Howe was an enemy to the Latter Day Saints. But I confess I do not see how this enmity towards the church on the part of E. D. Howe could in the least affect the statement voluntarily made by the eminent professor. It is unreasonable to believe that an obscure editor of a village paper -- a man whose reputation at the time
scarcely exceeded the bounds of his State -- could exercise such influence as to induce a man of Prof. Anthon's standing to make a statement utterly false and misleading.
Besides this, Prof. Anthon's statement appeared in Mr. Howe's work as early as 1834; and if it had been a vile fabrication -- a malicious, misleading falsehood -- perpetrated by Mr. Howe, as has been charged, the fact might easily have been determined by simply calling Mr. Anthon's attention to the matter, and securing his denial of its truthfulness. Although the professor lived thirty-three years after the publication of Howe's book, having died in 1867, no such denial was ever sought or obtained. The presumption would, therefore, naturally be that Mr. Anthon's statement, as published by E. D. Howe, is substantially, if not circumstantially correct.
Having briefly examined the testimony of the witness, and the source through which it has been transmitted to us, on the one hand, let us now proceed to examine the evidence as presented by the other side, and the channels through which it comes to us.
To begin with, and in order to be perfectly fair, I shall concede the witnesses on both sides to be of good moral character, and that their veracity has never been questioned. As we have already seen, the testimony of Martin Harris and that of Prof. Anthon differ materially on very important points, and hence both cannot be true. It is not deemed necessary to repeat the testimony of Mr. Harris, but merely to examine the channel through which we have received it.
I wish again to call attention to the fact that the statement attributed to Martin Harris concerning his
interview with Prof. Anthon never saw the light of day, so far as the public is concerned, till May 2, 1842, fourteen years after the event is said to have taken place; and it was then made public, not by Martin Harris, but by Joseph Smith, the very man, above all others on earth, the most directly interested.
From the church organ, a weekly paper published at Nauvoo, Ill., of which Joseph Smith was the editor, the following extract is quoted. Joseph Smith says:
"Some time in the month of February (1828) the aforementioned Martin Harris came to our place (in Pennsylvania), got the characters which I had drawn from the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me, after his return, which was as follows: 'I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Prof. Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments.'" etc., etc. (Times and Seasons, No. 13, Vol. 3, May 2, 1842.)
Thus it will be seen that the statement generally attributed to Martin Harris, is nothing more nor less than a repetition by Joseph Smith of what he says Harris told him of the alleged interview with Prof. Anthon. The legal value of this statement, as every intelligent reader knows, amounts to absolutely nothing, and, so far as the testimony of this witness is concerned, the fact is just as far from being proved as if he had never made the statement. Mr. Harris is the only competent witness on this side of the case, and
he never testified -- Mr. Smith simply speaks for him. The best evidence, and, in fact, the only evidence, of which this case is susceptible, would he the solemn affirmation, or what would be still better, perhaps, the sworn statement of Mr. Harris. But no such statement or affirmation was ever obtained from him. Not a scrap of anything Martin Harris ever wrote -- if he ever wrote anything on the subject -- can be adduced in support of this claim concerning his interview with Prof. Anthon.
Every rule, either of law or usage, will exclude Joseph Smith's statement as to what Harris said concerning the Anthon-Harris interview, so long as the testimony of the latter was attainable. Harris lived nearly, or quite, forty years after Mr. Smith's death, in 1844, and his testimony was, therefore, easily obtainable, had he been willing to verify Mr. Smith's statement as made in the Times and Seasons. As he never did this, it is clearly presumable, as well as highly probable, that he never made the statement attributed to him. This view is rendered still more probable when the fact is considered that he denounced Smith and left the church several years before Mr. Smith's death.
The foregoing is a brief summary of the facts as we have them from authentic Mormon sources, and prove beyond all doubt or controversy that the statement always attributed to Martin Harris, as a matter of fact came from Joseph Smith, the so-called translator of the "gold plates."
The testimony is thus shown to be both ex parte and hearsay, and is, therefore incompetent, and hence inadmissible.
These objections do not, and indeed cannot, apply
to the testimony of Prof. Anthon, as presented to the public by E. D. Howe, for the very good reason that he made the statement himself -- it is not Howe's version of it -- directly to the public, and no competent witness has ever attempted to contradict him.
In fact, Joseph Smith, eight years after Prof. Anthon's statement, or affidavit, was made public, was the first and only man to attempt a denial of the matters and things therein set forth, and that, too, in the very face of the fact that he had no possible chance of knowing whether the statements were true or false, he having never met Prof. Anthon, nor corresponded with him on this very important subject.
Did it ever occur to you that the perpetual silence of Martin Harris, and the method of all the leading minds of the church to "fight shy" of Prof. Anthon on this point (not one of them, so far as I know, ever having made an effort to obtain from him a statement confirmatory of their claim), looks just a little suspicious? Does it not look just the least bit like they were afraid his testimony would upset the whole theory? It certainly looks so to me.
The foregoing analysis of the 29th chapter of Isaiah shows most conclusively that the prophecy has no reference whatever to America and its inhabitants, but to Jerusalem and the people of Israel. It is impossible, therefore, that the Book of Mormon can be a revelation from God, "brought forth" in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, or any other Scripture.
All this talk, therefore, about "the book that is sealed," is simply and only "a cunningly devised fable," invented to bolster up a falsehood, and has no foundation in the truth. Not one fact -- and facts
are said to be stubborn things -- can be adduced in its support.
The "words" of a book that is sealed," as well as the "book" itself, were simply employed by the prophet as symbols to illustrate the utter blindness of the Israelitish people, as already shown, and can, therefore, have no possible reference to the visit of Martin Harris to Prof. Anthon, with the so-called words of a book, transcribed from the plates.
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"Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety, that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shewn unto us by the power of God, and not ofman. And we declare with words of soberness, 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 the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we now that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen."
So confident, indeed, are Latter Day Saints that the testimony of these three men cannot be invalidated, or made void, that Apostle Orson Pratt defies the world to refute their testimony concerning the Book of Mormon. He says:
"If he, (Joseph Smith) was sincere, then the Book of Mormon is a divine revelation, and this church must be 'the only true and living Church of Christ
upon the face of the whole earth,' and there is no salvation in any other. This is an immense conclusion, but we can come to no other, the moment we admit his sincerity." (Pratt's Works, Evidences of the Book of Mormon and Bible Compared, page 55.)
Respecting the testimony of Joseph Smith and the three witnesses, Mr. Pratt says:
"No reasonable person will say that these persons were themselves deceived; the nature of their testimony is such that they must either be bold, daring impostors, or else the Book of Mormon is true." (Ibid, page 50.)
Relative to the same matter, President Joseph Smith of Lamoni, Iowa, says:
"The testimony of these witnesses is plain, and of a nature to preclude the possibility of their having been deceived. They could not have been mistaken, hence their testimony is true, or they are liars." -- (Smith's History, page 48.)
Thus the line is drawn, and thinking people are forced to choose between Joseph and Mormonism on one hand, and the entire Christian world on the other; and when these are judged by the results, by their fruits, the choice may with safety be made. If these four men told the truth, then Mormonism is true, and men can only reject it "under the penalty of eternal damnation." Truly, as Mr. Pratt says, "this is an immense conclusion," and yet there is no middle ground. The aggressive methods of Mr. Pratt, Mr. Kelley, President Smith, and in fact all other well-informed Latter Day Saints, force us in dealing with this question, to treat Joseph Smith and the three witnesses, either as saints and absolutely right, or as base impostors and intentional deceivers.
It is rather painful to be driven to such extremes. Christian people would rather believe a man deceived and honestly in error than be forced to regard him as a designing impostor and an unmitigated fraud. But since President Smith and Mr. Pratt inform us that the facts claimed in the present instance preclude the possibility that "these four persons were themselves deceived," we are compelled -- though ever so much against our will -- to treat them as willful deceivers. Deceived or deceivers they most certainly must be, for Mr. Pratt declares, and very correctly as we must admit, that "the nature of their testimony is such that they must either be bold, daring impostors, or else the Book of Mormon is true."
ARE THE WITNESSES UNIMPEACHABLE?With reference to the impeachability of the witnesses Apostle Pratt has this to say:
"But in order to prove that the witnesses of the Book of Mormon are all impostors, it will be necessary to prove that they did not see and hear an angel -- that they did not see the plates in the angel's hand -- that they did not hear the voice of the Lord declaring that they were translated correctly. All reasonable men will admit that it is impossible for any negative testimony to be found to prove directly that God did not send his angel to reveal and confirm the truth of the Book of Mormon; and as there is no direct evidence to negative their testimony and prove them impostors, therefore if it be possible to prove them such it can only be done by some indirect evidence arising from the circumstances of the case, or from the nature of the message itself, as being contradictory to some known truth." (Ibid, page 55.)
From the foregoing it may be seen that this renowned philosopher and apostle of Mormonism takes an intelligent and comprehensive view of the question he discusses. He fully realizes the fact that there is no room for the chief actors in this unique drama to be deceived, and that the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, as well as the authority of the Mormon Church, depends upon the veracity of these witnesses.
Confident he must be of his ability to sustain the veracity of his witnesses, as may be seen by the following:
"These witnesses have neither of them denied the bold and fearless, though humble, testimony which they have sent forth to all nations. No man living can prove that an angel did not appear to them. There is nothing in the nature of the event, nor in any of the circumstances connected with it, that would render it absurd, unscriptural, unreasonable or improbable.... Therefore, no man living has the least authority for condemning these witnesses as impostors. Indeed, there cannot he brought the least shadow of evidence, either direct or indirect, to prove that their testimony concerning the angel is false. Therefore, as their testimony cannot he proved false, the Book of Mormon stands upon a foundation as firm as the rock of ages, and as secure as the throne of the Almighty." (Ibid, page 56.)
Mr. Pratt then reaches his peroration as follows:
"All men among all nations, kindreds, tongues and people are required, under the penalty of eternal damnation, to believe, receive and obey the Book of Mormon, unless they can prove the witnesses thereof impostors. And this they cannot do." (Ibid, page 56.) The italics are mine.
I am now about to admit a fact that I once believed would prove fatal to the position of any man making it, namely: I concede that if the testimony of these witnesses cannot be proved false, that their testimony is flatly contradicted by many known truths, their statement concerning the angel is unquestionably true, and the Book of Mormon, therefore, is a divine revelation.
The reader will doubtless have observed that our admission of Mr. Pratt's conclusions is as frank and unreserved as are the premises from which he derives them. We desire to meet this issue fairly and squarely, having perfect assurance that the truth is mighty and will prevail.
