MORMONISM; OR, NEW MOHAMMEDANISM IN ENGLAND AND AMERICA.
WE are accustomed to boast of the intelligence of the nineteenth century -- to laud ourselves on the march of mind in these modern days, and to speak of the popular delusions by which past generations were misled, as of the special shadows of "the long night now gone down the sky." Mormonism is a bitter reply to our self-laudation; it exhibits to us a convicted swindler received as a prophet by thousands in both hemispheres -- a literary forgery so thoroughly absurd and puerile, that its gross anachronisms may be depicted by a school-boy of the lowest form, recognized as a revelation, and placed on the same level of authority as the Bible itself; -- a creed full of the most palpable falsehoods and glaring inconsistencies, exercising an influence not inferior to that of Islamism at its first promulgation, not only in America, the place of its birth, but even in England, and especially in those parts of it where the arts and sciences seem to have received their greatest development.
Can such things be,
And overcome us like a summer cloud,
Without our special wonder?
Viewed merely as a social phenomenon, the history of such an imposture is no unworthy object of enlightened curiosity; but, unfortunately, it has a deeper interest: hundreds of our countrymen annually quit their homes to join the ranks of the impostor in the wilds of Illinois, taking with them their hoarded savings to swell his treasury. We have conversed with these deluded men; on all subjects, save religion, we have found them shrewd, clever, and well-informed; but, when a reference was made to Mormonism, they at once became insensible to reason and argument; neither clergyman nor layman could turn them from their error, or convince them of the absurdity of their proceedings. We have spoken with some who had returned from the "City of the Prophets," after having lost their little all, and suffered the most severe hardships in their double voyage across the Atlantic, and their perilous pilgrimages through the wildest parts of America, and, with only one exception, we found that the experience of their own sufferings, had not been quite sufficient to dispel the delusion. There lingered in the mind some reverence for the ravings of the pretended prophet and his artful apostles, united with a vague expectation of some inexplicable event, which would suddenly bring about "the reign of the saints upon earth," and raise them to the rank of nobles and princes. Such astonishing perseverance in detected error led us to examine closely a system which, for boldness of assertion and nullity of evidence, is without a parallel in the annals of human imposture. Our investigations have been kindly aided by numerous friends both in England and America. A perfect Mormonite library is piled upon our table, and forms a display which leaves the Abbe Dulauren's Bigarures de l' Espirit Humain far behind in the distance. It will, probably, be most convenient to our readers if we first state the account which the Mormonites themselves give of their pretended revelation, and then, from external and internal evidence, show what was the origin of the forgery, indicating, at the same time, some of the circumstances which have tended to give it currency in England and America.
Joseph Smith, jun., "the prophet of the Nineteenth Century," was born in the State of Vermont in the year 1895, but before he reached his tenth year, his father and family removed to the village of Manchester in the State of New York. Between the years 1817 and 1827, several strange manifestations of extravagant fanaticism took place in America, particularly in Ohio, Missouri, and the State of New York. They commenced with the system of revivals and camp-meetings amongst the methodists, several of their preachers struck by the extraordinary accounts which Wesley has recorded in his journal
of the wondrous workings of the Holy Spirit on congregations during his sermons, were tempted to try the experiment of producing similar effects by their own eloquence. Meetings were held in the open air, and lasted for several days in succession. During their continuance the people remained on the ground day and night -- some sleeping in tents, others in waggons, and not a few bivouacking in the open air. Exciting sermons, full of the most extravagant rant, were delivered by a series of preachers, who relieved each other; and the intervals were filled by alternate scenes of singing, shouting, and crying, accompanied by gesticulations of the most extraordinary character. Some fainted, others fell into convulsions; many ran round the field roaring like maniacs -- some rolled in the mud like swine, and whole multitudes practised a kind of jerking jump not unlike frogs, such as may be occasionally observed among the Welsh methodists. But the most favored of the manifestations among the Americans consisted in getting down on all fours, growling, snapping the teeth, and barking like dogs. It was not unusual for an entire congregation to assume this posture, and to continue more than an hour demurely looking and barking at the minister while he delivered to them a wild rhapsody of the visions with which he had been favored, of angels and heaven, and the holy city. It is very little to the credit of the American conference that no effort was made to check these scandalous scenes, which gave just offence to all sober-minded persons, until the consequences of applying such a stimulus to the passions began to manifest themselves in undeniable signs of gross immorality.
Smith's predecessor, Matthias, may be considered the creature of these revivals. We might reasonably have doubted that in the nineteenth century an ignorant half-witted clown could have imposed himself on a multitude of followers, as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ returned to earth, had not the madman Thoms, or Courtenay, successfully practised the same delusion on the peasantry of Kent, and Johanna Southcote established a sect, whose first article of faith stated that she was to be the mother of the Messiah at his second advent. Matthias, whose real name is said to have been Stone, preached doctrines too closely identified with those of the anabaptistsin the days of Luther for the resemblance to have been merely accidental: the impostor's attempts to imitate John of Leyden brought him, however, into awkward contact with the legal authorities, and the cowardice which he displayed on the occasion was fatal to his adherents.
About the year 182 the mania for revivals spread from the methodists to the baptists. Mr. Campbell, a man of some learning and considerable wealth, began to teach that baptism, by total immersion, was absolutely necessary to salvation. Endowed with great boldness, pertinacity and zeal -- gifted with native eloquence, pure in his character, and respectable by his position, he was soon regarded by his followers as an inspired prophet. The sect of the Campbellites, which he founded, still maintains a lingering existence, but many of his converts apostatized to Mormonism.
