Vol. II. Pikeville, Kentucky, Aug.-Sept. 1910 No. 10
THE TESTIMONY EXAMINED
BY DANIEL BRAXTON TURNEY
Mormons do very often complain of our lack of attention to the external testimony presented as evidence for the Book of Mormon and their Mormonism. Let me remove that source of complaint. On May 8, 1838, Joseph Smith, Jr., issued this testimony:
"Moroni, who deposited the plates (from whence the book of Mormon was translated) in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead and raised therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were, and gave me direction how to obtain them. I obtained them, and Urim and Thummim with them, by means of which I translated the plates. And thus came the Book of Mormon."
Was that a true testimony? The Mormons say yes; the Gentiles say, No. Was this Moroni a real person? The Gentiles say, No; the Mormons say, Yes. But when did he live? The Mormons claim he was slain, (starved to death) several hundred years ago; the English was not spoken till long after his death. Is it claimed that Joseph knew any language but English, when this Moroni did thus appear unto him? And both the Mormons and the Gentiles say, No. When and where did Moroni learn how to speak and to converse in a very difficult language that he had never known? Can we assume that Moroni arose from the dead, speaking in a language which had not even existed until long subsequent to his own demise? If even so, he would have translated his own plates surely. Did Joseph have such plates in his possession?
He told Peter Ingersoll "that the whole affair was a hoax, that he had no such book, and did not believe there was such a book in existence; 'but,' said he, 'as I have got the damned fools fixed, I shall carry out the fun.'"
He told Henry Harris that he could not obtain the plates until he was married, and that no one was to see them but himself and wife."
He old parson N. C. Lewis that he was "commanded to exhibit the plates to all the world at a certain time, then about eighteen months distant," and promised him a sight of the plates. When the time came, he said he had "been deceived."
He told Isaac Hale, his father-in-law, "that a young child was to be the first to see the book of plates."
Sophia Lewis heard Smith say, "the book of plates could not be opened by another person than his first-born, which was to be a "male;" and he assured Levi Lewis, "that God had deceived him, and that this was the reason that he did not show them."
He broke his word with Alva Hale about showing him the plates.
When these and other statements involving Joseph's veracity were placed in affidavits, he simply moved away from that part of the country. His statements did not agree with themselves and many persons testified to his want of veracity. His reputation was such, that a jury in a justice's court did not believe him under oath, and discarded his testimony, Facts do beat all else. These are in evidence.
He declared Nauvoo, May 19, 1843:
"There was no Greek and Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon."
He was trying to get out from under the even awful fact -- "Mormon" in the Greek, means "a phantom, hobgoblin, a hideous spectre, a bugbear." It was by Mr. Spaulding chosen as very appropriate. Rigdon has by ignorance left it in. I suppose everybody knows that Alpha and Omega are Greek; and to show how truthful Joseph was in his testimony, I will agree to find those Greek words in the Book of Mormon. They are in Plano edition, published by the Reorganized, on page 440; and in the Chicago, published by the Brighamites, on p. 498. And the idea is a little steep, that Jesus Christ would, come over here to the Nephites, who knew no Greek, and tell them, "I am Alpha and Omega." There was no Greek on the plates, and there is some Greek in the Book of Mormon, and therefore, the Book of Mormon was not translated from the plates. Can words which are Greek, cease to be Greek by getting into the Book of Mormon? If Joseph took Alpha and Omega from the plates, he bore false testimony when he declared there was no Greek upon the plates; and of he bore true testimony when he declared "There was no Greek and Latin upon the plates," he bore false testimony in declaring that he translated "the Book of Mormon" from the plates. And either form of the dilemma leaves Joseph's testimony in a bad shape. There are several Greek words in the Book of Mormo, and several Latin words, too, and every such word is a proof that the prophet's testimony was wisely rejected by the jury of his acquaintances. Facts do beat all else.