If Mormonism is the embodiment of a revelation from God, let it triumph; but if it be a fraud, a base deception, let it be crushed to earth to rise again no more forever.
Mr. Pratt, as do all defenders of this Mormon dogma, depends upon the inability of his opponents to prove a negative. If the testimony of these witnesses cannot be proved untrue, if these witnesses cannot be proved impostors, then, according to Mormon logic, the Book of Mormon must be true.
Two objections may, with all propriety, be urged against this mode of argument, namely:
First. Every known rule of logic or law requires the party who affirms a matter in dispute to prove, by competent testimony, that which he affirms to be true in a manner so clear as to leave no room for reasonable doubt. Failing in this he simply loses his case, with nobody to blame but himself.
Second. No man is required to prove a negative. This is but the consequence of the above rule.
While under no obligation to do so, yet negative propositions are quite often proved by defendants. Where this can be done it makes a strong case doubly strong.
A negative proposition can be established only by the introduction of evidence to prove a fact which is utterly incompatible with the alleged fact in question. Thus A swears he saw B kill C at a given time and place. This is called direct, or positive testimony.
To prove that he did not kill C as charged in the indictment, B shows by numerous witnesses whose veracity cannot be questioned that at the exact time he is charged with having committed the crime he was fifty miles distant from the place where the crime was committed. B thus proves that he did not kill C, and A's testimony is thereby rendered worthless, while A himself stands impeached. In this case B is said to have proved an alibi.
The circumstances of the case must harmonize in every detail with the facts as they are set up in the petition. If there is one material fact which is incompatible with what is alleged to have transpired, it materially weakens the plaintiff's cause; and if the point in question be fundamental, it utterly destroys it.
Governed by these rules, I shall proceed at once to examine each material point in the testimony of these witnesses, and see if they are in accord with known truths.
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The several counts in this indictment are as follows: These three witnesses claim:
1. That they saw an angel of God descend from heaven.
2. That said angel held in his hand the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.
3. That certain letters or characters were engraved upon these plates.
4. That said letters or characters were "translated by the gift and power of God," and therefore,
5. That the "voice of God" declared unto then that said plates had been translated correctly.
6. That this "record" contains the history of ancient America; and
7. That "the voice of God" commanded them "to bear testimony of these things."
These several points are either true or false. If true, the Book of Mormon is a divine revelation, and the Mormon Church the only church of Christ. If they are false, then the Book of Mormon is a fraud, Joseph Smith and "the three witnesses "were impostors, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a failure.
Mr. Pratt, as we have already seen, presents as a matter of first consideration and importance the fact that neither of the three witnesses ever "denied the bold and fearless testimony which they have sent forth to all nations."
Besides the three witnesses named there were also eight others, four of whom were Whitmers, and three were Smiths, with one Page. These witnesses merely testify to having seen "the plates of which hath been spoken," and which they declared had "the appearance of gold."
They also saw the engravings on the plates which had the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.
In the excerpt which follows, the "eight witnesses" are included. Concerning their defection from the prophet and withdrawal from the church, President Joseph Smith, in his Church History, says:
"It is true that some of them became disaffected during the troublesome times in Missouri, and that differences arose between them and Joseph Smith; but these differences did not occur on account of the Book of Mormon or the testimony before published
Their contention arose from other causes, real or supposed, and did not affect their attitude towards the book.
"Some strong and perhaps harsh statements were made during this controversy, but this only argues that they were not afraid of retaliation by way of exposure of previous frauds." (Smith's History, Vol. 1, page 49.)
I quote the foregoing to show that all Mormon writers of eminence regard the circumstance of these witnesses having remained steadfast to their original declaration concerning the angel and the plates, as being a very strong presumptive evidence of their sincerity, and the truthfulness of what they affirm. This by no means follows. Thousands of men guilty of greater offenses than that of these witnesses (allowing them to have been guilty of perpetrating a fraud) have gone into eternity protesting their innocence when they had been proved guilty beyond the shadow of doubt.
Does the fact that these witnesses stuck to their original story told about the angel prove the story true? By no means. No reasonable man can claim that it can do more than raise the presumption that they may have been sincere; but it by no means proves their sincerity.
If good reason can be shown for believing that silence, or even a reaffirmation of the original story, would be more profitable to them, then instead of confirming the presumption of sincerity, it would most certainly raise a presumption of fraud.
It will readily be granted that if their testimony be true, nothing would be more natural than that they should adhere to their original declarations until the
day of their death. But let us suppose the whole thing was a conspiracy and a fraud; then what would be the probable course of these witnesses?
Would one of them, because he had disagreement with the arch-conspirator, be likely to go out on the streets and denounce his co-conspirator as a cheat, a liar and a fraud, knowing that while doing so he would lay his own hypocritical, fraudulent conduct bare to the gaze of an indignant public? Would he be likely to uncork the vials of his own guilty wrath against his followers, when he knew it would be but the signal for his own exposure to the righteous contempt of an injured public? Hardly.
No such course would be in the least probable. The interest of these four men in keeping their own counsel was mutual. If one suffered, they must all suffer. If one was exposed, all must be exposed. If there is anything in this wide world that a criminal fears and dreads, it is exposure.
The character of this fraud, if fraud it be, is such as to forever ruin the prospects and blast the hopes of any man, or set of men, once the fraud should be made public. For a man to confess his complicity in such a nefarious transaction, would be to confess himself capable of any crime in the catalogue, and would set the mark of Cain upon his brow, and brand his posterity with the ineradicable mark of infamy.
Could either of the witnesses afford to do this? Better, far, to smother their conscience, or at least put it to sleep, than face the storm of indignation that must inevitably follow exposure. So such men would view it.
That these witnesses, during a serious difficulty between themselves, did not expose one another, but
continued to tell the same old story concerning the angel and the plates, proves nothing beyond the fact that the secret that formed the bond of their union was common to them all, and could not with impunity be divulged by either.
Better go down to their graves with a lie upon their lips, than to divulge a secret, the revelation of which would cover their names with infamy, and mantle the cheeks of their innocent children with the blush of shame and regret.
That these witnesses turned away from the church and denounced their leader, is already in evidence. To believe that these men saw an angel, and heard the voice of God to declare that Joseph Smith, by the power of God, had correctly translated the characters on the plates, and then in a very short time turn away from him and denounce him, is incredible. It is unreasonable that any ordinary matter of disagreement should produce such a result. If in company with Joseph Smith these witnesses saw the angel and heard the voice of God, they would have been willing to condone his faults and stand by him through any trial and in any emergency. But understanding his secret, they were unable and unwilling to make allowance for his faults.
Who can be made to believe that, if Oliver Cowdery with Joseph Smith bowed in the lonely wood at noon-tide, and there, in the sweet solitude and grandeur of nature's great temple, received the divine impress of angelic hands in holy ordination, he could ever be induced to turn away and forsake him?
Who can believe that after all this he could bring himself to denounce the prophet called of God to open up the work of the seventh and last dispensation --
even the "dispensation of the fullness of times?"
It is impossible to believe that these witnesses, and especially Oliver Cowdery, knowing that the church organized by Joseph and Oliver, if their testimony is true, must be the only Church of Christ on earth, would deliberately withdraw from it, and live and die without its protecting fold? And yet this is exactly what they did.
If I had seen an angel; if I had heard the voice of God; if I had bowed by Joseph's Smith's side and felt the touch of angel hands in ordination, and heard the declaration that he was a prophet of the living God, all the combined powers of earth and hell could never have induced me to forsake him. And yet this is exactly what Oliver Cowdery did.
No, sir, I cannot believe it -- it is too absurd. These witnesses never saw the angel; they heard not the voice of God, or they never could have pursued the course they did later in life.
President Joseph Smith and apostles W. H. Kelley and Heman C. Smith, are particular to state that they saw David Whitmer and talked with him concerning Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, the other two witnesses, and their attitude towards the Book of Mormon.
I am glad to be able to state that I, too, visited David Whitmer and talked with him on the same subject many years before either of the above named gentlemen had seen him. During the interview I made special inquiry concerning Oliver Cowdery, as I had been informed that he died an infidel. This he informed me was incorrect. He apologized for Oliver's persistent refusal to return to the fellowship
of the church by saying that Joseph Smith's conduct during the troubles in Missouri had rendered Oliver, his brother-in-law, very skeptical, but that he was not an infidel.
It seems impossible that Oliver should become skeptical respecting divine things, or even indifferent towards them, if he had in reality seen what he claimed to have witnessed. Upon the whole the conduct of these witnesses certainly raises the presumption of fraud respecting their connection with the origin of Mormonism.
It is an old saying and a true one, that "actions speak louder than words;" and in this case the actions of these witnesses certainly give the lie to their words.
DID THE WITNESSES REAFFIRM?As to whether these witnesses did or did not reaffirm their former testimony is a matter of indifference, for the reasons already assigned. That David Whitmer did so, and for reasons which directly concerned himself, may not be questioned; but that Oliver Cowdery ever did so is extremely doubtful.
President Smith, in his church history, undertakes to prove that both Cowdery and Harris reaffirm their statement concerning the angel and the plates, but his authority is questionable.
He reproduces from George Reynolds' "Myth of the Manuscript Found," a quotation from the Deseret News, the Brighamite organ of Salt Lake City, a journal by no means reliable in matters of this kind, as the people of the Reorganized Church have ever maintained. The extract refers to a conference of the Brighamite Church held at Council Bluffs, Iowa Oct. 21, 1848, when Oliver Cowdery, it is claimed,
was present, and, in a short address, reaffirmed his former testimony. In this roundabout way he is reported to have said:
"In the early history of this church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils.... I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the prophet, Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' I beheld with my own eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the 'holy interpreters.' That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the prophet." (Smith's History, Vol. 1, page 5o )
Allowing that Oliver Cowdery uttered the exact words as reported, it lacks every important element of his original testimony. His original declaration was that he saw an heavenly angel and heard the voice of God, the only two things in his testimony which are of any value. In his so-called reaffirmation he makes not the slightest reference to either. He simply affirms what I have heard a thousand Latter Day Saints declare, that the Book of Mormon was translated by "the gift and power of God," and was therefore true.
He says not one word about seeing an angel nor hearing the voice of God, the only means of rendering his knowledge absolute and unmistakable.
If Oliver Cowdery ever made that speech -- which is extremely doubtful -- why did he omit the only two
points that are of the least historical or legal importance? Evidently it was because he knew the " testimony of the three witnesses" was false, and he did not care to repeat it.