Manchester, the residence of Joseph Smith, was frequently visited by rival revivalists of various denominations, but principally methodists, presbyterians, and baptists: their leaders vied with each other in rant and extravagance, reflecting no artifice which seemed likely to increase the number of proselytes. Families became divided by sectarian controversy, and that of the Smiths seemed likely to contain as many denominations as it did members. Joseph, in his seventeenth year, began to feel, as he informs us, "the awakenings of conscience," and was at first disposed to join the methodists. Before taking a decisive step, he went into a grove at a short distance from his father's house, and besought God to inform him "which of the many hundred denominations under which Christians had ranged themselves, really constituted the true church."
"While thus pouring out his soul," says the narrative published under his superintendence, and implicitly received by his followers, "anxiously desiring an answer from God, he, at length, saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above; which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards
him; and, as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness, and magnitude, so that, by the time that it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner." Into this cloud of glory, Smith, says the narrative, was received, and he met within it two angelic personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features; they informed him that all his sins were forgiven. They further declared, "that all the religious denominations as were believing were believing in incorrect doctrines, and consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom; and he was expressly commanded to go not after them, and he received a promise, that the true doctrine -- the fulness of the Gospel, "should, at some future time, be made known to him; after which, the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace, indescribable."
Every particular of this tale is an obvious plagiarism from Mohammed's account of the first revelation made to him in the cave of Hira. Like Smith, the impostor of Mecca relates that Joe was placed in a state of doubt and perplexity by the number and variety of the religious denominations which divided the world -- that he retired into a solitary place to seek for divine illumination -- that he was visited by the archangel Gabriel, "who wrung the black drop of original sin" from his heart, and that he received a promise of a future revelation, to be given on "the night of power," that is to say, on the night when the archangel Gabriel mounted him on the celestial steed, or rather donkey, Al-Borak, and guided him through the seven heavens into the ineffable presence. Lives of Mohammed form a conspicuous portion of the popular literature of America; and we can feelingly testify, that some of their publishers reprinted English works on the subject, and given them an American nature. There are so many striking resemblances between Smith's conduct and that of Mohammed, as to have no room for doubting that the American impostor has taken his Arabian predecessor for his model and example.
Smith's "night of power" was delayed until the 21st of Sept. 1823, and is thus described in the Mormonite narrative: --
"He had retired to rest, as usual, only that his mind was drawn out, in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire, 'to commune with some kind of messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God,' and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he thus continued to pour out his desires before the Father of all good; endeavouring to exercise faith in his precious promises; 'on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, the first site was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation visible to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and, in a moment, a personage stood before him.'
"Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, 'yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, yet, it was of a pleasing, innocent, and glorious appearance; so much so, that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul.'
"The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men of this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.
"This glorious being declared himself to be an Angel of God, sent forth, by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also, to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel, concerning their posterity, was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy.
He was informed, that he was called
and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation. It was also made manifest to him, that the "American Indians" were a remnant of Israel; that when they first emigrated to America, they were an enlightened people, possessing a knowledge of the true God, enjoying his favour, and peculiar blessing from his hand; that the prophets, and inspired writers among them, were required to keep a sacred history of the most important events transpiring among them: which history was handed down for many generations, till at length they fell into great wickedness: the most part of them were destroyed, and the records, (by commandment of God, to one if the last prophets among them,) were safely deposited, to preserve them from the hands of the wicked, who sought to destroy them. He was informed, that these records contained many sacred revelations pertaining to the gospel of the kingdom, as well as prophecies relating to the great events of the last days; and that to fulfill his promises to the ancients, who wrote the records, and to accomplish his purposes, in the restitution of their children, &c., they were to come forth to the knowledge of the people. If faithful, he was to be the instrument, who should be thus highly favoured in bringing these sacred things to light: at the same time, being expressly informed, that it must be done with an eye single to the glory of God, that no one could be entrusted with those sacred writings, who should endeavour to aggrandize himself, by converting sacred things to unrighteous and speculative purposes. After giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, which would be foreign to our purpose to mention here, he disappeared, and the light and glory of God withdrew, leaving his mind in perfect peace, while a calmness and serenity indescribable pervaded the soul,"
This celestial vision was repeated twice in the night, and again on the following morning. On the last occasion, the angel led Smith to the place in which these precious relics were deposited, which, as we are informed with laudable particularity, was "in a large hill in the east side of the main road from Palmyra, Wayne county, to Canandaigua, Ontario county, state of New York, about four miles from Palmyra, and within one of the little village of Manchester." Here, according to the narrative, he found a square stone chest, containing plates like gold, "about seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite so thick as common tin." The devil, according to the narrative, made his appearance when the box was opened, but did not condescend to explain the purpose of his coming. The following is the description given of the plates thus miraculously found: --
"They were filled on both sides with engravings in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole. This volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters or letters upon the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, as well as much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found "a curious instrument, called by the ancients the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones, clear as crystal, set in the two rims of a bow. This was in use, in ancient times, by persons called seers. It was an instrument, by the use which, they received revelation of things distant, or of things past or future."
The narrative then relates that Smith accurately copied one of the plates, and sent it by a person named Martin Harris to New York, where this transcript was shown to Professor Anthon, who "was unable to decipher it correctly, but offered his assistance in translating the original record."
It is a fact that Martin Harris of Palmyra waited on Professor Anthon with such a paper, and Anthon gave him a certificate stating in substance, that it contained only vague imitations of alphabetical signs, utterly destitute of meaning. Smith subsequently persuaded Harris that this declaration was only a proof of the professor's ignorance. Had Smith known that Anthon's literary reputation is mainly based on his unscrupulous plagiarisms from German and English scholars, to whom he never acknowledges his obligations, the professor's authority as a linguist might have been lowered to the standard of his editorial honesty.
