Marks, David. [Untitled Remarks on Mormonism]. Morning Star (Limerick, Maine) 7, no. 45 (7 March 1833): 177.
For the Morning Star.
In my last communication I promised an article on Mormonism. And having been somewhat acquainted with its rise, I will first state a few particulars. Some years since, I understood that in Manchester, a town adjacent to Canandaigua, the place of my residence, there was a man named Joseph Smith, who said, that by divine direction he had dug a golden Bible (or metallic plates resembling gold) out of the ground: that on these plates was engraved the history of the ten lost tribes of Israel, of the people and wars that it is manifest from the existing remains of mounds and fortifications have formerly been on this continent. This intelligence awakened some interest, and such was the light in which it was presented, that I was inclined to think favorably. Being aware that the world has ever been ready to reject the truth and to judge a matter before they hear it, I prepared myself to examine the subject with a mind open to conviction, and determined if God had spoken, even though it were from the ground, that I would incline my ear and believe. Passing through Palmyra, and Manchester, where Joseph Smith resided, I made considerable inquiry respecting the character of Smith, and from those who were acquainted with him received the following statements, viz: That he was an obscure, illiterate, awkward, and unpolished youth, aged about 21 years; that previous to his declaration of having found the plates he had made no pretensions to religion, but that he had been in the practice more or less of “telling fortunes” and “digging in the earth for chests of gold,” &c. &c.; and that for these practices, he had had the example of his father, Joseph Smith. These things were told me by several persons in different places. His being obscure, illiterate, and unpolished, was to me no argument that God had not spoken to the world by him, but the circumstance of his being a “fortune teller” and “money chest hunter,” appeared to me very unfavorable to his high pretensions: for though in old times the Lord spoke by shepherds and fishermen, we never read that he appeared to “fortune tellers,” soothsayers, astrologers, or to any persons of this class and spoke to the world by them.
During the time the book of Mormon was in press at Palmyra, I made particular inquiry, and was assured from respectable authority of the following particulars. That none were allowed to see the plates with Smith pretended to have dug up, except twelve chosen witnesses, and eight of these were connexions of two families: that the golden plates were said to be engraved in a language that none but Smith could read—and that an angel gave him a pair of spectacles which he put in a hat and thus read and translated, while one of the witnesses wrote it down from his mouth. When considerable had been written ready for the press, Mrs. Harris, wife one of the witnesses, thinking her husband was spending his property for nought in the publication of said book, made way with the manuscript. Upon this, Mr. Harris demanded it; but no obtaining it, whipped his wife to induce her to surrender it. On being asked if he thought this right, he said he “whipped her for Christ’s sake.”
On the 25th of March, 1830, I preached in Fayette and tarried the night at Mr. Whitmer’s, where I had an interview with eight of the witnesses. Among the number were a brother of Joseph Smith and Oliver Powdery, the scribe. They had just received a few copies of the Book of Mormon from the press. I inquired for the original plates, but they said they were “hid up unto the Lord.” After some conversation, I remarked to them that they lacked testimony to establish the divine authenticity of their new revelation. They answered that Christ said ‘in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word should be established,’ and that now I was not required to believe on the testimony of two or three only, but of twelve. To this I replied, that combinations of more than twelve had been frequent to support deception; and further that the Christian dispensation was confirmed by signs and miracles. They answered that twelve apostles were soon to be sent forth, endued with power from on high, to confirm their new revelation by miracles and wonders. They wished me to purchase one of their books, saying, if I read it with candor, and asked God for faith, and still did not believe, it was because I was given up of God. I objected to purchasing lest I might be supporting a deception, and as they were selling the works at $1.75 per copy, when the first cost was but 60 cts per copy, I thought it possible it might be a mere speculation. They said the angel of the Lord told Smith to sell the book for that price, that they might have the temporal profit as well as the spiritual. They then offered to lend me a copy, and accordingly I read 250 pages; but it was the most flat and insipid piece of composition that I ever read. It abounded with uncouth expressions and ungrammatical sentences: and great absurdity and manifest imposture marked its pages. My curiosity was not only satisfied but satiated; and I thought further attention to it would be an inexcusable waste of time. I should have furnished something on the subject for the Star at that time had I considered it worthy of notice. Still I thought it possible that this might gain some converts as most systems, however absurd and incompatible with truth, have their supporters. Soon after I heard that one of the witnesses baptized Smith, and then Smith the witnesses, and that they had gathered a church of thirty members in Fayette. The delusion has now spread, and many, I doubt not, sincere, well meaning persons; have been caught in this snare of Satan. But the greater part that have embraced Mormonism, so far as I have been able to learn, have been expelled members of religious societies, or members with whom were trials.