Now a word concerning Martin Harris. Following is the manner in which this witness reaffirms his testimony. In a private letter to one H. B. Emerson, of New Richmond, Ohio, and as it seems, in answer to questions touching the matter, Mr. Harris is represented as saying:
"SMITHFIELD, UTAH, Nov. 23, 1870.
"Mr. Emerson, Sir: -- I received your favor. In reply I will say concerning the plates: I do say that the angel did show me the plates containing the Book of Mormon. Further, the translation that I carried to Prof. Anthon was copied from these same plates; also, that the professor did testify to it being a correct translation." (Ibid, pages 50, 51.)
Except in a letter to the same person written the year following " by a borrowed hand," in which he reaffirms his testimony concerning the angel and the plates, the above is the only time, so far as the writer is aware, that Martin has ever said anything for the public respecting the matter, and it is the only reference he has ever made, in writing, to his visit to Professor Anthon. Compare the language of this letter with the statement attributed to him by Joseph Smith, on page 224, and you will see at a glance that the language is that of Joseph Smith and not that of the illiterate and "simple-hearted farmer."
David Whitmer was compelled, in order to keep up appearances, to reaffirm his testimony, for the reason that he was himself the president of a Mormon church whose authority was dependent upon the validity
of ordinations performed by Joseph Smith. And to deny his former testimony would be to proclaim himself an impostor, and his church a fraud. And this, for prudential reasons, he could not afford to do.
All the circumstances considered, it would be the wise but selfish policy of those witnesses to allow their secret to die with them, and thus save themselves from ignominy while living, and their posterity from shame and disgrace after their death.
The foregoing facts form the basis for a strong presumption in the minds of persons not previously committed to a belief in the story, that the whole thing was a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the unwary, for the purpose of achieving wealth and renown.
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As already quoted, Mr. Pratt has sought to assure us that "no man living can prove that an angel did not appear to them." The reason assigned by this astute defender of Mormonism is this:
"There is nothing in the nature of the event itself, nor in any of the circumstances connected with it, that would render it absurd, unscriptural, unreasonable or improbable.... Indeed, there cannot be brought the least shadow of evidence, either direct or indirect, to prove that their testimony concerning the angel is false."
As an additional reason why the witnesses cannot be proved impostors, Mr. Pratt tells us just what he thinks must be proved, and which, in his opinion, was utterly impossible. On page 35 of the work last quoted he says that in order to prove these witnesses to be impostors it will be necessary to show:
1. That the four witnesses (which include Joseph Smith) "did not see and hear an angel."
2. "That they did not see the plates in the angel's "hand;" and,
3. "That they did not hear the voice of the Lord declaring that they were not translated correctly."
These propositions, being of a negative character, are more difficult of proof; and at the time he made them (1850) Mr. Pratt no doubt considered it a matter of impossibility that they could be disproved. And this was probably the case at that early day. But the last half of the present century has wrought miracles in the way of revealing the secrets of the remote past.
Keys have been discovered in recent years by which the tombs and temples of ancient Egypt have been made to yield up their hidden treasures of knowledge greatly to the benefit and enlightenment of the modern world.
In 1830, when the Book of Mormon appeared, and in 1850, when Mr. Pratt threw down his challenge to the scholarship of the world to prove the testimony of the witnesses false, comparatively little was known concerning the language and literature of the world's most ancient civilization. A dense veil of mystery, deep and seemingly impenetrable, hung, like the pall of death, over all ancient Egypt. This veil has at last been lifted, the gloom of centuries penetrated, and ancient Egypt to-day stands revealed to the admiring gaze of the nineteenth century. Her language is now as easily read as are the languages of ancient Babylon and Assyria.
The Book of Mormon, while professedly written by Hebrews and their descendants, is said to have been
written in Egyptian. A very unusual thing, indeed, for a writer to abandon his own language and adopt one of a foreign nation, and especially one so little understood as that of the Egyptians.
Relative to this the Book of Mormon says:
"I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;... (and) I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians." (1 Nephi 1:1, page 1.)
"For he (Lehi), having been taught in the language of the Egyptians, therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children." (B. of M page 154.)
Concerning the plates of the Book of Mormon and the engravings upon them, Mr. Pratt says:
"Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin. Each was filled on both sides with engraved Egyptian characters." (Pratt's works, Evidences of the B. of M. and Bible Compared, page 49.)
Martin Harris, it will be remembered, says that the characters were Egyptian. Moroni, who "hid up the record unto the Lord," (see Mormon, chapter 4, page 532) says:
"And now behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge of the characters, which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech." (Ibid, page 538.)
Although altered somewhat, the characters were Egyptian, nevertheless.
There can be no question, then, that the language of the plates was Egyptian. Not the slightest intimation that any other language was ever employed in keeping these records, and hence no other letters, signs or characters could possibly have been used.
The reader will please bear this in mind, as it forms the basis upon which the argument now to be offered is predicated. If the plates were engraved with some other characters or letters, Greek and Hebrew, for instance, the testimony of the witnesses is thereby proved false.
Again, if it should be claimed that not only Egyptian, but other characters or letters, were employed, such as Assyrian, Arabic and Aramaic, and none of these characters are found on the plates, then it follows as an unanswerable fact that the plates are a fraud, and the testimony of the "four witnesses" to the Book of Mormon is therefore proved false beyond question or doubt.
I wish now to lay down as the major premise in this argument a proposition which no man, I care not what his religious faith may be, will care to dispute, namely: Neither God himself nor an angel of his presence can be made a party to fraud and deception; that they can neither by voice nor by their presence give countenance and encouragement to falsehood; that what they shall utter must be absolutely and undoubtedly true.
This fact being conceded, then it must follow as a logical necessity that if God or an angel be represented by men as having sanctioned, approved and affirmed an alleged fact, and the thing alleged or affirmed shall afterwards be proved untrue, then the men who bore such testimony have testified falsely, and are
therefore proved impostors; the very thing that Mr. Pratt says cannot be done.
There remains, therefore, but one question now to be decided, which, in the very nature of the case, must finally and forever settle this matter concerning the testimony of these "four witnesses," and that question is this:
WERE THE CHARACTERS ON THE PLATES EGYPTIAN?In his eagerness to give face to his fraud, Joseph Smith transcribed some of his signs, letters, or characters, and sent them by Martin Harris to Professor Charles Anthon to be translated. This one act of daring egotism has rendered it possible to test this marvelous claim, as it could in no other possible manner ever have been tested.
This identical transcript fell into the hands of David Whitmer, along with the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon (and how this happened the writer has never learned) and was by him carefully preserved. Photographic copies were made of the original, some of which are now extant. Plates have been made and fac-similes printed in various books published by the Mormon Church, among them Smith's Church History and Kelley's Presidency and Priesthood. Concerning its genuineness Mr. Kelley remarks:
"Here is presented a fac-simile of the characters sent by Mr. Smith to Prof. Anthon and Dr. Mitchell by Martin Harris.... These characters were photographed from the original document borne by Mr. Harris at the direction of David Whitmer, who had in his possession at the time said paper. They
were carefully examined and compared by the author."
Relative to the same matter, President Joseph Smith says:
"The paper containing the characters (not translated) which Martin Harris carried to Professor Anthon was carefully preserved, copied and photographed. We have examined them when in the hands of the late David Whitmer. Without further comment we herewith present a fac-similie from a plate used in Presidency and Priesthood by W. H. Kelley. The reader can examine them, compare them with Professor Anthon's statements, examine the evidence, and form conclusions accordingly." (Smith's History, Vol. 1, page 22.)
There can be no possibility of any mistake as to the genuineness of the characters. Made by Joseph Smith's own hand, preserved by David Whitmer, one of the "three witnesses," photographed, printed and published by Mormon authority, precludes the possibility of doubt as to their genuineness.
But one point now remains to be settled, namely: Are these characters Egyptian?
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In order to. satisfactorily determine this important question -- important because fundamental -- the writer pursued the only course by which it is possible to settle a linguistic question, and that is to submit the fac-simile to the most eminent scholars of our time for careful examination.
Unwilling to trust to the accuracy of a transcript made in the ordinary way, I cut the plate out of a
copy of Mr. Kelley's book, and submitted it to a few of the best Egyptologists of the present time, with a request for each to pass his professional opinion upon the unique document. Each of the gentlemen addressed returned a prompt answer, neither of them knowing what the other had said; or, to be more accurate, neither knew that anybody else was to answer the questions, and hence there could be no possibility that the statement of one could be influenced by that of another.
In this manner each depended entirely upon his own knowledge of the question to be considered, and was, therefore, entirely free from any bias that might arise from having previously read the opinions of another, thus securing the independent opinion of some of the finest scholars in the Oriental languages that our country affords.
The accompanying plate, an exact reproduction of Mr. Kelley's photographic copy, will give the reader an opportunity to make a more extended examination should he desire to do so.
To each of the gentlemen whose testimony is submitted herewith, was addressed a letter of explanation and inquiry, substantially as follows:
"DEAR SIR: I herewith inclose what purports to be a fac-simile of the characters found upon the gold plates from which it is claimed the Book of Mormon was translated. The advocates of Mormonism maintain that these characters are 'Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic.'
"So far as I am informed, these characters have never been submitted to scholars of eminence for examination; and as the languages named fall within your province, including Egyptology and Archeology,
your professional opinion as to their genuineness will be of great value to the general reader, in determining the exact truth with respect to this remarkable claim. I would also like your opinion upon the following questions? namely:
"1. Did Hebrew scholars at any time, either before or since Christ, keep their records on tablets, or plates of brass?
"2. If so, did they ever write in the Egyptian language?
"3. Is there any evidence to show that the Pentateuch was ever written upon such plates of brass?
"4. Is there any proof that the law of Moses, or even the Decalogue, was ever written in the Egyptian language?"
In response to this communication, President James B. Angell, of the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, writes:
"REV. D. H. BAYS, Dear Sir: I have submitted your letter and inclosure to our Professor of Oriental languages, who is more familiar with the subjects raised by your questions than I am. He is a man of large learning in Semitic languages and archeology. The substance of what he has to say is:
"'1. The document which you enclose raises a moral rather than a linguistic problem. A few letters or signs are noticeable which correspond more or less closely to the Aramaic, sometimes called Chaldee language; for example, s, h, g, t, l, b, n. There are no Assyrian characters in it, and the impression made is that the document is fraudulent.
"'2. There is no evidence that the Hebrews kept their records upon plates or tablets of brass; but the Assyrians, in the eighth century before Christ, did.