No one of the Mormonites records mentions the period when Smith received "the gift of interpretation," and the consequent power of translating these records. Three witnesses, however,
bear testimony "to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people," in the following terms: -- "We 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 certainty that the work is true." These witnesses are Martin Harris, already mentioned; Oliver Cowdery, author of the official narrative which we have quoted; and David Whitmer, who further reported that the angel who appeared was "like a man in grey clothes, having his throat cut." Eight witnesses subsequently attested that "they had seen and hefted," that is, handled, so as to be conscious of the weight, these wonderous plates; but these are the father and the three brothers of the prophet, and three brothers of the David Whitmer who signed the first certificate, Smith's mother, also, bore testimony to the real existence when the Rev. Henry Caswell visited her last year at Nauvoo.
"I am old," she said, "and I shall soon stand before the judgment seat of Christ; but what I say to you now, I would say on my death-bed. My son Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy, and he is indeed a true prophet of Jehovah. The angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since; and showed him the cave where the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited. He showed him, also, the Urim and Thummim, by which he might understand the meaning of the inscriptions on the plates, and he showed him the golden breast-plate if the high priesthood, My son received these precious gifts, he interpreted the holy record, and now the believers in that revelation are more than a hundred thousand in number. I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose. They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters, beautifully engraved. I have seen and felt, also, the Urim and Thummim. They resembled two large, bright diamonds, set in a bow, like a pair of spectacles. My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English. I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate. It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly."
We have found the Mormonites very jealous when any inquiry was made respecting the existence of these plates; they generally declared that they were invisible to the profane, and could only be seen "by the eye of faith." Martin Harris made the same declaration to a gentleman of Palmyra, declaring that when shown to him, they were covered by a cloth, through which he saw them "just as distinctly as anything around," not indeed with his bodily eyes, but "with the eye of faith."
Martin Harris acted as Smith's amanuensis, writing down the supposed translation of the plates from his dictation. But on those occasions the prophet was hidden from his secretary by a curtain or blanket. On one occasion, Harris' wife, who always looked upon Smith as an impostor, clandestinely abstracted more than a hundred pages of the translation, but the prophet published a revelation, expressly forbidding him to translate that portion a second time. Smith's account of this revelation is prefixed to the American edition of the Book of Mormon, but is omitted in the English re-publication.
About the middle of the year 1830, the Book of Mormon was published, with the following singular title, which we copy in full length,
"The Book of Mormon; an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates, taken from the Plates of Nephi."
"Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi and also of the Lamanites; written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile: written by way of commandment and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift and power of God.
"An abridgment taken from the book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven; which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and
that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God manifesting himself unto all nations. And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
Translated by Joseph Smith, Jun"
Immediately after the publication of their new Bible, the Mormonites regularly organized themselves into a society, and took the name of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." The narrative gives the following account of the first outburst of this enthusiasm, and those who are acquainted with the religious (?) literature of America will at once recognize the phraseology as the ordinary cant used in the descriptions of Methodist and Baptist revivals.
"Some few were called and ordained by the spirit of revelation and prophecy, and began to preach and bear testimony, as the spirit gave them utterance; and although they were the weak things of the earth, yet they were strengthened by the Holy Ghost, and gave forth their testimony in great power, by which means many were brought to repentance, and came forward with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and were immersed in water confessing their sins, and were filled with the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; and saw visions and prophesied. Devils were cast out, and the sick were healed by the prayer of faith, and laying on of hands. Thus was the word confirmed unto the faithful by signs following. Thus the Lord raise up witnesses, to bear testimony of his name, and lay the foundations of his kingdom in the last days. And thus the hearts of the saints were comforted, and filled with great joy."
The Book of Mormon, as the narrative with truth declares, "contains nearly as much reading as the Old Testament;" it is divided into several books, named after their supposed authors, Nephi, Mormon, &c., It professes to contain the history of the early settlement of America, and to connect its successive civilization with various events recorded in the sacred Scriptures. We need only give a brief summary of this history.
It states that, soon after the Flood, the Jaredites, a religious people, "obtained favour in the sight of the Lord," and were miraculously led by a royal prophet, named Nephi [sic], "from the tower (of Babel) to the great ocean where they were commanded to build ships, in which they were marvelously brought across the great deep to the shores of North America. And the Lord God promised to give them America, which was a very choice land in his sight, for an inheritance." The Jaredites became a very great and powerful people; they built cities, anticipated many European discoveries in metallurgy and mechanical science, and established extensive factories. Having, however, fallen into wickedness, they were, after the lapse of fifteen centuries, swept from the face of the earth. Their sacred records, however, were left on plates of gold "by one of their last prophets, whose name was Ether, in such a situation that they were discovered by the remnant of Joseph, who soon afterwards were brought from Jerusalem to inherit the land."
This remnant of Joseph consisted of the pious portion of the kingdom of Israel rescued from Assyrian bondage, and brought to America about the time of the prophet Jeremiah -- that is, in the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. Here they were subsequently joined by a remnant of the Jews, similarly rescued from the Babylonish captivity; and the united people soon surpassed the ancient Jaredites in wealth intelligence, and civilization. After some time, a wicked man, named Laman, seduced a great body of the nation to forsake the paths of righteousness; and his followers, who took the name of Lamanites, drove the faithful remnant from their settlements in South America, across the Isthmus of Darien to the northern forests. Before this event, the Lamanites, like their brethren, were "white and exceedingly fair," but God "cursed them in their complexions, and they were changed to a dark colour; and they became a wild, savage, and ferocious people." The pious exiles assumed the name of Nephites, from the second Nephi, who was their leader, "and in the days of their righteousness, they were a civilized, enlightened, and happy people." After the lapse
of time, however, many of the Nephites fell into gross wickedness, which was punished by earthquakes, and other convulsions of nature, about the time of our Saviour's birth. The next great event in the Nephite history is of such a nature, that instead of abridging it from the Book of Mormon, we shall extract the summary given in the authorized confession of faith issued by the Mormonite church.