In March, 1829, Smith pretends that God said: "I will give unto these three witnesses power that they may behold these things as they are, and to none other will I give this power to receive this same testimony among this generation." Yet in 1830 he made his God a liar, by allowing eight others "to receive this same testimony among this generation," by seeing and handling the plates, etc. W. Fugate, Bridge Whitton and Robert Wiley played off on him the hoax of the Kinderhook plates made out of copper, and the prophet Joseph could easily enough have worked a prior hoax, by providing himself with copper plates which would to the very ignorant, have the appearance of gold, and characters could be placed thereon in the manner the Kinderhook trio subsequently employed; and Joseph would be sly enough to pick the victims for appropriate testimony, and to keep the plates where no real scientist would ever get a glimpse of them; for he was less fool than knave, or more knave than fool
The testimony of the three witnesses may be studied in the light of hypnotism, or deliberate deception, or of collusion and fraud, or in the light of really not being their testimony. It was a testimony which failed to bind the three witnesses themselves, all of whom subsequently apostatized, and only one of whom ever re-affirmed his testimony, according to any real proof. Besides, many reliable persons gave contrary testimony, averring that on examining the Book of Mormon they found that it contains names, incidents and language read to them by Solomon Spaulding twenty years previously. There is much unimpeached testimony to show that one of his numerous productions, "The Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon," was revamped in the Book of Mormon; and so sorely have the Mormons felt the weight of this testimony that they have tried to confuse the case by publishing as "The Manuscript Found" one of his other works which hasn't even a name in common.
I now proceed to the testimony of the three witnesses; and find,
1st. That it was written by Joseph himself, and by neither of the three whose names are appended to it. The testimony was drawn up by Mr. Smith himself, and carried all of his earmarks.
2nd. That it docs not consist of three separate affidavits, corroborating without collusion, but of a single paper drawn up by Joseph, and not given under oath or legal pains of perjury.
3d. That it is dateless and spaceless.
4th. That it is vague, and obscure, and inconclusive, and did not carry conviction to the supposed witnesses themselves -- at least, not permanent conviction.
5th. That it is superceded, to all intents and purposes, by later testimony of the three witnesses, such as that issued by Oliver Cowdery in his "Defence," and by David Whitmer in his "Address," and by Martin Harris in his "Prophetic Letters." As these letters have not all seen the daylight of publicity, I take great pleasure in subjoining one of them which Mr. Harris sent to a friend of his:
Palmyra, N. Y., Sept. 1, 1832.
Dear Will: Your letter has been put under my eyes and I do hereby assert and declare that you do Joseph Smith Jr., a gross injustice when you charge him with deceiving Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and myself. It is entirely true that he wrote the testimony affixed to the book, but we three authorized him to write it and to put our names to it; and I shall give you a sign by which to test that the testimony is true; that within four years from the date of this letter, within four years from September, 1832, there will not be one wicked person left in the United States, that the righteous will be gathered to Zion and that there will be no president over these United States after that time.
"Direct your next letter to me to Waverly."
Mr. Harris, who knew, says: "We three authorized him to write it and to put our names to it."
In view of that testimony I do not believe that the three witnesses personally signed the paper: and as the "sign" which Mr. Harris gave "by which to test that the testimony is true," did not "come to pass," I do not wonder that Martin Harris became an apostate.
It wasn't very long after Oliver Cowdery had issued his Defence," that he too, totally apostatized.
I now examine the alleged testimony. "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 of man. 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.
The testimony says, "We have seen the plates which contain this record;" but as the witnesses did not claim the ability to understand the contents of the plates, and did not claim to have compared the same with the record made, they could not know what they affirm that "the plates contain this record." That would invalidate the testimony and throw it out of court. They may have seen plates which Joseph Smith, Jr., told them contained this record.
The testimony says, "And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us."