" '3. There is no evidence whatever to show that the Pentateuch was ever written on such plates of brass.' Yours Truly,
"JAMES B. ANGELL."
Ann Arbor, Mich. (Italics are mine).
The question raised by this document is not one of language, but of morals; and why of morals. The answer is obvious. If the characters were Egyptian, as claimed, the question would evidently be one of language rather than of morals. In the careful language of a scholar the writer says, "the impression made is that the document is fraudulent."
A few of the letters, or signs, bear some resemblance to the Aramaic, or Chaldee, yet there is not a word of Egyptian in it. If the story told by these witnesses concerning the angel be true, the characters on these plates must be Egyptian; otherwise the witnesses are proved to be impostors.
Relative to the characters on the plates, Chas. H. S. Davis, M. D. Ph. D., of Meriden, Conn, author of "ANCIENT EGYPT in the Light of Recent Discoveries," and a member of the American Oriental Society, American Philological Society, Society of Biblical Archeology of London, Royal Archeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, etc., etc., in answer to the letter of inquiry addressed to him, writes as follows:
"REV. D. H. BAYS, Dear Sir: I am familiar with Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic, and have considerable acquaintance with all of the Oriental languages, and I can positively assert that there is not a letter to be found in the fac-simile submitted that can be found in the alphabet of any Oriental language,
particularly of those you refer to -- namely, Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic.
"A careful study of the fac-simile shows that they are characters put down at random by an ignorant person -- with no resemblance to anything, not even shorthand.
"No record has ever shown that the Hebrews, or any other Eastern nation, kept their records upon plates or tablets of brass, but thousands upon thousands of tablets of baked clay have been brought to light, antedating two or three thousands years, before the time of Moses, while libraries of these baked clay tablets have been found, like those at Tell el Amara. At the time the Old Testament was written paper made from papyrus was in use, and as documents have been found in Egypt of the times of Moses, written on papyri, it is not unreasonable to suppose that we may find yet portions of the Old Testament.
"The treasures of Egypt and Palestine are only just being brought to light. Remarkable discoveries are yet to be made. Respectfully,
"CHAS. H. S. DAVIS."
Comment seems useless. Here we have the testimony of one of the most profound scholars of our times, who declares positively, upon his reputation as a gentleman and scholar, that there is not a letter to be found in the fac-simile submitted that can be found in the alphabet of any Oriental language, especially naming the "Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic."
This declaration is so perfectly clear and unequivocal that no misunderstanding can possibly arise concerning its meaning.
Dr. Charles E. Moldenke, of New York, now in the Orient, and concerning whom Dr. Davis says, "He is probably the best Egyptian scholar in the country," confirms the statements above presented, as the following letter shows:
"JERUSALEM (Palestine), DEC. 27, 1896.
"REV. D. H. BAYS, Dear Sir and Brother: Your letter dated Nov. 23rd I have just received. I will try to answer your questions as far as I am able. I believe the plates of the Book of Mormon to be a fraud.
"In the first place it is impossible to find in any old inscription, 'Egyptian, Arabic, Chaldaic and Assyrian,' characters mixed together. The simple idea of finding Egyptian and Arabic side by side is ridiculous and impossible.
"In the second place, though some signs remind one of those on the Mesa Inscription, yet none bear a resemblance to Egyptian or Assyrian.
"As far as I know there is no evidence that the Hebrews kept records on plates of brass, or ever wrote on such plates. About the prophecy contained in Isa. 29:1-14, I can venture no opinion, as I am not a Biblical scholar, and only concern myself about Egyptology. Very Truly Yours,
"CHARLES E. MOLDENKE.
TESTIMONY OF THE WITNESSES COMPARED -- SCHOLARSHIP VS. IGNORANCE.The witnesses, four in number, which include Joseph Smith, all agree in their declaration that an angel of God appeared to them, holding the plates in his hand, and that they heard the voice of God out of heaven, declaring that Joseph Smith had translated
the plates correctly. These witnesses say that the plates contained "Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic" characters. (See pages 224, 225.)
Orson Pratt says that these plates were "filled on both sides with engraved Egyptian characters." Hence, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Chaldaic and Arabic characters were necessarily found mixed together -- found side by side. Concerning this Dr. Moldenke, a specialist in Egyptology, says:
"The simple idea of finding Egyptian and Arabic side by side, is ridiculous and impossible."
This proves that the document presented to Professor Anthon by Martin Harris was fraudulent. As it is impossible for Egyptian and Arabic to be found "side by side," Egyptian and Arabic were not found on the plates; and if they were not found "side by side" on the plates, then the three witnesses were deceivers and Joseph Smith an impostor.
Two of these witnesses, namely, Joseph Smith and Martin Harris, say that some of the characters transcribed from the plates were "Assyrian." But this is flatly contradicted by President James B. Angell, who says: "There are no Assyrian characters in it."
Relative to the characters submitted to him Dr. Davis declares:
"I can positively assert that there is not a letter to be found in the fac-simile submitted that can be found in any Oriental language, particularly those you refer to, namely, Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyrian and Arabic," and concludes by saying:
"A careful study of the fac-simile shows that they are characters put down at random by an ignorant person, with no resemblance to anything, not even short-hand."
All these scholars agree that the characters are fraudulent, and that there is not a single character, letter, or sign, in the fac-simile made by Joseph Smith that has even the slightest resemblance to the Egyptian.
Thus the testimony of three witnesses to the Book of Mormon is flatly contradicted by the testimony of an equal number of the best scholars of our country and our times.
Three men say an angel exhibited certain "plates" to them, and that these plates were "engraved with Egyptian characters" (Pratt) and contained the record of events that are said to have transpired upon this continent, -- that these plates had been translated by the "gift and power of God," and that the Book of Mormon is the result of this translation.
The Book of Mormon confirms this declaration by saying the plates from which it was translated were engraved or written in Egyptian.
These three men also state that the voice of God commanded them to " bear record of these things." The testimony of three scholars of great eminence shows most conclusively that not one word, not one character, found in the fac-simile is Egyptian, thus proving, not only that the characters were fraudulent, but that the witnesses testified falsely, thus proving exactly what Mr. Pratt and all Latter Day Saints declare could not be proved, namely, that the witnesses were impostors.
The witnesses having sworn falsely, their testimony is invalidated -- they stand impeached before God and man; and their names must go down in history as being the most daring, wicked impostors the world ever knew.
In conclusion upon this part of our subject, we simply submit that this whole Mormon question is purely a question of veracity? Mormonism comes to us and demands recognition as a revelation from heaven, upon the testimony of three interested witnesses -- witnesses whose ignorance of the facts raised by the question of language involved renders them wholly incompetent.
The witnesses, however, did not pretend to be Egyptian scholars, and therefore say that God told them by his own voice that the plates had been translated correctly. This, they urge, was their only means of obtaining the knowledge which they claim to possess. As there is no possibility that these witnesses could themselves be deceived, their statement is either unquestionably true or absolutely false.
Three witnesses, whose veracity and competency is simply placed beyond question, have testified that there is not a word of Egyptian found among the characters submitted to them for examination.
All Mormon authority unites in declaring that the plates of the Book of Mormon were written in Egyptian. Joseph Smith says he made a transcript of the characters found on the plates.
These characters were submitted to Professor Anthon, who, according to the Smith-Harris statement, declared them to be Egyptian. But this the Professor denied. The fac-simile made by Joseph Smith was carefully preserved by David Whitmer. Mr. Kelley secured the photographic copy from which his plate was made. This identical fac-simile plate was submitted to three eminent scholars, whose testimony is herewith submitted, and these scholars declare
there is not an Egyptian character in the entire transcript.
The Book of Mormon says the plates taken from Laban by Nephi contained the "five books of Moses" (see B. of M. page 15; also page 149) and that they were written on plates of brass. The scholars, in answer to questions as to whether the Hebrews ever kept their records on such plates, uniformly declare they never did, and that there is no evidence to show that the Pentateuch was ever written on such metallic plates. They further say the Pentateuch was never written in Egyptian.
THE PLATES OF BRASS.The Book of Mormon minutely describes the circumstance of Nephi's return to Jerusalem, in company with his brothers, and the means employed to obtain possession of certain "plates of brass " which were the private property of a prominent Jew named Laban. In order to get these plates, Nephi slew Laban with his own sword, literally severing his head from his body, and then quietly donned the murdered man's apparel. In this disguise he returned to the palace, and by assuming Laban's voice, succeeded in deceiving the servant who had charge of the keys to his master's treasury, and through him obtained the coveted prize.
Zoram, Laban's servant, accompanied Nephi to the place where his brethren were concealed outside the walls of the city, where he was seized by Nephi, who gave the unfortunate man his choice between death and captivity. Rather than forfeit his life, the servant of Laban accompanied them into the wilderness,
and became one of their number. (See Book of Mormon, pages 12-14.)
These plates were said to contain "the five Books of Moses," and "also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; and also the prophecies of the Holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah." (Ibid, page 15. )
This circumstance would not in itself appear remarkable were it not for two alleged facts connected with it, namely:
1. That the Pentateuch, together with the prophecies, were written on "plates of brass;" and
2. That they were written in Egyptian.
If this so-called record had stopped at this, the fraud would have been less transparent, and not so easily detected, but, as if to cap the climax of historical absurdity, it goes back to the period of Joseph's sojourn in Egypt, and represents the favorite son of Jacob as having written a wonderful prophecy relative to the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage under the leadership of Moses.
These "plates of brass" revealed the further fact that Lehi was himself a descendant of Joseph. Not only did Joseph prophecy that God would raise up Moses, through whom Israel should he redeemed from the bondage of Egypt, but he told also of "a choice seer" who should arise in the last days to lead his posterity out of bondage. Concerning this modern Moses, Lehi says:
"Yea, Joseph truly said, thus saith the Lord unto me: a choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of
thy loins,... and I will make him great in mine eyes.... And he shall be great like unto Moses." "And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded.... And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me." (Book of Mormon, pages 66, 67.)
Thus it is made plain that this wonderful "seer" should be known among his fellows as Joseph, which was also to be the name of his father.
With the addition of the rare and euphonious cognomen of "Smith," this remarkable prophecy of Jacob's fortunate son could, by no possible means, have been misunderstood. But even as it is, no reader of ordinary intelligence can fail to understand that "my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr.," was the individual whom the original Joseph had in mind at the time he engraved the burning words of this great prophecy upon these "plates of brass." How fortunate that the words of this prophecy have been thus miraculously preserved, and handed down from father to son in a direct line from the great progenitor, to bless the inhabitants of the earth in the closing decade of the nineteenth century! Who can now wonder that the prophet-angel Moroni should gladly leave the shining courts of glory and joyously wend his way to earth, to make known the hiding-place of such a treasure?