"Those who survived these terrible judgments, were favoured with the personal ministry of Christ. For after He arose from the dead, and finished his ministry at Jerusalem, and ascended to heaven, he descended in the presence of the Nephites, who were assembled round about their temple in the northern parts of South America. He exhibited to them his wounded hands, and side, and feet; and commanded the law of Moses to be abolished; and introduced and established the Gospel in its stead; and chose twelve disciples from among them to administer the same; and instituted the sacrament; and prayed for and blessed their little children; and healed their sick, and blind, and lame, and deaf, and those who were afflicted in any way, and raised a man from the dead, and showed forth his power in their midst; and expounded the Scriptures, which had been given from the beginning down to that time; and made known unto them all things which should take place down until He should come in his glory, and from that time down to the end, when all people, nations, and languages should stand before God to be judged, and the heaven and the earth should pass away, and there should be a new heaven and new earth. These teachings of Jesus were engraved upon plates, some of which are contained in the book of Mormon; but the more part are not revealed in that book, and are hereafter to be made manifest to the saints."
In the fourth century after Christ, the Nephites had so far degenerated from the piety of their ancestors, that God delivered them over to their enemies, the Lamanites, by whom they were cruelly harassed for a long succession of years. The commander of their eventful history may be best told in the authorized summary, issued by the Mormonite missionaries in England: --
"At length, the Nephites were driven before their enemies, a great distance to the north, and north-east; and having gathered their whole nation together, both men, women, and children, they encamped on, and round about the hill Cumorah, where the records were found, which is in the State of New York, about two hundred miles west of the city of Albany. Here they were met by the numerous hosts of the Lamanites, and were slain, and hewn down, and slaughtered, both male and female -- the aged, middle aged, and children. Hundreds of thousands were slain on both sides; and the nation of the Nephites were destroyed, excepting a few who had deserted over to the Lamanites, and a few who escaped into the south country, and a few who fell wounded, and were left by the Lamanites on the field of battle for dead, among whom were Mormon and his son Moroni, who were righteous men."
"Mormon had made an abridgment, from the records of his forefathers, upon plates, which abridgment he entitled the "Book of Mormon;" and, (being commanded of God,) he hid up in the hill Cumorah, all the sacred records of his forefathers which were in his possession, except the abridgment called the "Book of Mormon," which he gave to his son Moroni to finish. Moroni survived his nation a few years, and continued the writings, in which he informs us, that the Lamanites hunted those few Nephites who escaped the great and tremendous battle of Cumorah, until they were all destroyed, excepting those who were mingled with the Lamanites, and that he was left alone, and kept himself hid, for they sought to destroy every Nephite who would not deny the Christ. He furthermore states, that the Lamanites were at war one with another, and that the whole face of the land was one continual scene of murdering, robbing, and plundering. He continued the history until the four hundred and twentieth year of the Christian era, when, (by the commandment of God,) he hid up the records in the hill Cumorah, where they remained concealed, until by the ministry of an angel they were discovered to Mr. Smith, who, by the gift and power of God, translated them into the English language, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, as stated in the foregoing. "
Such is a faithful abstract of the celebrated Book of Mormon, now before us in the shape of a substantial volume, containing six hundred and thirty-four closely-printed pages -- several thousand of which have been circulated in the north of England, and received by credulous multitudes
as authentic records of inspiration. We have ourselves heard it read by a father of a family on a Sunday evening, as a substitute for the Bible, and have heard Mormonites prefer it to that sacred book, declaring that it contains a more plain and ample system of revelation. We shall now extract some passages from the work, which will sufficiently prove that it is not only an audacious, but a very clumsy forgery, and which will, in some degree, help us to trace its origin. Our first extract shall be a portion of the vision of Nephi the Jaredite [sic], the supposed cotemporary of the tower of Babel. It is designed to forshow the discovery of America by Europeans: --
"And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me saying, look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms. And the angel saith unto me, what beholdest thou? And I said I behold many nations and kingdoms, and he saith unto me, these are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
"And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles, the foundation of a great church. And the angel said unto me, Behold the foundation of a church, which is most abominable above all churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.
"And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil, that he was the foundation of it. And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots. And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church: and also for the praise of the world, do they destroy the Saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.
"And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren. And it came to pass that the angel said unto me, behold, the wrath of God is upon the seed of my brethren! And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, which were in the promised land.
"And it came to pass that I beheld the spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
"And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles, upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles, and they were smitten. And I beheld the spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles; that they did prosper, and obtain the land of their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceeding fair and beautiful, like unto my people, before they were slain."
