“Thou Shalt Not Lie.” W. W. Phelps to John Whitmer. Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland, Ohio) 2, no. 3 (December 1835): 230–33.
THOU SHALT NOT LIE.—MOSES.
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh!— JESUS CHRIST.
DEAR BROTHER IN THE NEW COVENANT:—Presuming that the Saints wish to hear what the world says about them as the disciples of our blessed Lord and Savior, I take a little time to give you some published opinions:—to which I shall add such comments as the Spirit may suggest. With my brethren who have labored in furthering the gospel, since this church was established by revelation, I have been employed in my small capacity to assist, and I am well aware, that an opinion is had abroad by many, that, as this church claims to be the genuine church of Christ, so the members of it aught to submit to persecution, and abuse, and slander, and any thing else that the wicked think best to inflict, without redress or mercy: and also, that the elders ought to preach and give a book of Mormon when requested, because the church is a common stock concern.
Now, to give the truth on this matter, let me say, that when a person has struck me on both cheeks, a repetition looks so foreign from the laws of God and man, so contrary to the rules of humanity and justice, that I know of nothing spiritual or temporal that would debar me from self-defence.—As to giving and “common stock” if any candid man or woman, will read the book of Doctrine and Covenants, he or she may undeceive themselves, and learn that the church practices charity for the glory of it: not because some one praises it, and another wants honor by it.
Touching lying and slandering, I hardly know what to say; the poet has said:—
“He that steals my purse steals trash;
“ ‘Twas mine,—tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
“—But he that robs me of my good name Takes what cannot enrich him,
“But makes me poor indeed!”
Ever since the book of Mormon was published, as a people and society, the church of Latter Day Saints, has been wilfully and maliciously slandered and belied. The Rochester Observer, in 1830, came out with an obnoxious bitter article against the book of Mormon, &c. headed “Blasphemy; Blasphemy!” In meekness and humility, why was this savage thrust made at a few innocent persons? Methinks that editor would be considerably troubled to give one good reason why he thus wantonly, rashly, profanely and savagely published evil against his neighbors, when they had done him no wrong: nor had he any proof that one of them had transgressed the law of God, or man. Woe unto that people that honors cash and cloth more than character and truth!
This church has had to bear insults and injuries, as our fathers did taxation and bondage from great Britain, before they were able to claim and maintain their rights, but they that do good and they that do evil, have their rewards, for the judge of all the earth will do right.
Now to my purpose: the next statement I select to follow the Rochester “Blasphemy” has already had a place in the 19th number of the Evening and the Morning Star, and was copied from the Philadelphia Saturday Courier. It reads thus:
“TRAGICAL EVENT.—The following tragical story of a Mormon preacher is given by the Independent Messenger on the authority of a gentleman from the western part of the state of New York. We shall expect to see it authenticated by the western papers if it be true.”
“In a town where the delusion had made numerous converts the disciples were summoned to assemble in a wild place, circumjacent to a pond, on the water of which, a gifted elder announced that he should walk and preach. The believers notified their doubting friends, and great things were anticipated. But it seems there were a few wicked Lamanites, who secretly set themselves to make mischief. Choosing their opportunity, just before the pointed day of miracles, they ascertained, by means of a raft, that the pond to be traversed was extremely shallow; a thin sheet of water covering a common swamp mire.—This mire was found to be of a consistency nearly strong enough, except within a small central space, to sustain the weight of a man. They soon discovered a line of plank laid in a particular direction completely across the pond, sunk about four inches under the surface of the water. These were so fastened down, and locked together, and so daubed with mud, as  to be quite imperceptible from the neighboring declivities. They resolved on preventing the miracle by sawing the concealed bridge in pieces, just where it crossed the deepest and most dangerous part of the pond. This was done, and left seemingly as they found it.
“The expected day arrived, the congregation placed themselves as in an amphitheatre on the surrounding slopes and the preacher appeared at the edge of the water. Presently he raised his stentorian voice and as he paced his invisible bridge with a step apparent unearthly taught and warned the people. All ears were open, and every eye strained from its socket with astonishment.
But alas! just as the miracle-worker seemed to have wrought conviction of his divine power in the wondering hearts of the multitude, lo! he stepped upon one of the detached pieces of plank sallied side-ways, and instantly plunged, floundering and sinking in the deep water mire: mingling shrieks, screams and shouts of the spectators, all in a rush of commotion were appalling. The scene was indiscribable. Even those who had spoiled the miracle, were filled with horror when they actually saw the unfortunnate impostor disappear. They had not dreamed that their trick would cost him more than the fright, discomfort and disgrace of being submersed and afterwards struggling a shore; all along taking it for granted that his plank would enable him to swim, however it might treacherously fail him to walk, But the tale closes with the close of his life and the consequent close of Mormonism in that vicinity.—He sunk, and long before the confounded assembly were in a condition to afford him relief, perished a victim to his imposture.”
