[Letter on Mormonism, 26 July 1841.] Christian Advocate and Journal (New York) 15, no. 52 (11 August 1841).
Messrs. Editors,—The following from T. is at your service. If, among the multitude of subjects to which your attention is directed, and the many communications on those subjects, you may think it proper to broach that of Mormonism,and can find a place for this epistle, and perhaps one more, you will oblige your constant reader.
Genesee con., July 26, 1841.
Dear Justus,—We were entertained, a few evenings since, in this village, by a couple of Mormon preachers. I improved this opportunity to hear them, as they had frequently been in our vicinity and left a favorable impression on the minds of some, which I found it difficult to uproot. On this occasion there were present men of minds sufficient to expose, on the spot, the hypocrisy of its advocates, and folly of its believers; and they will not soon again trouble our village. I have since obtained and read their “found Bible,” a little account of which, together with some choice extracts, I may forward to you in another epistle. In this I wish to give you a little of their history, which, if you wish to have it published in the Christian Advocate and Journal, may be a satisfaction to thousands who live far from the place of their origin, and seat of their labors. And it may not only be interesting, but profitable, as they are gleaning members from almost every Church. In this neighborhood some have been taken from the M. E. Church. I believe that a little exposure would prevent many from joining them, provided it be given in season, and by persons in whom the people might have confidence.
The natural superstition and proneness to believe in the marvelous, that affects, more or less, all minds, and bears a strong sway over those uncultivated by reading, is peculiarly favorable to the seed of Mormonism. Their preachers going about [illegible] babbling in an unknown tongue, and another interpreting what neither know, with all the zeal and devotional appearance of sincerity; pretending to equal, almost, the apostles themselves in performing miracles of healing; assigning all unbelievers to utter destruction during the present generation, take many in their meshes. The cases of healing, however, are like flying Italy to the “pious Eneas” and his band of wandering Trojans—always receding before the investigator till he is disheartened in the pursuit.
I have lived in Palmyra, where the Bible was printed in 1830, three miles from the far-famed hill in Manchester, Ontario county, in which the plates were found—have frequently seen the hill and conversed with the neighbors who saw Joseph Smith in his labors digging for money, when lo! a Bible, that had been “buried up” during 1400 years came forth. The hill, like Mecca to Mohammedans, may yet become the goal of troops of pious Mormons making their pilgrimage from their location in Illinois, rejoicing in the hope of reaching, before they die, the consecrated ground that had so long contained so valuable a treasure; becoming astonished, perhaps, on reaching it, that the farmer carelessly ploughing, or the beast grazing upon it, is not struck dead by the power of God, for their sacrilege.
Mr. Smith was an illiterate, lazy, money-digger, professing to have his eyesight so wonderfully assisted by a stone through which he looked, that he could discover treasure that was hid in the earth. Failing to obtain the object of his search, (for I never heard of his finding any money,) the plan of gaining it another way suggested itself. The probability is that Sidney Rigdon, who is the prophet’s right hand man, being the cashier of the late “Bank of Mormon,” hearing of Mr. Smith’s occupation, sought his acquaintance, in order to make a tool of him in this business of deception. Mr. Smith pretended that he had found some plates on which were certain Egyptian characters, and that God gave him the ability, through the aid of two stones that he dug up with the plates, to translate them. We have the translation from him alone, as he was commanded, in the plates themselves, to translate, and the “seal them up” again, only permitting a few witnesses to see them. Thus we are to receive a new translation from an indolent, speculating money-digger, who had the same power to read Egyptian and translate it, that he had before to see money in the earth, viz., through a stone.
As three witnesses are enough, according to Mr. Smith, to establish the truth of the book, three have given their testimony—all Mormons, of course—a part of which is the following:
“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 on the plates; and they have been shown to 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 saw the plates and the engravings thereon.” So Mr. Smith, it seems, did not show them, but an angel from heaven (how do we know but he was from hell? as Satan sometimes turns himself into an angel of light) was commissioned to do this. How marvelous!
Mrs. Matilda Davison, of Monson, Mass., testifies that her first husband, Mr. Spaulding, while at Now-Salem, Ohio, where there are some mounds of a race of which we have no account, wrote a historical romance claiming to be an account of that people translated from a “manuscript found written by one of the lost race;” and as he must write in an ancient style, he chose that of the Bible, as being the most ancient. During the time of writing this, in 1812, he frequently called in his neighbors to hear him read it. Afterward, moving to Pittsburgh, he put the manuscript into the hands of Mr. Patterson, an editor of a paper, in whose employment was Sidney Rigdon; where it remained a long time, and was returned with a request from Mr. P. to let him print it, which was refused. The people of New-Salem, among whom was a brother of Mr. S., long afterward hearing some quotations from the Book of Mormon, recognized in them the “manuscript found.” From these facts the strong supposition is, that Mr. Rigdon took a copy of the manuscript while at Mr. Patterson’s office, and with the aid of Mr. Smith, making certain additions and emendations, brought forth the “Book of Mormon.”
The Mormons moved west to a kind of promised land, that lay in Kirkland, Ohio, and having all their property common, Mr. Smith obtained the deeds of the land in his own name, or had the sole possession of them, I am not certain which. Here was their temple, costing about $40,000; but after the failure of their bank, called the “Bank of Mormon,” of which the prophet was president, and Mr. Rigdon cashier, in which, I have learned, they swindled the public out of two or three hundred thousand dollars, they moved to Illinois, a new promised land, and where is to be erected a new temple.
They profess all the gifts of the apostolic age; but that of speaking with tongues prevails the most universally, because the deception here is the most easy. The preachers are traveling through the country, and have found their way even to England, barbarizing Noah Webster, and the most simple rules of grammar—copying pretty closely, in this respect, their accredited Bible—and eclipsing, almost, Swedenbourg himself, in their communications with angels, and the spirit-world. They denounce all Christian denominations—as all impostors do—declaring that the Holy Ghost has not been given to men since about the fourth century, the time when the plates were “buried up,” till it was given to Joseph Smith and his followers; and that the curse of God will soon rest upon all the world but Mormons; thus giving the lie to all professing Christians; and a sine qua non with them in all difficult cases is—“An angel told us so.”
Yours, as ever,