The broad allusion to the Church of Rome in a prophecy supposed to be more than three thousand years old, is so obvious a manifestation of forgery, that it at first sight seems inexplicable how an artful impostor could have ventured upon such gross deception. We have, however, learned from the Mormonites themselves, that this precious blunder has in no small degree contributed to the success of the imposture. From 1825 to 1832 there was a strong current of popular prejudice against the Romish Church in the state of New York, which was considerably strengthened by the publication of Maria Monk's pretended confessions. Some convents and chapels were destroyed by fanatical mobs, and these circumstances, no doubt, induced the author to court popular prejudice, to which, when at its full height, in America, no appeal can be too gross. Similar circumstances assisted the Mormonites in Lancashire. However wholesome the excitement produced by the eloquent appeals of such orators as Messrs. Stowell and M'Neile may have been, it is certain that some of their followers carried the anti-papal cry and feeling to a morbid excess, and that many of the dissenting bodies used it to seduce multitudes from the church of England, as "the daughter of the mother of harlots." The Mormonites profited greatly, and still continue to profit, by the circumstance. They have persuaded their followers that popery is on the point of being established in England, appealing to the
exertions made to procure its diffusion in proof of the fact; and they declare that men anxious to ensure the salvation of themselves and their families must hasten to the new Jerusalem of the Latter-day Saints in America.
A second and more flagrant blunder occurs in a subsequent page of this pretended revelation. Nephi relates that after the emigrant Jaredites [sic] had sailed, and had been tossed for several weeks on the pathless ocean, the crew rose against him, as the Spanish sailors did against Columbus, but a tempest ensuing, they were forced to release him, as he was the only person capable of working the ship. He is then declares:
"And it came to pass that after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it. And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after that I had prayed, the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm!"
We pointed out this gross anachronism to a Mormonite elder in Preston, who was about to emigrate with his family to America about three years ago, urging on him the fact that no mention was made of the mariner's compass in the authentic books of Scripture. To our great astonishment, and not a little to our amusement, he unwittingly explained the probable source of this palpable blunder. He averred that the compass was mentioned, quoting from the account of St. Paul's voyage, (Acts xxviii, 13,) "we fetched a compass, (that is, took a circuitous course) and came to Rhegium." It was in vain that we showed him that the declaration respecting "the compass working whither Nephi desired it," clearly proved the author to be utterly ignorant of the use of the implement; he replied that Nephi was speaking of a miracle, and that miracles were incomprehensible to carnal reason.
Among other obvious marks of forgery, the constant use of the word Christ as a proper Hebrew name, while it is in reality a Greek title of office, "the Anointed One," being in fact the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah; deserves to be noticed, because the error is not confined to the Mormonites. The term. from inveterate custom, is used, indeed, like a proper name -- or rather, as an untranslatable designation, by western Christians, though not by many of the eastern churches; and we should be unwilling to abandon an epithet which has been hallowed by the reverence of centuries; but we cannot comprehend why the word should be left untranslated in the versions of the Bible into the modern language of Asia -- why, for instance, instead of using a Chinese equivalent, the sacred epithet should be travestied into the unmeaning form of Ki-li-tu-su! But the use of the Greek epithet, "Christ," as a Hebrew term, is not the only evidence which may be adduced of the clumsy and gross ignorance of some of the parties engaged in this imposture. The second Nephi, who takes up the pretended history at a time supposed to be cotemporary with the events recorded in the New Testament, introduces our Lord as thus addressing the assembled descendants of Joseph in America: --
"Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name. I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled. And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the Sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled. I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."
Here we have not only the former blunder of "Christ" repeated, but also the name "Jesus" appears in its Greek form, and not as the Hebrews would have called it, "Joshua;" and we have, furthermore the names of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet given as a metaphorical description of continued existence to a nation which had never heard of the Greek language. It is quite clear the impostor mistook Alpha and Omega for some sacred and mystical sounds, to which particular sanctity was attached, -- an error by no means confined to the Mormonites -- and wrote them down without perceiving that they were an evidence of forgery so palpable as to be manifest to schoolboys. It may
seem surprising that marks of falsehood so obvious and so decisive should for a moment escape detection and exposure; but unhappily we are forced to conclude, from the pamphlets before us, that the American methodists, who first undertook to expose the Mormonites, were not one whit less ignorant than those whom they assailed. Good, however, sometimes arises out of evil. We are informed that the American conference has begun to impress upon its preachers the importance of studying the Scriptures in the original languages, on the religious grounds that no one should begin to teach the Bible before he can read it. Had they, and the preachers of other denominations, adopted this principle earlier, Mormonism would not have attained its present strength, nor a clumsy forgery passed current as a divine revelation.
We have now to explain the origin of the imposture, which is one of the most singular events in literary history. To understand it aright, we must bear in mind that there were two impostures, originally distinct; the discovery of the pretended gold plates by Smith, and the production of the alleged translation, or Book of Mormon, which was an after-thought, suggested by a worthy with whom we shall soon make our readers more intimately acquainted, denominated Sidney Rigdon.
In the year 1822, Smith acquired some celebrity in his neighbourhood as "a money-digger." It is a common belief in America, that large sums of money were buried in the earth by the buccaneers, and by persons compelled to fly from their homes during the revolutionary war. Of this belief many impostors have taken advantage, declaring that they can discover the hidden treasure by spells and incantations. Joseph Smith, in his eighteenth year, professed to have found a mysterious stone -- the same that figures as the Urim and Thummim in his pretended revelations -- by which he could see the exact spot where money has been concealed, or where mines of gold existed. Several persons were duped and cheated by his arts, which were beginning to get stale, when he devised his notable scheme of the plates, designed in the first instance as a plot of pretended treasures and forged antiquities. As such he proposed to pledge them to Martin Harris, dwelling rather on their intrinsic value as gold, than on the importance of their inscriptions.
We shall now see how this fraud was connected with 'The Book of Mormon.' An old clergyman of the Presbyterian persuasion [Spaulding], having quitted the ministry, entered into business in Cherry Vale, in the state of New York, where he failed in the year 1809. Thence he removed to the state of Ohio, where he established himself as a speculator in land, but again became bankrupt in 1812. About this time public attention was first directed to the antiquities of the "mounds," those unquestionable relics of a civilization which must have become extinct long before Columbus had passed the Atlantic.