They could not know that the plates had been translated at all, since any ability to read the same was not claimed by either of them; and neither could they know that they "have been translated by the gift and power of God," but only that Joseph had told them so, and they regarded him as a prophet who spoke with God's voice. Without either the opportunity or the ability to read the inscription on the plates, they could not know that there had been any translation whatever. But they say: "For his voice hath declared it unto us." If that voice came through Joseph Smith, Jr., it was very sure to deceive. And if it came through Elder Sidney Rigdon, it was equally deceiving. The testimony fails to disclose the needed information by which to convince us that it was really God's voice that declared it. They do not say that the voice of God was heard by them while awake or asleep, individually or collectively, literally or figuratively; and in view of the penchant of the insane and the deluded folks to think that God's voice has declared things to them, the statement discredits their testimony instead of confirming it. When God does declare a mission by revelation to anybody, he gives with the declaration verifying evidence here entirely unshown. "And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates." To be sure. What is wonderful about that? "And they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man." Here is either inanity, imposture or false witness under stress of religious delusion. No court would take that statement as sane and credible, no matter who made it nor what words of soberness were used: for engravings upon plates which are real, can be shown by the power of man, and every court knows it. Did not Joseph Smith, Jr., have the plates? Hadn't he obtained them? Listen: "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 I "declare with words of soberness" and sincerity, that the testimony quoted does not tell me what the "angel" brought, and how they knew him to be "an angel of God" or knew that he "came down from heaven." Maybe he did, and maybe he didn't; but in this particular case, more likely than not he didn't; for Joseph Smith, Jr., did not believe one word of this testimony, although he wrote it and attached their names to it. In the very teeth of the testimony, he applied for a copyright on the Book of Mormon as its "Author and Proprietor," a claim duly inserted in the certificate of copyright under the hand and seal of R. R. Lansing, clerk of the Northern district of New York. Moreover, he had his name placed on the title page of the first edition as "Author and Proprietor." Sidney Rigdon remonstrated in behalf of the three witnesses, and the prophet confessed the "error" and agreed to put it in subsequent editions. "Translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. This was just as untrue as the other "error," but Solomon Spaulding couldn't kick. He was dead. And Joseph Smith had "obtained" the copyright on another man's writings as "Author and Proprietor," and he hung on to the copyright, notwithstanding that "error" in it. He never sent it back to be corrected. So, if we believe the testimony of the three witnesses, we believe more than the "prophet" did; and for the reason shown, that testimony is unworthy of credence.
But there is another testimony yet, with eight names to it; but I do not find the testimony of any of the eight, that they told him to write it and put their names to it. He wrote it. His earmarks are on it and nobody else has been accused of writing it. It seems to have been written to show that Joseph Smith, Jr., was a bit superior to God and the angels of God. These could show the plates and the engravings to three and no more; but Joseph could show them to almost three times as many. God and his angels couldn't let the precious plates be touched; but Joseph could allow them to be handled and hefted. The testimony of the eight contradicts the testimony of the three. Men chosen of God had to see, but touch not; but men not chosen of God might both see and touch, handle and heft. "Thebook of gold plates." Mr. Smith said. "was bound by three rings passing through the back edge, and a part of them was sealed." But his eight witnesses, introduced to confirm his claim of having this ring-bound book, do not testify that he showed them any such. What did they say in the certificate which he himself drew up for them? That Joseph Smith, Jr., has shown unto us the plates "of which hath been spoken," which have the appearance of gold. Were they in the form claimed, "bound by three rings passing through the back edge," and a part of them sealed? The testimony fails to so state. It does say, "And as many of the leaves as the said Smith translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship." They couldn't know that "the said Smith" had translated any of it, nor how many leaves had been translated by him; and they give themselves dead away, as witnesses, when they profess to have handled "as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated." They were evidently taking his word as to that. How could they handle just those leaves and not the whole? All they had was Smith's bare word -- a word that, even on oath, was not believed by a jury of his acquaintances. How could they tell whether the leaves which Smith had or had not translated? How could they tell that the plates were the plates which have been spoken of, as many as translated? Were these plates bound by three rings? Did those rings pass through the bacl edge of the book of plates? Were some of them sealed? How could they handle part and not the whole? The eight witnesses fail to identify to us the ring-bound book of plates which Smith claimed that he had. Their statement that the engravings bore "the appearance of ancient workmanship," is gorgeously ridiculous, coming from men unfitted to pass judgment on how ancient work would look.