That this prophecy was written on the plates of brass which Nephi murdered Laban to obtain, may be seen from the following:
"And now, I, Nephi, speak concerning the prophecies of which my father hath spoken, concerning
Joseph, who was carried into Egypt. For behold, he prophesied concerning his seed... and they are written upon the plates of brass." (Ibid, page 68.)
One would naturally suppose that the Israelites would keep their records in the language of their fathers -- the Hebrew. But not so. Joseph, the son of Jacob, wrote this prophecy in Egyptian, and both the Pentateuch and the prophecies, which were said to have been found on these plates, were written in the Egyptian language, as may be seen from the following:
"And he (King Benjamin) also taught them (his three sons) concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying, My sons, I would that ye should remember, that were it not for these plates,... we must have suffered in ignorance, even at the present time, not knowing the mysteries of God: for it were not possible that our father Lehi could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates: for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians, THEREFORE he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children." (Ibid, pages 153, 154.)
From the foregoing it is impossible to dodge the fact that the brass plates under consideration were written in the Egyptian language, and contained the "five Books of Moses" and the writings of all the prophets, including Isaiah, down to the time of the Babylonian captivity. This claim is either true or false. If the Hebrews kept their records on "plates of brass," and if such records were written in Egyptian and not in Hebrew, then the Book of Mormon may be true. But if it can be shown that brass
tablets were never used by the Hebrews in keeping their records, and that they never wrote in the Egyptian language, then the statement made concerning the brass plates in question cannot be true, and the Book of Mormon must, therefore, be a transparent fraud. In order to determine this matter, we have but to ascertain what are the facts relative to the following questions:
1. Is it historically true that the Hebrews ever wrote on tablets or "plates of brass?"
2. If so, did they ever write in the Egyptian language?
3. Were the "five books of Moses" ever written upon such plates of brass?
4. Were the "law and the prophets," or any portion of them, ever written in Egyptian?
In answer to a letter of inquiry addressed to President William R. Harper, of the University of Chicago, that distinguished scholar says:
"To your first three questions I would give the answer, NO. With regard to the fourth, the Pentateuch was transmitted in Coptic some time between the third and tenth centuries, A. D., but was never written in Egyptian before that time." (Italics mine).
With the above statement Ira Maurice Price, Ph. D., of the University of Chicago, is in perfect accord. He says:
"There is no such instance on record among the Hebrews, nor among other nations about the Hebrews. No evidence that they ever did write in the Egyptian language."
Relative to the same questions President James B. Angell, University of Michigan, says:
"There is no evidence that the Hebrews kept their
records upon plates or tablets of brass. There is no evidence whatever to show that the Pentateuch was ever written on such plates of brass."
To the testimony of these gentlemen we might add that of a number of others, but to do so would be wholly superfluous, as their reputation for ripe scholarship is world-wide and unquestionable.
From the foregoing we glean the following facts:
1. The Hebrews never kept their records on "plates of brass."
2. No Hebrew records were ever kept on tablets of brass, or any other substance, in the Egyptian language, and
3. The Pentateuch was never written in Egyptian prior to the Christian era.
Conclusion: As the Book of Mormon declares the Pentateuch was written on plates of brass, and in the Egyptian language in the year 600, B. C., and as no such thing was ever done, the Book of Mormon is thereby proved a fraud, and Mormonism a delusion.
If the "five books of Moses" (a purely modern phrase) were never written on "plates of brass," this fact furnishes another link in the chain of evidence that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. The question now stands thus:
THE TESTIMONY OF THREE GREAT SCHOLARS,
Mormonism is not true. And if Mormonism is not true, then the three witnesses were deceivers, Joseph Smith was an impostor, and the Mormon Church a fraud. There is no possible means of escape from this conclusion. "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve."
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Man fell through disobedience to a specific law, we are told, and he can only be redeemed through obedience to a law whose terms are equally definite. The particular elements of this law, they assure us, may be found in the following Scriptures:
" Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9.)
(pages 278-290 not yet transcribed)
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(pages 291-302 not yet transcribed)
[ 303 ]
(pages 303-317 not yet transcribed)
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The writer has had ample opportunity to observe the practical workings of the system under the auspices of two different and widely separated Mormon churches, namely, Lyman Wight, in Texas, in 1847, and James J. Strang, of Beaver Island, Mich., in 1854.
Lyman Wight was one of Joseph's trusted apostles. He believed in nothing and in nobody quite as firmly as he believed in the prophet, in whom he reposed
the utmost confidence. While the prophet lived "Brother Lyman" would do nothing without his approval, and would dare anything Joseph Smith counseled him to undertake. The following characteristic remark serves to illustrate the blind confidence this apostle reposed in his leader. On one occasion, while extolling the virtues of the prophet, Lyman Wight said:
"Why, brethren, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God; and if he had told me to go to hell on horseback and preach to the 'spirits in prison,' I should have started at once, believing it to be the will of God."
This well illustrates the power which Joseph Smith exercised over the vast majority of his followers. Men who would not submit to the prophet's will, and especially when that will was expressed in the form of a revelation from God, as most of his principal schemes were, sooner or later sought a more genial atmosphere and withdrew from the church, as did Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmers, the Laws, and other prominent men of the church.
Immediately after the church was organized on April 6, 1830, Joseph, in order to secure and retain the absolute control of all matters pertaining to the church, received the following revelation
"Behold, there shall he a record kept among you, and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed to all his words, and commandments, which he shall give unto you, as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
for his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth in all patience and faith." (Doc. and Cov., sec. 19, par. 1, 2, page 102.)
A few years later such of Joseph's revelations as were considered of general importance were compiled by a committee, of which the prophet himself was chairman, and published in a volume known as the book of "Doctrine and Covenants." (See Smith's History, vol. 1, page 578.)
In August, 1835, these revelations were received and made binding upon the membership of the church by the action of a "general assembly" held at Kirtland, Ohio, as the following excerpt shows:
"The assembly being duly organized, and after transacting certain business of the church, proceeded to appoint a committee to arrange the items of doctrine of Jesus Christ, for the government of his church of Latter Day Saints." (Ibid, page 572.)
"Afternoon. -- President Cowdery arose and introduced the 'Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Latter Day Saints,' in behalf of the committee. He was followed by President Rigdon." (Ibid, page 573.)
The presidents of the different Quorums, and others, each "bore record to the truth of the book," declaring he knew the revelations were from God; and finally,
"The venerable Assistant President, Thomas Gates, then bore record of the truth of the book, and with his five silver-headed assistants and the whole congregation, accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith by a unanimous vote." (Ibid, page 575. See also Doc. and Cov., page 4, General Assembly.)
At a semi-annual General Conference of the Reorganized Church, held at Galland's Grove, Iowa, Sept. 20, 1877, similar action was had. By the actions of these assemblies every member is bound to accept Joseph Smith's word as the word of God. To question what he says with a "thus saith the Lord" attached to it, is to question the word of the Lord, and few Latter Day Saints have the moral courage to do this. Hence the servility of the Saints to the mandates of the prophet.
Under such circumstances it is not a matter of astonishment that people can be led into believing anything a prophet may declare. When a people can bring themselves to that point where they are willing to accept the word of a man as being equivalent to the word of God, they have reached a condition of mental servitude fitting them for a willing submission to anything and everything the prophet may declare in the name of the Lord, it matters not how wicked or how absurd. Thus the women of Utah were willing to submit to the heart-crushing sorrows and shame which polygamy entailed, simply and only because they believed the "revelation" (!) which authorized the abomination came through a prophet of God. Their higher and better natures protested against it; their souls abhorred it; the higher and nobler instincts of their pure womanhood cried out against the abomination; but, believing their eternal salvation depended upon submission to the wicked mandates of the soul-destroying monstrosity, they yielded; for what sacrifice will a faithful Christian woman not make in order to secure everlasting life?
That Joseph Smith both taught and practiced polygamy was never doubted, so far as I am aware, till it
was questioned by the people of the Reorganized Church, of which Joseph Smith, son of the prophet, is the president. If his father was in no way responsible for the introduction of a practice into the church which would stain the fair name of both his family and the church, it is eminently proper that a devoted son should do all in his power to repel the calumny and place the responsibility where it rightfully belongs.
And, on the other hand, had Joseph Smith either from the volitions of his own nature, or through the over-weening influence of wicked and designing men, been led into error and sin, it is but natural that the son should seek, in an honorable way, to parry the fatal blow, and let it fall as lightly as possible upon the heads of the innocent. For doing this President Smith will not be censured by fair-minded people, for in doing so he is but pursuing a course which would be adopted by almost anybody else under like circumstances. From a long personal acquaintance with President Smith I take great pleasure in saying I regard him as a most excellent and sincere Christian gentleman, and worthy of the respect and esteem of all good people. If he believed his father to have been the author of the infamous revelation on polygamy, he possesses both moral courage and Christian manhood to denounce it in the roundest terms, and would neither by word nor deed seek to justify even his father, whose memory he holds sacred, in the introduction of a doctrine alike soul-destroying to men and dishonoring to God.
It matters not what the father may have done, for his deeds the son must not be held responsible. Eating sour grapes can no longer set the children's teeth
on edge. We live in an age of progress, and of individual responsibility.
In the discussion of this question I shall endeavor to present such facts as are in my possession, together with my personal observations, and let the reader judge for himself as to whether Joseph Smith, Jr., was the author of Mormon polygamy.
A GRADUAL GROWTH.Mormon polygamy did not spring suddenly into existence, as a tenet of the church, but, like many other ideas and dogmas of the Saints, it was an afterthought, if not an evolution. The seed from which the pernicious weed sprang, was certainly planted after the publication of the Book of Mormon, in which it is most strongly denounced, as will appear from the following:
"Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.... Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken unto the word of the Lord: for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines you shall have none: for I, the Lord God, delighteth in the chastity of women." (B. of M., Jacob, chapter 2, page 127.)
Joseph Smith here represents his ideal Nephites as seeking to justify themselves in the practice of polygamy on the ground that David and Solomon had many wives and concubines; but the good prophet Jacob assured them that it was an abomination in the Lord's sight, and ever had been; and that God would not tolerate the evil. How Latter Day Saints, while professing to believe in the divinity of the Book of Mormon, could so soon lose sight of its teachings
and endorse a principle so clearly antagonistic to its precepts, is one of the anomalies of Mormonism, and shows that the word of a so-called inspired prophet has a vastly greater influence over Latter Day Saints than does the written Word of God.