"The ancient remains of the United States," says Mr. Bradford, the latest and most intelligent writer on the subject, "bear evident marks of being the production of a people elevated far above the savage state. Many of them indicate great elegance of taste, and a high degree of dexterous workmanship and mechanical skill in their construction; others betoken the existence of a decided form of religious worship; while the size and extent of the earthen fortifications and mounds, demonstrate the former existence of populous nations, capable of executing works of enormous dimensions, requiring perseverance, time. and combination of labour for their erection."
Long previous to this discovery, it had been a favorite theory with certain speculative writers, that the red Indians of North America are the descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel; indeed the theory has still many advocates, both in the United States and in England. Spaulding hoped by combining this theory with recent discoveries to produce a kind of national romance, the sale of which would enable him to pay his debts. He resolved to call it 'Manuscript Found,' and to present it to the world as an historical record of the early colonization of America. As he advanced, he was so delighted with his success, that read portions of the work to his friends and neighbors. His brother, his partner, his wife, and six of his friends testify. "That they well remember many of the names and incidents mentioned in Spaulding's manuscript, and that they know them
to be the same as those found in the 'Book of Mormon.'" In 1812, Spaulding took his manuscript to Pittsburgh, and placed it in the hands of Messrs. Patterson and Lambdin, printers; it remained in their hands when the unfortunate author died, a victim to disappointment and vexation.
Mr. Caswall is of opinion that this manuscript came into Smith's hands without the intervention of Rigdon, and was prepared for the press by the arch-impostor himself, without any literary assistance. This, though possible, appears to us far from probable; small as the literary merit of the Book of Mormon is, it appears to us beyond Smith's powers. We have before us his Book of Doctrines and Covenants, containing a record of the special revelations vouchsafed to him as guides for the government of the church, and in it the following passage equally remarkable for its grammar, and for the evidence it affords of Smith's care of the money which he and his apostles wring from their dupes --
"Hearken unto me, saith the Lord your God, for my servant Oliver Cowdery's sake. It is not wisdom in me that he should be intrusted with the commandments and the monies, which he shall carry up unto the land of Zion, except one go with him who is true and faithful. Wherefore I, the Lord, willeth that my servant John Whitmer shall go with my servant Oliver Cowdery." -- sec. 44.
We must now give some account of Sidney Rigdon, whose share in the propagation of Mormonism was scarcely inferior to that of Smith. He was originally a printer [sic], and was employed [sic] in the office of Patterson and Lambdin, where Spaulding's manuscript romance had been deposited. There is no decisive evidence that Rigdon obtained possession of the MS., but after Lambdin's death it disappeared from the office, and has never since been found. In 1827, Rigdon separated from the Baptists, and commenced preaching some points of doctrine, partly agreeing with the Campbellites and partly different. The new doctrines related to the literal fulfilment of the prophecies, the restoration of the lost tribes of Israel, the actual reign of the saints upon earth, and the restoration of miraculous gifts. He brought forward, but less prominently, that the saints should have a community of goods, but he strenuously insisted that baptism by total immersion was absolutely necessary to salvation. Every one of these doctrines have been introduced among the fundamentals of Mormonism.
The only difficulty in ascribing to Rigdon the principal share in the deception of the Book of Mormon, is, that proof is wanting of his being acquainted with Smith previous to its publication. Rigdon himself, in one of his published letters, swells strongly on this circumstance; and Parley Pratt, who, up to last October, was the head of the Mormonite mission in England, avers that Rigdon was converted by him several months after the Mormon church was established. Against this, however, must be set the evidence, that Rigdon made frequent visits to the locality in which Smith resided -- that his former doctrines and those of Mormonism are precisely identical -- that he had so prepared his old flock as to induce more than one hundred of them to embrace Mormonism at the same time with himself -- and that Smith immediately after Rigdon's own profession, issued the following revelation, as coming express from God, which is thus given in the Book of Doctrines and Covenants: "It is meet that [my] servant Sidney Rigdon shall live as seemeth him good, inasmuch as he keepeth my commandments" -- sec. 64. And again, when Rigdon first visited Smith the additional revelation was made -- "Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked upon thee and thy works; I have heard thy prayers and prepared the for a greater work. Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth even as John to prepare the way before me," This last passage appears to us decisive evidence of some previous concert between Smith and Rigdon.
A revelation was soon received that Kirtland, Rigdon's residence in the State of Ohio, was to be the eastern boundary of the promised land, which was to extend westward to the Pacific Ocean, and that the new Jerusalem would be erected within its limits. A place for it was actually found in Jackson County, state of Missouri
and here the first stone of the city of "Zion" was laid by Rigdon and Cowdery, under the authority of a pretended revelation from Smith. New revelations involving fresh demands for money, were now published, and their nature will be easily understood by the following extracts from the Book of Doctrines and Covenants --
"Let all the monies which can be spared, it mattereth not unto me whether it be little or much, be sent up unto the land of Zion, unto them whom I have appointed to receive.... Let all those who have not families, who receive money, send it up unto the bishop in Zion, or unto the bishop in Ohio, that it may be consecrated for the bringing forth of the revelations, and the printing thereof, and for establishing Zion." sec. 17. "He that sendeth up treasures unto the land of Zion shall receive an inheritance in this world. And his work shall follow him. And also a reward in the world to come.... It is meet that my servant Joseph Smith, jun., should have a house built in which to live and translate."