It may be said that the Star handled this matter enough to brand it with its just doom, but let me ask its makers and publisers a few questions. As they live in what is called a christian community, I should like to learn what reason they had, without the aid of law, to lay a plan publicly— to kill?— and, again, whether it comports with sacred or common rules, to ridicule, and bear false witness against their neighbors? There is evidently a lying spirit abroad among the people, and one cannot do better, seeing their is manifestly such a pretention to something great, than to exclaim in the language of Paul, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has evidently been set forth, crucified among you?”
My next article appeared in the N. Y. Daily Advertiser of July 18, 1834:
“Mormon war— It is stated on the authority of a letter received at Chardon, Ohio, direct from Missouri, that a body of well armed Mormons, under their chief or prophet, Joe Smith, on attempting to cross the river into Jackson county; that a battle ensued, in which the Mormons were worsted & driven back, and their leader was wounded in the leg. It is added that he died three days after the of the wound, or of amputation.”
I presume the Advertiser, has ever corrected this statement,—though one of the commandments says “Thou shalt not lie.”
Again the Philadelphia Saturday Courier of Aug. 2, 1834, treats its readers and the world, with the following:
“THE MORMONITES.—These egregious fanatics have produced quite an excitement in Missouri, and several of the western papers speak of them and their movements, as if Joe Smith, the Mormonite leader, were a modern Mahomet. The Tappanites have not excited more attention in the eastern cities. A letter from Lexington, [Mo.] under date of June 20th, says:”
“In a former letter, I wrote at some length about the Mormons, and promised to write again on the subject. They have just received a large reinforcement from the East, which makes their numbers amount to 800 or 1000 men: all armed with guns, tomahawks, knives, and from two to four braces of pistols each. They went through the county on the north of the river yesterday. We understood that the people of that county intended to stop them; and for the purpose of assisting them we raised about forty men, but could not overtake them, [the Mormons,] as they raised a dog trot, and kept it up most of the day.”
A letter of a later date says:
“From my last letter, you may possibly be expecting of a severe battle between the Mormons and Jacksonians—but you will not.—We went up to Jackson county, armed with guns, knives, &c. in full expectation of meeting an enemy determined on victory or death. Nothing less could have been anticipated; for Smith, their prophet, had promised to raise all of them that should be slain in fighting the Lord’s battles.
“The Jackson people offered them twice the valuation of their possessions, which was refused. They had collected in Clay county, and built a number of boats, to cross their forces over. Last Monday was, no doubt, the time they intended to cross and would, most probably have done so, had it not been for the numbers who went from this county to oppose them. Jackson county could raise about 900 men, and 400 went from Lafayette: about 300 more would have marched in a day or two, if they had been required. I know we had neither law nor gospel on our side, but self-preservation urged us to pursue that course, for we knew that our county would be the next to suffer from their presence. If they had crossed the river, I very much question if any would have been left to tell the tale. No quarter would have been given. We could have killed most of them before they got across the river.
“Smith now tells them, [the mormons,] that it does not matter about building the temple yet—that they may wait 60 or 100 years longer. Meanwhile, they will locate somewhere else. I am told there are a goodly number about to leave the country.”
There is no need of any comments on this account, for it declares that it  has neither law nor gospel on its side, but meant to murder men, women and children, so that there should not one be left to tell the tale, notwithstanding the decalogue says THOU SHALT NOT KILL. This article brings Mr. Smith to life again without ceremony.
I shall next present you with a short article that recently appeared in M. M. Noah’s N. Y.
“Heathen Temple on Lake Erie.— That bold-faced impostor, Joe Smith, of Gold Bible and Mormon memory, has caused his poor fanatic followers to erect on the shores of Lake Erie; near Painesville, (Ohio) a stone building 68 by 78 feet with dormer windows, denominating the same the “Temple of the Lord.” We should think this work of iniquity extorted out of the pockets of his dupes, as it reflects it shadows over the over the blue lake, would make the waters crimson with shame at the prostitution of its beautiful banks to such unhallowed purposes.”
We can hardly believe that an honest man would write such a foolish, figurative statement: but when a man has failed to dupe his fellow Jews, with a New Jerusalem on Grand Island, I suppose that you cannot “crimson” [his face] with shame, at the prostitution of his life and character, to vices, that are forbidden by the law of Moses, by the law of the land, and every honest judge in Israel. Let me ask, who made Noah an umpire to say whether the church of the Latter Day Saints has not as good a right to build a house at Kirtland, for worshipping the Lord, as he had to lay a stone on Grand Island, to wheedle money from the Jews to fill his own pockets? again, let me ask what any of the Saints have done to injure Noah, or any other man, that he should wilfully ridicule them, and reproach them with iniquity? &c. &c. Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.—Isaiah 33:1.