The eight witnesses were four Whitmers, three Smiths, and Hiram Page; and their testimony in a nutshell shows that Smith had provided himself with some "plates." "And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken." He could easily enough, have borrowed the material necessary -- a few plates of copper, acid and beeswax. He took care to make his plates unfindable immediately after roping in the eight witnesses, and reported that the plates "were given back to the angels." But one thing is certain, there is nothing in the testimony of the eight witnesses to confirm his claim of having obtained the ring-bound book of plates with part of them sealed; and the overwhelming probability is that he never obtained any such book of plates in his life.
If the eight saw the book, they never said so, and their testimony does not so describe the plates as to identify them as the ringed book of plates. Neither individually nor collectively do they sustain the prophet on the point at issue; and I am convinced that he made them say all he could get them to say, and that, therefore, their testimony instead of proving that he had a ringed book of ancient gold plates from the unsealed portion of which he translated the Book of Mormon, proves that he did not have any such thing. The prophet's own father, and two brothers of the seer, were among the eight, and not one of the outfit, according to the testimony of their neighbors, were endowed with either superior wisdom or pre-eminent honesty, and they even could have fibbed about seeing and hefting any plates at all. But to acknowledge the whole of their testimony, will add no weight to the Mormon cause. Here it is:
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that Joseph Smith, Jr., the translator of this work, has shewn unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands: and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shewn unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety, that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names to the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen; and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
Peter Whitmer, Jr.
Joseph Smith, Sr.
Samuel H. Smith
If these eight tell the truth, they certainly have knocked out the so-called testimony of the three. As D. P. Kidder said in 1842: "That Smith showed them plates, which to ignorant men had the appearance of gold, is easy enough to be believed; and if he manufactured the same, it would have been no great stretch of ingenuity. But how could they know that they had handled and hefted as many of the leaves as said Smith translated? Certainly on no other ground than his 'say so,' which is good for nothing. But if of a surety Jo had 'got' these plates, and, as he pretended, had had them two or three years in a box, how could they have got up to heaven, whence Cowdery and Harris aver than an angel came to bring them, and lay before their eyes?"
The three witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris, all lost faith in the prophetic pretenses of Joseph Smith, Jr., and all [sic] died out of the church of the Latter Day Saints. Oliver became a Methodist Protestant, after openly renouncing Mormonism, and expressing deep repentance for his connection therewith, and was a contributing member of the Methodist Protestant Church to the day of his death. David slashed around and became the leading light of a little band of his own, lamming both the Brighamites and the Josephites; Martin reached the conclusion that all the pretensions of Joseph Smith, Jr., were fraudulent. It isn't much wonder that the three chosen witnesses of the Lord were a little sore at finding that God found it more of a task to show them the plates than Joseph did to show those plates to eight whom the Lord had not chosen.
Neither testimony verified what Joseph Smith, Jr., had said of his plates or records, so I quote his own report:
These records were engraven on plates, which had the appearance of gold; each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with Engravings in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters in the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called the 'Urim and Thummim,' which consisted of two transparent stones set in the two rims of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the 'Urim and Thummim' I translated the records, by the gift and power of God."
Nobody verifies or confirms any of that. It rests upon the word of a person whose oath could not be taken and whose word was utterly unreliable. Such a volume of plates, if found, would undountably have been placed upon proper exhibition; and if the characters had been Egyptian, the certificates of savants versed in Egyptian lore would have been sought and secured. It was a bold, blasphemous fabrication, to bedazzle the dupable and "carry out the fun."
The professed testimonies are replete with doleful humbugery, crude illiteracy and an assumed sanctimoniousness that ought to disgust any mind of proper intelligence; and the book for which the testimonies are given is worse still, abounding in self-evident plagiarisms and a style sinking it below the dignity of criticism. The Mormon prophet is beneath contempt. As Thomas Gregg well says: "A petty theft, by himself or one of his co-workers, placed the Spaulding 'Manuscript Found' in his hands; and then it was that the idea of a new sect, a new creed, a new and deeper play upon popular ignorance and credulity, and consequent power, and place, and fortune, were gradually developed and boldly and persistently and most wickedly carried forward -- aided by confederates as bad as himself and with similar purposes in view."