Kirtland, the name of which was changed to Shinahar, was chosen as the place for the erection of the "Temple of the Lord;" a singular edifice with this name was begun in 1833 and finished in 1835; it was eighty feet long, sixty in breadth, and fifty-seven in height, being divided into two stories, each twenty-two feet high, with arched ceilings. In each room were eight pulpits, four at either end, each designed to hold three persons. These were intended for the twelve priests of the order of Melchisedec, and twelve of the order of Aaron, into which Smith divided his hierarchy. The most extravagant and shocking scenes of extravagance were exhibited in this building; "the unknown tongues," which Smith had at first discarded and denounced, were revived; convulsions and fits were exhibited to the wondering congregations as examples alternately of angelic and demonical possession; and some of the Mormonites ran through the country like lunatics, following, as they declared, supernatural beings visible to themselves alone.
The crowds of poor Mormonites who flocked to Zion were unable to purchase lands, and therefore became "squatters." Some of them boldly declared that the "Lord had given them the land for an inheritance, and that the Missourians, like the Canaanites, ought to be dispossessed." This was but the revival of the three Massachusetts' resolutions, passed by an assembly of Puritans in the 17th century, previous to dispossessing some Indian tribes of their hunting grounds. The resolutions stood thus on the record: --
1. -- It was moved and seconded -- "That the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" -- carried unanimously.
2. -- It was resolved with equal unanimity: -- "That the Lord hath given the inheritance of the earth unto his saints."
3. -- And finally, the meeting carried by acclamation -- "Resolved, that we are the saints."
The Missourians took the alarm, and on the 20th of July, 1833, rose in their fury, demolished the printing-office in the Mormonite village of Independence, tarred and feathered several of their preachers, and threatened utter destruction to the rest, unless they immediately quitted the district. At first the Mormonites appealed to the law, but in the western states of America an appeal to legal authority was just as inefficacious as an appeal to the Grand Lama of Thibet, or the Pope of Rome, and not quite as rational. It so irritated the Missourians, who equally hated old law and new gospel, that they drove twelve hundred Mormonites from their huts, the greater part being women and children, on a dark wintery night, barefoot, and nearly naked, into the bleak prairies. Cruelties still more atrocious were exercised on obnoxious individuals: several were flogged to death [sic], and houses of all were burned to the ground.
The intelligence of this persecution healed the divisions which threatened premature destruction to the church at Kirtland. Smith resolved to meet force with force, and led a body of well-armed Mormonites against the Missourites of Jackson county; but, on approaching "the Gentiles," his courage failed, and he entered into negotiations which led to a truce. About the same time a bank which Smith and Rigdon had established in Kirtland, and which, even on their own showing, had been most fraudulently conducted, failed. Legal process was commenced against the prophet and his vicar. Ohio became an unsafe state for them, and
they came with their host of followers to Clay county in Missouri. Here Smith openly avowed his intention of propagating his religion by the sword; and not content with emulating Mohammed, he took a leaf out of the book of Hassan-ebn-Sihah, and like that "old man of the mountain," organized a body of sworn assassins, under the name of the "Danite Band." The Missourians, alarmed by the threats of vengeance for the late outrages loudly vented by the Mormonites, had again recourse to arms: the militia of the state was called out to keep the peace; but this body proved worse than useless -- indeed one entire company, commanded by one Bogard, a Methodist preacher, actually joined the mob in attacking the Mormonites. Limited as was the civil war which ensued, the most fearful atrocities were committed on both sides. At length Governor Boggs, who had just been elected on account of his known hostility to the Mormonites, assembled the militia and all the Missourians who would accompany him, marched against the Mormonites with overwhelming force, and compelled them, under a menace of immediate extermination, to surrender at discretion. A court-martial was then held under General Lucas, composed of nineteen officers of militia, and seventeen preachers of various sects, who had served as volunteers against the Mormonites; and this singular court commanded that the prophet and his principal comrades should be publicly shot in the square of the town of Far West, in the presence of their followers and families! Luckily for Smith, one of the generals happened to be a lawyer and a man of sense; de declared the proceedings of the court-martial illegal, and induced the Missourians to reserve their prisoners for trial by the civil power. These leaders after being several weeks in prison, contrived to make their escape, and, returning to their deluded followers, asserted that they had been miraculously delivered like Paul and Silas of old.
This persecution was, on the whole, favourable to the purposes of Mormonism. The violence of the Missourian mobs, and the open connivance of the public authorities of Missouri in these outrages, were universally reprobated by the other states of America; and the rival state of Illinois offered a refuge to fifteen thousand Mormons who were about to be driven from the different counties of Missouri.
Early in 1839 Smith found a new situation for the New Jerusalem in the state of Illinois, on the Upper Mississippi, at the head of the Des Moines Rapids. Here, on a semicircular curve, formed by the "father of rivers," he laid the foundations of a city denominated Nauvoo, a name which, he informed his readers, signified "beautiful" in Hebrew. During his imprisonment, however, suspicions had arisen in the minds of some of his followers, and they required of him some miracle as a sign of his mission. He had the blasphemy to reply in the words of our blessed Lord -- "A wicked and perverse generation seeketh after a sign," and with this answer his deluded followers were contented.
Here we may remark that a slight error in the English authorized version was the source of Smith's triumph. The Jews did not ask "a sign" from Christ -- it would be absurd to have done so, for his miracles were notorious -- they sought for "the sign" -- namely, "The Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven," which sacerdotal popular tradition from the days of Daniel had taught them to be the only certain characteristic of the Messiah. We dwell on this the more particularly, as all the Mormonite publications before us set forward this mistranslation as an error for their prophet's working no miracles in public.