At just what period this excrescence of Mormonism appeared and became the dream of its leaders, may never be known; but of one thing we are quite sure, and that is the Saints were at an ear]y date reproached by their enemies, as they deemed the people of all other churches, with "the crime of fornication and polygamy." What gave rise to this reproach is very largely a matter of conjecture; but it is probable that something either in their teachings or their conduct (probably the latter) led people, who viewed things from the outside, to believe that the lives of their leaders were not as pure as the title, "Latter Day Saints," would lead one to suppose them to be. This feeling was, no doubt, materially intensified by the strong prejudices of the people generally, but that their suspicions were wholly groundless, subsequent developments forbid us to believe.
A prejudice nearly as strong as that which existed against the Saints was also fostered by other denominations towards the Disciples of Christ, a denomination of Christians which had its rise about the same time, under the leadership of Alexander Campbell; yet these people were never reproached with the crime of polygamy, or any other form of vice and immorality. Hence, we feel warranted in the belief that had there been nothing in the conduct of the Saints to give rise to such suspicions, no such charges of immorality would ever have been made. And then again, had there been no foundation in fact
for these charges, it is altogether probable the sentiment would ultimately have died out, and polygamy among the Mormons would never have become one of the established facts of history. But since the belief of their guilt only grew stronger with the passing years; and since polygamy became an acknowledged fact in Mormon history as early as 1843, it amounts to a very strong presumptive evidence that the charge so early made against the Saints had its foundation in fact. They were charged with polygamy at as early a day as August, 1835, as may be seen from the following article on marriage:
"MARRIAGE.""1. According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies; therefore we believe that all marriages in this Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose; and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church if it be their determination to do so, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
"2. Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the Holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he
shall say, calling each by their names: 'You both mutually agree to be each other's companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.' And when they have answered 'Yes,' he shall pronounce them 'husband and wife' in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: 'May God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.'
"3. The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages solemnized in his branch.
"4. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and Polygamy: we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or to be baptized, or to leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin." (Smith's History, Vol. 1, pages 575-6. Also Doc. and Cov., Sec. 111, page 329.)
This article on marriage -- which I have quoted entire --
was presented before a "General Assembly" at Kirtland, Ohio, August 17, 1835, and by the action of that body became one of the articles of church government, and was ordered printed as a part of the "Doctrine and Covenants" of the church.
This article shows that at that early day the church had been charged with "the crime of fornication and polygamy." The adoption and publication of this article on marriage was designed to serve the two-fold purpose of refuting the charges of polygamy, and at the same time counteract the influence of the charge upon the public mind. Upon its face, the article, especially that portion which includes the marriage ceremony, seems absolutely to prohibit polygamy; and yet, strange to say, this identical ceremony has been employed in every polygamous marriage performed in the endowment house in Salt Lake City during the palmy days of Brigham Young, and, in fact, by every other polygamous branch of the Mormon Church.
Upon the surface there seems no possible loop-hole to admit polygamy, but upon a careful examination it will be seen that such is not the case. Let us examine the document a little more close]y.
Why should all marriages be "solemnized in a public meeting, "or a feast prepared for that purpose, which is also public? Clearly it was for the purpose of creating the impression that no secret marriages ever had been or ever would be performed with the approval of the church. All polygamous marriages, up to the time of the exodus to Utah, were of necessity performed in secret, in order to evade the punishment which the law of every State prescribed.
Church clerks were to make a record of every marriage
performed in the manner described, but of clandestine marriages he could make no record, not having legal knowledge that such marriage had been performed.
Again, you may have observed the ingenious phraseology of that part of the document which is designed to convey the impression that the assembly, as well as the entire church, was opposed to polygamy, but which, as a matter of fact, leaves the way open for its introduction and practice. The language I refer to is this:
"We believe that one man shall have one wife; and one woman but one husband." Why use the restrictive adverb in the case of the woman, and ingeniously omit it with reference to the man? Why not employ the same form of words in the one case as in the other? Of the woman it is said she shall have but one husband. Why not say of the man, he shall have "but one wife, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." We repeat the question with emphasis, Why not restrict the man to one wife in the same manner that the woman is restricted to one husband? The reason seems obvious.
As we have already stated, polygamy was a plant whose seed was rather slow to germinate, but which soon spring into vigorous life when once its head was above ground. As early as October, 1842, the existence of what was called the "secret wife system," was made public at Nauvoo, Ill., through the apostasy of Gen. John C. Bennett, who was about that time expelled from the church. General Bennett was a man of prominence in the church, and a personal friend of Joseph Smith's up to within a short time before the trouble originated which separated them.
Just what caused the difficulty I have never been able to learn, but that it was of a very grave character may be seen from the history of those times.
The "Nauvoo Legion," of which Joseph Smith was the General-in-Chief, was said to be the finest military organization in the State of Illinois. On the 9th of May, 1842, the Legion was on parade, and was reviewed by "Lieutenant-General Joseph Smith, who commanded through the day. "There were present at this grand review of the Legion a number of prominent men, among whom were Judge Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois, and James Arlington Bennett, of the New York Herald. "In the afternoon the Legion was separated into cohorts, and fought an animated sham battle," during which General John C. Bennett commanded. Concerning the incident that occurred on this occasion, Tullidge, Joseph's historian, says:
"But a somewhat startling view is also brought to light in the significant fact that Gen. John C. Bennett repeatedly requested the Prophet to take part in the sham battle, urging him in one instance to command the first cohort in person, without his staff." (Tullidge's History, page 394.)
The interpretation which the prophet put upon the conduct of Gen. Bennett, is shown by his own words, as follows:
"If General Bennett's true feelings towards me are not made manifest to the world in a very short time, then it may be possible that the gentle breathings of that Spirit, which whispered me on parade that there was mischief concealed in that sham battle, were false. A short time will determine the point. Let John C. Bennett answer at the day of
judgment: Why did you request me to command one of the cohorts, and also to take my position without my staff during the sham battle on the 7th of May, 1842, where my life might have been the forfeit, and no man have known who did the deed?" (Ibid, page. 395.)
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One of the objects in making the quotations is stated by Mr. Smith as follows:
"To rebut some affidavits of some who have sworn that a different marriage ceremony (from that given in the article on Marriage, already quoted) was known and practiced as early as 1840." (POLYGAMY, Was it an Original Tenet of the Church? by A. H. Smith, page 5).
But the documents quoted, so far from proving what he undertakes to establish, only serve to confirm the rumors which had been currently circulated for several years concerning the secret existence of
(pages 332-371 not yet transcribed)
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The controversy thus raised continued for years,
culminating in 1886 in a correspondence between President Joseph Smith, of Lamoni, Iowa, and Elder L. O. Littlefield, of Salt Lake City. The documents produced by Mr. Littlefield were later published in tract form entitled,
"In the History of Joseph Smith, under date of October 5, 1843, can be found the following:
"Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching or practicing the doctrine of plural wives; for according to the law I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I have constantly said that no man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord direct otherwise."
It may be a matter of interest to the reader to know that the Manuscript History of Joseph Smith (as written by himself) at the time of his death fell into the hands of the leaders, and was taken by them to Salt Lake City; and it is from this record the foregoing extract was taken by Mr. Littlefield. And how perfectly it harmonizes with both the text of the "revelation," and the statemeut of Elder Marks. No man but Joseph held the "keys of this power," and some were breaking over the rule and taking
other wives without a "revelation" through the prophet; and because they were so reckless charges were to be preferred against them.
As to the genuineness of the revelation in question, the following is in point:
TESTIMONY OF DAVID FULLMER.
COUNTY OF SALT LAKE.}
"Be it remembered on this fifteenth day of June, A. D., 1869, personally appeared before me, James Jack, a Notary Public in and for said county, David Fullmer, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon his oath saith, that on or about the twelfth day of August, A. D., 1843, while in meeting with the High Council, (he being a member thereof), in Hyrum Smith's brick office, in the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock, State of Illinois, Dunbar Wilson made inquiry in relation to the subject of a plurality of wives, as there were rumors about respecting it, and he was satisfied there was something in those remarks, and he wanted to know what it was, upon which Hyrum Smith stepped across the road to his residence, and soon returned, bringing with him a copy of the revelation on celestial marriage, given to Joseph Smith, July 12, A. D., 1843, and read the same to the High Council, and bore testimony of its truth. The said David Fullmer further said that to the best of his memory and belief, the following named persons were present: Wm. Marks, Austin A. Cowles, Samuel Bent, George W. Harris, Dunbar Wilson, Wm. Huntington, Levi Jackman, Aaron Johnson, Thomas Grover, David Fullmer, Phineas Richards, James Allred and Leonard Soby. And the
said David Fullmer further saith that Wm. Marks, Austin A. Cowles and Leonard Soby were the only persons present who did not receive the testimony of Hyrum Smith, and that all the others did receive it from the teaching and testimony of the said Hyrum Smith. And further, that the copy of said Revelation on Celestial Marriage, published in the Desert News extra of September fourteenth, A. D., 1852, is a true copy of the same. DAVID FULLMER.
"Subscribed and sworn to by the said David Fullmer the day and year first above written.
"JAMES JACK, Notary Public."
EXTRACT FROM THOMAS GROVER'S LETTER.
"The presidency of the Stake, Wm. Marks, Father Coles and the late Apostle Charles C. Rich, were there present. The following are the names of the High Council that were present, in their order, viz.: Samuel Bent, William Huntington, Alpheus Cutler, Thomas Grover, Lewis D. Wilson, David Fullmer, Aaron Johnson, Newel Knight, Leonard Soby, Isaac Allred, Henry G. Sherwood and, I think, Samuel Smith.
"Brother Hyrum Smith was called upon to read the revelation. He did so, and after reading it said: 'Now, you that believe this revelation and go forth and obey the same shall be saved, and you that reject it shall be damned.'
"We saw this prediction verified in less than one week. Of the Presidency of the Stake, William
Marks and Father Coles rejected the revelation; of the Council that were present, Leonard Soby rejected it. From that time forward there was a very strong division in the High Council. These three men greatly diminished in spirit day after day, so that there was a great difference in the line of their conduct, which was perceivable to every member that kept the faith.
"From that time forward we often received instructions from the Prophet as to what was the will of the Lord and how to proceed."