Before leaving Pittsburgh for Amity, Mr. Spaulding secured a return of his manuscript, and after moving to Amity made a second submission of it to the publisher in a revised transcription of the same. This is the document which was so strangely missing from the office when wanted, and which Sidney Rigdon was supposed to have "swiped." He took it; for it was in his possession in 1822-3, when he exhibited it to Rev. John Winter, M. D., stating that Spaulding wrote it, but that he (Rigdon) had gotten it from the printer to read as a curiosity. The witnesses of Winter's statements are Rev. J. A. Bonsell, of Rochester, Pa., Rev. A. G. Kirk, of New Brighton, Pa., and Miss Mary W. Irwin, of Sharon Pa.
The testimony of the eight witnesses as originally given, may be seen in the original Palmyra edition of the Book of Mormon, and is quoted in Gregg's Prophet of Palmyra, p. 98. It certifies "that Joseph Smith, Jr., the author and proprietor of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken," etc. It was, as Mr. Gregg notes, p. 101, "subsequently altered, long after signature and after the publication of the book, to make it conform to the new claim that he was the only translator, and not the author and proprietor." But I quoted it as it now stands. Joseph was simply an arrant fraud, and the Book of Mormon a product of fraud. The testimony shows. Decatur, Ill.
A Bit of Mormon History.
I submit the following certificate to the FLAG for the benefit of its many readers. Since the Mormons are divided into several sects, that brand whose headquarters is at Lamoni, Ia., deny that Joseph Smith, Jr. taught the doctrine of polygamy or practiced it. They also deny any vital connection with the Salt Lake Mormons, or the Brighamites, but acknowledge Joseph Smith, Jr., as their inspired prophet.
Here is the certificate. Read and preserve it for future reference if you are troubled with those Latter-day Saint fellows:
"This is to certify that I, the undersigned, was born Jan. 13, 1815, and lived with my father, D. C. Goode, and family, in the State of Illinois, in the county of Christian, in the days of Joseph Smith, Jr., and during our residence in said county and state, said Joseph Smith, Jr. came into the community preaching Mormon doctrine, and upon one occasion he preached in my father's house, but was forbidden to do so again. I also heard him preach several times besides, and also witnessed some of his baptisms. My second cousin, Evan Smith was killed in the battle with Joe Smith and his followers at Nauvoo, Ill. I furthermore certify that I heard said Joseph Smith teach publicly the doctrine of polygamy, or a plurality of wives. He also taught that he was the prophet that was to open the seven seals of Revelations. (Rev. v.)
"Signed, Dec. 31, 1905. Mary A. Morrel."
"I hereby certify that the above signee is my mother, and although now nearly eighty-five years of age, she still retains her usual mental vigor, and the ability to transact the business of life.
"Signed, Dec. 31, 1905. J. B. Stevens."
Grandma Morell has been a member of the Baptist Church for a long number of years and she seems to take great pleasure in telling her experiences in early life and the kind and loving providences of her heavenly Father during her long, eventful life. Brother Stevens is a deacon of the Baptist Church and very active in many ways.
I mention these facts for the benefit of the reader.
Yours in the Master's service,
J. F. SHUM.
I clip the above from the Baptist Flag, Jan. 25, 1906. It confirms what every student of Joe Smithism knows, viz.: that Smith not only taught polygamy, but that he practised it on somewhat of a large scale.
Note: Compare the alleged Martin Harris letter of Sept. 1, 1832, cited by D. B. Turney, with a Martin Harris text published by Eber D. Howe, in 1834: "Within four years from September, 1832, there will not be one wicked person left in the United States; that the righteous will be gathered to Zion, (Missouri,) and that there will be no President over these United States after that time." Turney's letter reads more like a modern writer's expansion of Howe's text than it does like an original from which Howe might have abridged his quotation. The part not in Howe's book appears to have some thematic affinities with those portions of the spurious "Cowdery Defence" in which Oliver is made to inadvertently reveal Mormon secrets in his faux, innocuous eye-witness reporting of the LDS past.