Having re-established his community at Nauvoo, Smith had sufficient influence to obtain a charter for the new city from the legislature of Illinois, with liberty to raise a body of militia under the command of Smith, as lieutenant-general; he also obtained charters of incorporation for companies to build the temple, erect a hotel, conduct a manufactory of earthenware, and, to crown the whole, a charter for a Mormonite university.
Mormonism was first introduced into England by two of Smith's elders, named Kimball and Fielding, in the year 1837, who came to Preston from America, immediately after the failure of the Mormonite bank in Kirtland. They obtained license to preach at the quarter sessions, and their success was perfectly astonishing. Circumstances,
however, were greatly in their favour: the manufacturing distress, now in the sixth year of its pressure, was then commencing; emigration to America was recommended by high authorities, and artisans who had saved a little money, were eagerly inquiring where they could best invest their small capitals. The followers of Johanna Southcote and Edward Irving, disorganized and unchurched, had not recovered their senses, and only sought some new form for the indulgence of insane enthusiasm; and finally the Methodists, by their firmness in putting down all exhibitions of extravagant fanaticism, had alienated no small portion of the most ignorant among their followers, for men whose intelligence has not been developed, require to be excited by appeals to their passions. "They hooked on the whips and [str---] of every sect in Lancashire" said one who for a short time belonged to their body, speaking to us upon the subject; and as there are more varieties of sects in Lancashire than in any district of the same size under heaven, perplexed and straying sheep from the different flocks may always be had in abundance. About two years afterwards, Parley Pratt, having escaped miraculously as he said, from the Missouri prison, came to England, and assumed the superintendence of the Latter Day Saints. He established a printing office and bookseller's shop in Manchester, where he published a periodical called, the Millennial Star, now conducted by his successor, Ward. in Liverpool. Pratt is said to have raised a considerable sum of money from his deluded dupes; he seemed to us a man well calculated for the purpose; to the ignorant he dilated at extreme length on the superhuman learning of Smith, laying claim to no small share of similar acquirements himself; but to persons whom he suspected of a learned education, he was very reserved and uncommunicative. From Lancashire Mormonism spread into the mid-land counties, where it made numerous converts among the farmers. It reached London, but did not make much progress in the metropolis; but we have been credibly informed that it has been very successful in Wales and the south of Scotland. In the latter part of the year 1842, more than five thousand dupes emigrated from the port of Liverpool; and we must now turn back to Nauvoo, to see the nature of their probable reception.
The Illinois legislature and state government, in a spirit of re-action against the ruffian violence of the Missourians, not only, as we have seen, incorporated the Mormonite city, but created the prophet a general in the army, and the provost of a university! The latter title would have been too ridiculous even for the Mormons, and Smith declined the presidency, under the pretext that it would interfere with his revelations. While at Kirtland, he undertook a new translation of the Bible, in which he was assisted by Sidney Rigdon. It has been published [sic] at Nauvoo, but good care has been taken to prevent its reaching this country. He also, with the assistance of his elders, produced a collection of Mormonite hymns, composed, as he asserts, under the direct influence of Divine inspiration and which really have been very efficient agents in the success that his system has attained. Greater balderdash than these productions can scarcely be conceived; they are devoid of grammar, sense, or rhyme; and yet they are compared by the deluded Mormonites with whom we have conversed, to the psalms of David; and triumphantly quoted to the Methodists as superior in unction and spirit. One specimen will suffice; it forms part of a contrast between the first and second advent of the Messiah: --
The first was persecuted
And into Egypt fled, --
A pilgrim and a stranger
Not where to lay his head.
The second at his temple
Will suddenly appear,
And all his saints come with him
To reign a thousand year.
The first a man of sorrows
Rejected by his own;
And Israel left in blindness
To wander forth forlorn.
The second brings deliverance,
They crown him as their king,
The own him as their Saviour
And join his praise to sing.
Smith's last literary fraud is the most amazing of all, and far surpasses that which the Rev. Dr. Wall has
fixed upon Champollion. By some means or another, he obtained possession of four Egyptian mummies, which he exhibited for a time for a time to his followers, as the bodies of an Egyptian king, his two wives, and daughter of another king. After some time he removed the papyrus rolls in which they were enveloped, by the application of no more delicate instruments than a backwoodsman's hatchet, and exhibited the fragments as the actual autographs of Abraham written with his own hand while in Egypt. Last summer, a little after he had quarrelled with Sidney Rigdon, he commenced to publish what he has been pleased to term a translation of these documents in his "Times and Seasons," a periodical which he edits at Nauvoo. The absence of his better genius, Rigdon, is singularly apparent in this miserable forgery; it is full of the grossest blunders. He makes the Ur of the Chaldees part of the territory of the Egyptian Pharaohs; not aware that the Egyptians mummified animals, he gives fanciful names of idols to the representations of animal mummies -- he makes sad havoc with the geography of Palestine, putting places for persons, and persons for places, and he favours his followers in Abraham;s name with a system of astronomy, geology, and cosmogony, compared with which that of Mahommed or the Ephrem Syrus may be regarded as the very perfection of wisdom. Within forty-eight hours from the time in which we write, two numbers of this palpable forgery, were placed in our hands by a Lancashire Mormonite, in every other respect a most respectable and intelligent man of his class, and particularly conspicuous for mechanical skill, in the full hope that it would lead to our conversion.
Shortly after we met one of the returned Mormonites; he describes Smith as a man of middle size, very stoutly built, with something of a rakish and dis
Source: Lucy Mack Smith Interview, 1842. Henry Caswell, The City of the Mormons; or Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842 (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1842), 25-26. Reprinted in The Mormons, The Visitor, or Monthly Instructor, For 1842, v