CERTIFICATE OF LOVINA WALKER."I, Lovina Walker, hereby certify that while I was living with Aunt Emma Smith, in Fulton City, Fulton County, Illinois, in the year 1849, she told me that she, Emma Smith, was present, and witnessed the marriage or sealing of Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, Maria Lawrence, and Sarah Lawrence to her husband Joseph Smith, and that she gave her consent thereto.
"We hereby witness that Lovina Walker made and signed the above statement on the 16th day of June, A. D. 1869, of her own free will and accord.
"SARAH E. SMITH.
"JOS F. SMITH."
AFFIDAVIT OF EMILY D. P. YOUNG."TERRITORY OF UTAH } ss.
COUNTY OF SALT LAKE.}
"Be it remembered that on this first day of May, A. D. l869, personally appeared before me, Elias Smith, Judge of Probate for said county, Emily Dow Partridge Young, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon her oath, saith that on the eleventh day of May, A. D. 1843, at the city of Nauvoo, county of Hancock, State of Illinois, she was married or sealed to Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by James Adams, a High Priest in said church, according to the law of the same regulating marriage, in the presence of Emma (Hale) Smith and Eliza Maria Partridge (Lyman.) EMILY D. P. YOUNG.
"Subscribed and sworn to by the said Emily D. P. Young, the day and year first above written.
"E. SMITH, Probate Judge."
Mrs. Emily D. P. young is identical with Emily Partridge mentioned in the certificate of Mrs. Lavina Walker, as the polygamous wife of Joseph Smith. She was Brigham Young's eighteenth wife, and concerning whom Mrs. Stenhouse says:
"When Joseph died, Brigham told his wives that they were at liberty to choose whom they would for husbands;... thus it was that Emily Partridge became Brigham's wife." (Tell it All, page 289.)
In a former chapter I have said that in all polygamous marriages the regular marriage ceremony, authorized in 1835, was employed, and Mrs. Young declares that she was "sealed" to Joseph by a "High Priest in said church, according to the law of the same regulating marriage."
Owing to the aggressive methods of the missionaries of the Reorganized Church in Utah, and their constant denial that Joseph and Hyrum Smith ever sanctioned, much less authorized, the practice of polygamy, the "authorities" were active in the collection of such proofs as would establish the fact, and place it beyond reasonable doubt. In the mean time a controversy had grown up between President Joseph Smith, editor of the Saints' Herald, Lamoni, Iowa, and Elder L. O. Littlefield, through the Utah Journal, Logan, Utah, concerning which the editor of the Ogden (Utah) Herald, of Jan. 5,1886, says:
"Our readers will remember that in the correspondence which passed between Elder Littlefield and Joseph Smith, Jr., of the Reorganized Church some time since, Mr. Smith challenged Elder Littlefield to give the names of parties who were present and heard the revelation on celestial marriage read before the High Council at Nauvoo."
Thus challenged, Mr. Littlefield presented the statements of David Fullmer and Thomas Grover, already given, adding thereto the sworn statement of Leonard Soby, a member of the High Council, which I now herewith submit as follows:
AFFIDAVIT OF LEONARD SOBY."Copy.
"STATE OF NEW JERSEY, } ss.
COUNTY OF BURLINGTON.}
"Be it remembered that on this fourteenth day of November, A. D. 1883, personally appeared before me, J. W. Roberts, a Justice of the Peace, county and State aforesaid, Leonard Soby, who was by me sworn in due form of law, and upon oath saith, that on or about the 12th day of August, 1843, in the city of
Nauvoo, in the State of Illinois, in the county of Hancock, before the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which body and council aforesaid he was a member, personally appeared one Hyrum Smith, of the first presidency of said church, and brother to Joseph Smith, the president and prophet of the same, and presented to said council the Revelation on Polygamy, enjoining its observance and declaring it came from God; unto which a large majority of the council agreed and assented, believing it to be of a celestial order, though no vote was taken upon it, for the reason that the voice of the prophet, in such matters, was understood by us to be the voice of God to the church, and that said revelation was presented to said council, as before stated, as coming from Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Lord, and was received by us as other revelations had been. The said Leonard Soby further saith that Elder Austin A. Cowles, a member of the High Council aforesaid, did, subsequently to the 12th day of August, 1843, openly declare against the said revelation on polygamy, and the doctrines therein contained. LEONARD SOBY."
"Subscribed and sworn to by the said Leonard Soby, the day and year first above written.
"Justice of the Peace."
"Among the names given by Elder Littlefield (to President Joseph Smith) was that of Leonard Soby. The prophet of the Reorganized Church knew where
Mr. Soby resided, and instructed a member of his church in high standing to draw up an affidavit stating that Mr. Soby was not present at such meeting, and never heard the revelation read.
"The affidavit was drawn up under the instruction of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Mr. Gurley, who was something of a lawyer, called on Mr. Soby at his home in Beverly, New Jersey, and requested him to sign it. The affidavit stated that Mr. Soby was present at the High Council meeting referred to, but did not hear the revelation read. When Mr. Gurley requested Mr. Soby to sign the document, Soby objected, saying he was present at the meeting and heard the revelation, and could not sign an affidavit to the contrary. This considerably disconcerted his interlocutor, and Mr. Soby added: 'If you will draw up an affidavit setting forth that I was there and did hear the revelation, I will sign it for you.' But Mr. Gurley did not want that kind of testimony, and retired rather crestfallen, but wiser, and has since apostatized from the Reorganized Church." (From the Ogden, Utah, Herald, Jan. 5, 1886.)
Of Mr. Gurley's visit, Mr. Soby, in a letter to Mr. Littlefield, dated Jan. 21, 1886, remarks:
"The facts as published in the (Ogden) Herald are true, referring to the interview between Mr. Gurley and myself, and I refer you to him for a copy of my affidavit. Mr. Gurley is very much of a gentleman, and if you ask for it in my name he will not refuse." (Celestial Marriage, by Littlefield, page 3.)
Mr. Gurley, a personal friend of the writer, who is now an influential member of the Iowa General Assembly from the sixth district, furnished the copy of Mr. Soby's affidavit presented above, and in a
personal letter speaks of his visit to Mr. Soby as follows:
"I talked with Mr. Soby carefully, and fully satisfied myself that he was honest and sincere. He had opposed polygamy, but finally concluded that he was wrong and Joseph right -- just as Hyrum Smith declared, as set forth in Robinson's affidavit. Littlefield's statement that I retired crestfallen is off -- not true. It is evidently confounded with another party."
Mr. Soby in his affidavit refers to the fact that Elder Austin Cowles refused to accept the revelation on celestial marriage, and at last "openly declared against the said revelation on polygamy and the doctrines therein contained." The writer is himself a witness to the truthfulness of this portion of Mr. Soby's statement. While located in Decatur County, Iowa, in A. D. 1865, as a minister of the Reorganized Church, I made the acquaintance of "Father Cowles," as he was then called, and often visited at his house. As he stood aloof from all religious bodies, and knowing he was a man of prominence in church matters at Nauvoo while the prophet lived, we naturally talked on questions pertaining to the church; and he assured me that polygamy was the fatal rock upon which Mormonism was wrecked, and that he knew that Joseph and Hyrum were both "mixed up in it." But this I could not believe at the time, and attributed his declarations to the fact that he had apostatized. But under the light of more recent development it is perfectly apparent that the venerable old man knew what he was talking about.
With the introduction of one more witness I shall submit this question to the arbitrament of an enlightened and, as I believe, a just public.
TESTIMONY OF MERCY R. THOMPSON."SALT LAKE CITY, January 31, 1886.
"A. M. MUSSER,
"Dear Brother: --
"Having noticed in the Deseret News an inquiry for testimony concerning the revelation on plural marriage, and having read the testimony of Brother Grover, it came to my mind that perhaps it would be right for me to add my testimony to his on the subject of Brother Hyrum reading it in the High Council. I well remember the circumstance. I remember he told me he had read it to the brethren in his office. He put it into my hands and left it with me for several days. I had been sealed to him by Brother Joseph a few weeks previously, and was well acquainted with almost every member of the High Council, and know Brother Grover's testimony to be correct. Now if this testimony would be of any use to such as are weak in the faith or tempted to doubt, I should be very thankful. Please make use of this in any way you think best, as well as the copy of the letter addressed to Joseph Smith at Lamoni.
"Your Sister in the Gospel.
"MERCY R. THOMPSON."
TESTIMONY AS TO HER MARRIAGE TO HYRUM SMITH."SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 5, 1886.
"MR. JOSEPH SMITH,
"Lamoni, Ill. (Iowa),
"Dear Sir: --
"After having asked my Father in heaven to help me, I sit down to write a few lines as dictated by the Holy Spirit.
"After reading the correspondence between you and L. O. Littlefield, I concluded it was the duty of some one to bear a testimony which could not be disputed. Finding from your letters to Littlefield that no one of your father's friends had performed this duty while you were here, now I will begin at once and tell you my experience.
"My beloved husband, R. B. Thompson, your father's private secretary to the end of his mortal life, died August 27, 1841. (I presume you will remember him.) Nearly two years after his death your father told me that my husband had appeared to him several times, telling him that he did not wish me to request your uncle Hyrum to have me sealed to him for time. Hyrum communicated this to his wife (my sister), who by request opened the subject to me, when every thing within me rose in opposition to such a step; but when your father called and explained the subject to me I dared not refuse to obey the counsel, lest peradventure I should be found fighting against God, and especially when he told me the last time my husband appeared to him he came with such power that it made him tremble.
"He then inquired of the Lord what he should do; the answer was, 'Go and do as my servant hath required.' He then took all opportunity to communicate this to your uncle Hyrum, who told me that the Holy Spirit rested upon him from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. The time was appointed, with the consent of all parties, and your father sealed me to your uncle Hyrum for time, in my sister's room, with a covenant to deliver me up in the morning of the resurrection to Robert Blaskell Thompson with whatever offspring should be the
result of the union, at the same time counseling your uncle to build a room for me and move me over as soon as convenient, which he did, and I remained there as a wife the same as my sister to the day of his death. All this I am ready to testify to in the presence of God, angels and men.
"Now I assure you I have not been prompted or dictated by any mortal being in writing to you; neither does a living soul know it but my invalid daughter.
"God bless you, is the sincere prayer of your true friend. MERCY R. THOMPSON.
" P. S. -- If you feel disposed to ask me any questions, I will be pleased to answer concerning blessings which I received under the hands of your late mother, by the direction of your father. -- M. R. T. in Deseret News." (Littlefield's Celestial Marriage, pages 1 and 2.)