One more example of folly, and I will cease quoting for the present: It is from the Sunday Morning News, of Nov. 15, and reads thus:
“Good.— Abner Kneeland, the notorious leader of the infidels in Boston, has been convicted of blasphemy before the supreme court of Mass. On three previous trials the jury could not agree upon a verdict. We cannot suggest a better course for the gray headed scoundrel then that he forthwith take up his line of march for the land of the Mormons, and associate himself with his brother imposter, Matthias; and to strengthen their proselytes in the faith, Fanny Wright, perhaps, may be induced to take up her residence with them. What a pretty little family the trio would make, with the addition of the X Dey of Algiers, X Charles, and with a few others which we cannot readily call to mind; we will toss into the caldron another Frenchman, Louis Phillippe, who can, in the course of a few months, be spared without any trouble.”
The editor of this Sabbath paper, is Mr. S. J. Smith, and what evil have the Saints ( Mormons, as he stiles them,) done to him or to his reputed city? what reason can he offer for endeavoring to reproach and ridicule a society of people, by tossing into their faces, the despised among men. His holy day paper poorly comports with the Savior’s golden rule: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, DO YE EVEN SO TO THEM.; for this is the law and the prophets.”
It is a matter of astonishment to me, that intelligent men, are so apt to slander and belie their fellow beings! It must arise from the fact, that Satan is an enemy to pure religion: for Cain slew his brother because the Lord had respect to the purity of Abel’s heart: Religion though based upon eternal truth, and always flourishing in the regions of glory, is treated strangely in this world. On account of abusing its light and knowledge, Cain became “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth.” For striving against the Spirit of God, and being full of violence, the inhabitants of the old world, except Noah and his family, were destroyed by the flood.
Pharaoh and his host were sunk in the Red Sea, for insulting the Saints of God: and I might go on from Moses till the final dispersion of the Jews, and the destruction of Jerusalem, after the Lord of glory was crucified, but I pause.
The hour of judgment is near, “And all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Why is it that such men as Noah, Dwight, Woodward, S. J. Smith and a phalanx of others, should be striving to put down the church of the Latter Day Saints, when they have received no injury from them? Is it because they have inhaled the cankering air, that
 has been tainted by the stenching breath of such men as Mr. Campbell, Mr. Avery, Mr.
Clapp, Mr. Hurlburt, and least of all the persecutors—the dark colored man with a pitchfork? If this is the case I am sorry for them:—for a wise man ought always to hear both sides of a matter before he judges it. I shall bring no railing accusations against them; I have merely drawn a picture of what they have hastily done, that they may look upon it and consider how many innocent men, women, and children have to suffer persecution, hunger, thirst, and other afflictions, for such rash words, and foolish deeds. No wonder Lynch law is murdering throughout our once happy country; no wonder mob after mob is breaking the tender thread of law, and bursting the strong bands of society, to spread anarchy, confusion, destruction and death: no preference is made to virtue more than vice, by men in high places; and when a scourge sweeps off its thousands, the survivors, seem to have been spared only to mock at the calamity; I do sincerely hope that all that have slandered the church of Latter Day Saints will repent of their sins and folly:
“For behold and lo vengeance cometh speedily upon the ungodly, as the whirlwind, and who shall escape it; the Lord’s scourge shall pass over by night and by day; and the report thereof shall vex all people; yet, it shall not be stayed until the Lord come: for the indignation of the Lord is kindled against their abominations, and all their wicked words.”
For the love of liberty: venerating the memory of our worthy forefathers who bled that we might live free; for the benefit of the oppressed; for the continuance of virtue, and in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, it is devoutly to be hoped that every man that has injured, or spoken evil of the church of Latter Day Saints, will be as free to make reparation, as he was to give currency to reports without foundation: that they may not remain among that class of beings, to whom the Savior’s language to the Scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites, will apply: for there is a woe to such as make clean the out side of the platter; that praise virtue but never practice it; that pay tithes, for the sake of honor, and esteem men and money more than truth and meekness, and omit the “weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.”
In the love of God, and in the hope of the prosperity of the pure in heart, praying that the Lord will have mercy upon all that turn from the evil of their ways; having virtue for my aim; truth for my standard, and seeking eternity for an everlasting inheritance, I shall continue to defend the cause of goodness and humanity.
As ever W. W. PHELPS TO JOHN WHITMER, Esq.