The testimony of the above named witnesses makes up the case so far as the question of polygamy is concerned, and includes the principal facts upon which the parties to the controversy depend in order to the establishment of their respective contentions, and from them the reader will be able to form conclusions for himself. The correctness of such conclusions will of course depend very largely upon the impartiality with which the evidence is weighed.
As may be expected, President Joseph Smith has not been an idle and disinterested spectator in this unique drama, but has been an active participant in the somewhat spirited contest between the rival churches of the Saints for supremacy. He has taken all the facts into consideration, and it cannot fail to
be a matter of interest to the reader to know what disposition President Smith makes of the evidence presented above. While the conclusions are not, perhaps, such as others may form, yet it is but just and proper that they should be given here.
Referring to the visit to his mother and his interview with her upon the perplexing question of polygamy, and his father's relation thereto, President Smith, in his autobiography, thus states his conclusions:
"It will be seen that in view of her departure at so early a time after the statements made by my mother heretofore recorded, those statements may be regarded as her last testimony upon the subjects named. It may be as well, then, that I here state my convictions regarding the vexing question of polygamy.
"I believe that during the last years of my father's life there was a discussion among the elders, and possibly in practice, a theory like the following: that persons who might believe that there was a sufficient degree of spiritual affinity between them as married companions, to warrant the desire to perpetuate that union in the world to come and after the resurrection, could go before some high priest whom they might choose, and there making known their desire, might be married for eternity, pledging themselves while in the flesh unto each other for the observance of the rights of companionship in the spirit; that this was called spiritual marriage, and upon the supposition that what was sealed by this priesthood, before which this pledge was made on earth, was sealed in heaven, the marriage relation then entered into would continue in eternity. That this was not authorized by command of God or rule of the church; but grew out
of the constant discussion had among the elders; and that after a time it resulted in the wish (father to the thought) that married companionship rendered unpleasant here by incompatibilities of different sorts, might be cured for the world to come, by securing through this means a congenial companion in the spirit; that there was but brief hesitancy between the wish and an attempt to put it into form and practice. That once started, the idea grew; spiritual affinities were sought after, and in seeking them the hitherto sacred precincts of home were invaded; less and less restraint was exercised; the lines between virtue and license, hitherto sharply drawn, grew more and more indistinct; spiritual companionship if sanctioned by a holy priesthood, to confer favors and pleasures in the world to come, might be antedated and put to actual test here -- and so the enjoyment of a spiritual companionship in eternity became a companionship here; a wife a spiritual wife, if congenial; if not, one that was congenial was sought, and a wife in fact was supplemented by one in spirit, which in easy transition became one in essential earthly relationship. From this, if one, why not two or more, and plural marriage, or plurality of wives, was the growth. That as soon as the prophet discovered that this must inevitably be the result of the marriage for eternity between married companions, which for the time was perhaps looked upon as a harmless enlargement of the priesthood theory, and rather intended to glorify them in doing business for eternity and the heavens, he set about to correct it. But the evil had, unnoted by him, taken root, and it was too late. What had been possibly innocently spiritual became fleshly, sensual -- devilish. He was taken away. The long train
of circumstances burst upon the people. He and Hyrum placed themselves in the front of the impending storm and went down to death. That which in life they were powerless to prevent rapidly took the successive forms heretofore stated, and polygamy, after eight years of further fostering in secret, rose in terrible malignity to essay the destruction of the church. That my father may have been a party to the first step in this strange development, I am perhaps prepared to admit, though the evidence connecting him with it is vague and uncertain; but that he was in any otherwise responsible for plural marriage, plurality of wives, or polygamy, I do not know, nor are the evidences so far produced to me conclusive to force my belief." (Tullidge's History, pages 798, 799 and 800.)
In justice to President Smith I wish to state in this connection, that at the time the above was written (1880) all the facts developed in the Littlefield-Smith correspondence (1886) were perhaps not in his possession; but as eleven years have since elapsed, and these opinions have never been revised, it is quite fair to presume that they reflect the present views and convictions of the Prophet of the Reorganized Church, and as such they are here submitted.
In all Mormon literature I have never met with a statement by any writer where the probable manner in which polygamy was conceived, and the processes of its development are presented with greater clearness and force than is the above from the pen of President Smith. His view as to the manner in which the system was evolved is in perfect harmony with the facts as they are given in the preceding chapters relative to this subject; but the manner in which the
system originated is of far less importance to Mormonism than is the question relating to the authority upon which it is based.
The conclusions reached by the writer are widely different from those stated by Mr. Smith in the closing paragraph of the statement above quoted. He seems to think the evidence quite insufficient to force the conviction that his father was in any manner "responsible for plural marriage, plurality of wives, or polygamy," while the writer's mind has literally been "forced" by the overwhelming character of the evidence presented upon this point.
SUMMARY.The facts as we glean them from the circumstances of the case, and the testimony of credible witnesses, may be stated substantially as follows:
1. The conduct of the Mormon leaders at a time prior to August, 1835, had been such as to give rise to the charge of "fornication and polygamy."
2. That this belief on the part of those not connected with the church, instead of diminishing, was only intensified with the developments of the passing years.
3. That a "secret wife system" was gradually developed among the leaders, which came to light through the disclosures of General John C. Bennett in 1842.
4. These revelations were followed by others of a more startling character early in 1844, in strong charges of crime made by William Law, of the "First Presidency," and Major-General Wilson Law, of the Nauvoo Legion, through the columns of the Expositor.
5. That from 1842 to 1844 polygamy had been preached in various States by the elders of the church, thus showing it to be general.
6. Efforts were made by Joseph and Hyrum Smith to suppress the facts by making public denials -- through the press -- that such things were taught or practiced by the leaders, thus seeking to evade the charge that a "secret wife system," or polygamy, existed in Nauvoo.
7. That in order to seemingly support this view, and enforce it upon the public mind, several of these elders were "cut off," or threatened with expulsion, for teaching "polygamy and other false and corrupt doctrines."
8. That at the very time these notices and denials were published in the Times and Seasons, by the authority of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, they were both not only teaching the doctrine, but were actually practicing polygamy -- Joseph having five and Hyrum two wives, as now appears by the testimony of the women themselves.
9. That the revelation on celestial marriage was presented to the members of the High Council, convened for that purpose by Joseph Smith, and was read by Hyrum Smith, in their presence, Aug. 12, 1844 [sic].
l0. A copy of this document was preserved by Brigham Young, who had it publicly read by Orson Pratt in the Tabernacle at Salt Lake City, August, 1852, and was published in The Deseret News in September of the same year.
These are the facts as they appear from the records, and as they are proved by the great preponderance of the evidence in the case. What importance attaches
to these facts? and how will they affect the Mormon Church? are questions worthy the consideration of the thoughtful student of the times.
Of one thing we may be quite sure, and that is, if Joseph Smith was the author of that "revelation" enjoining polygamy, it at once brands him as a wicked and unscrupulous impostor, and wholly unworthy of the respect and esteem of decent people. If he is the author of such an abominable document, how can any sane man repose the slightest confidence in any of his so-called revelations?
If the matters and things set forth in the testimony of these witnesses shall be esteemed as true, then it must in all candor be admitted that Joseph was an unblushing impostor, and as a consequence, Mormonism is a deception and a fraud. And if this be true, O, then, "what shall the harvest be?"
With the consciousness of having endeavored to fairly and honestly present the facts as I have been able to gather them, the question is submitted to the reader, and we leave it with him to decide as to whether Joseph Smith was or was not the author of Mormon polygamy.
[ 391 ]
"And ye [six elders] are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect [mentioned in par. 1], for mine elect hear my voice, and harden not their
(pages 392-421 not yet transcribed)
were placed one night got beastly drunk, and taking advantage of the opportunity thus afforded, they all escaped, and at once made their way to Illinois, where they found a safe retreat among their friends.
The redemption of Zion was now abandoned as a forlorn hope. The dream of the prophet had vanished, and the hopes of an expectant people were sadly disappointed.
Zion still languishes, for the inhabitants thereof were made desolate. The "enemy" still "pollutes" the land, and the "Temple of the Lord" is still unbuilt. Under such circumstances of disappointment and failure in the past, upon what can the Saints build their hopes for the future?
Every promise concerning Zion and her redemption has resulted in disastrous and hopeless failure, and every prophecy remains unfulfilled. Still they look forward to the time when they can sing as they never sang before,
Ye Saints throughout the land,
And clear the way before you,
As God shall give command;
Though wicked men and devils
Exert their power, 'tis vain,
Since He who is eternal
Has said you shall obtain."
[ 423 ]
It is with a view to determine the accuracy of this claim that we shall now turn our thought to this question.
The first prophecy of a general character to which I shall invite the reader's attention is that which relates to our late civil war, which is said to have been given Dec. 25, 1832. Upon careful consideration of the surrounding circumstances, I have observed that every so-called revelation of the prophet was suggested by some incident growing out of the environments. For instance, that which he received commanding him, in company with others, to go to
(pages 424-437 not yet transcribed)
[ 438 ]
Your communication of recent date came duly to hand, and its contents have been carefully considered. In the opening paragraphs of your letter you express the thought that I seem to "confess, at least in part, the faith of the Saints" concerning God's revealments to man at the-present day. Then so let it be; for I am very glad the "Saints" have some things in common with all Christian people which I am able to endorse.
I am quite aware it is the "faith of the Saints" that any person may receive a revelation for himself, but while this is true, it is likewise a fact that all are
alike prohibited from receiving revelation for benefit of the church. This divine prerogative is confined to the "Prophet, Seer, Revelator and Translator," Joseph Smith, "for he receiveth them even as Moses." So says the "Doctrine and Covenants."
MODERN REVELATION.It is hardly necessary for me to say that I most heartily disbelieve this whole revelation business, and for the best of reasons. I have seen too much of it. Too many gross errors and glaring absurdities, not to mention the "grosser crimes," have been authorized through its exercise for me to repose the least confidence in it. The "grosser crimes" of Utah, including polygamy and murder, the abominations of Strangism on Beaver Island, including polygamy, wholesale theft, highway robbery and foulest murder; the gross absurdities of "Baneemyism," and the unblushing obscenity of Rigdonism, all had their origin in pretended revelation.
In view of these facts I repeat the question, Of what possible benefit is this professed revelation to the world? In answer to this question I undertake to say that no good, but much evil, has resulted, and nothing else can reasonably be expected.
I prefer a system of religion with moral, spiritual and intellectual advancement as its leading characteristics, with no revelation but the Bible, to a system that claims so much in the way of new revelation, whose tendencies are in the opposite direction, and whose fruit has ever been evil. "A tree is known by its fruits."
(pages 440-459 not yet transcribed)