Zion’s Watchman Sunderland, La Roy

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Sunderland, La Roy. “Mormonism.” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 2 (13 January1838): 6.


The efforts which are now is in operation, in many places, to spread the peculiar views of a sect, generally known by the name of Mormons, or the “Latter Day Saints,” induces us to believe, that it may not be labor lost for us to furnish a few facts upon the subject, for the consideration of our readers. Many innocent and well meaning people are frequently embarrassed by attacks from Mormonites, merely because they do not know what the principles advocated by this sect are, and least of all do they know the sandy foundation upon which their claims to infallibility are so confidently rested.

Though we have no suspicion that any number of the readers of the Watchman are in danger of being carried away, by a delusion so manifestly monstrous and absurd, yet we doubt not but most of them will be interested in reading a few articles which we purpose to lay before them on this subject, as they may be, thereby, more than ever convinced of the exceeding wickedness into which man may fall, even when pretending to infallible inspiration, and also, the great value of the Holy Scriptures, which are so necessary to guard us against the seductions of error.

It is not generally known, perhaps, that “Joseph Smith, Jr.” the author of the “Book of Mormon,” pretends to number, at the present time, in this country, not less than fifty thousand converts. Indeed, if one hundreth part of this number of persons, can be found in any part of this nation, silly enough to believe the blasphemous absurdities set forth in this book, we think it is time something more were done to enforce the claims of God’s word against such monstrous libels upon truth and religion, as are put forth in the preaching and publications of this sect. But, one patient reading of this book, would probably suggest to any one the true reason, why more notice has not been taken of it, and more efforts made to expose and confute its pretended claims to inspiration. The meanness of its diction from beginning to end, the errors in its language, the evident contradictions which abound in it, contradictions both of Scripture and of itself, as well as the gross blasphemies in the language which it so wickedly attributes to the lips of the infinite God, are abundantly sufficient to lead any person of ordinary intellect, who reads it with attention, to suppose that but few, if any, who believe the Bible to be a revelation from God, could be led away by such barefaced hypocrisy. But so it is, the human heart is not invulnerable to temptation, and when men neglect the more sure word of prophecy, it is not so much to be wondered at, that they sometimes become entrapped in a delusion as ridiculous as that of Mormonism. Indeed, it is a fact abundantly confirmed in past history, that among all the impositions ever broached upon the world under the garb of religion, there has not been one, but has found persons foolish enough to believe it, not one. And, generally, among those who are duped by fanaticism, some will be found too proud, or ashamed to own the cheat, after they themselves have found it out. It is reasonable to suppose, however, that the most of those who are carried away with Mormonism, like all other radical errorists, are of the number who are not very conversant with the Holy Scriptures, and especially, not with the grounds upon which they claim the faith of human intelligences. Hence they cannot be very ready to discern between the claims of the pretended revelation of J. Smith, Jr., and the genuineness and authenticity of the Old and New Testaments. They do not so readily perceive the vast, the momentous difference between the miracles recorded in the Bible, and the juggling tricks of Smith and his associates.

Still, perhaps, some may imagine, that we pay more attention to this delusion than it really deserves, and that the attention we shall call to it, will result in more harm than good, as many seem so much more ready to embrace error, than they do truth, when both are laid before them.

But if this objection applies here, it will certainly apply against an attempt to expose any other error, for who does not see, that, if we may not expose Mormonism because it is, in our view, a very great IMPOSITION, upon the thousands who may have embraced it as a revelation from God, then, for the same reason, we should never attempt to arrest the prevalence of any other error, but let all sinners go down to perdition, deceiving and being deceived.

That we may have this subject fairly before us, we beg the reader’s attention to a candid answer to the following question:—


In answering this question, of course, it will be proper to appeal to the books which the Mormons have published of themselves. The only books that we know of, published by the Mormons are the following, and to which we shall refer for the authority on which we state the facts we are about to lay before the reader.

1. “The Book of Mormon; by Joseph Smith, Jr., author and proprietor. Palmyra, printed by E. B. Grandin, for the author, 1836.”

2. “Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: carefully selected and complied from the Revelations of God, by Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Fred. G. Williams, (Presiding Elders of said Church,) Proprietors. Kirtland, Ohio; printed by Williams & Co., 1835.”

3. “A voice of warning to all people, containing a declaration of the faith and doctrine of the church of the Latter Day Saints, commonly called Mormons. By P. P. Pratt, minister of the Gospel. New York, printed by W. Sandford, 1837.”

From the Mormons themselves, therefore, we learn what Mormonism is. Its distinguishing characteristics may be stated in a few words.

1. All Mormons profess to act under the INFALLIBLE INSPIRATION of GOD; and to have power to work miracles, such as the interpretation of languages which they have never learned, healing the sick and raising the dead.

“Without these gifts [prophecy, miracles, healing, and all other gifts] the saints cannot be perfected; the work of the ministry cannot proceed: the body of Christ cannot be edified.”— Voice of Warning, pp.118, 119.

“Require not miracles, except I shall command you, except casting out devils, healing the sick, and against poisonous serpents, and against deadly poisons; and these things ye shall do except it be required of you, by them who desire it, that the scriptures might be fulfilled.”— Doctrines and Covenants, Sec. 9.

2. They profess to have intercourse with the angels of God, and affirm that they frequently see them, and have messages from God through them.

“The book of Mormon was found in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, in Ontario County, New York; was translated and published in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and thirty. It contains the history of the ancient inhabitants of America, who were a branch of the house of Israel, of the tribe of Joseph; of whom the Indians are still a remnant; but the principal nation of them having fallen in battle, in the fourth or fifth century, one of their prophets, whose name was Mormon, saw fit to make an abridgement of their history, their prophesies, and their doctrine, which he engraved on plates; and afterwards being slain, the Record fell into the hands of his son Moroni, who being hunted by his enemies, was directed to deposit the record safely in the earth, with a promise from God that it should be preserved, and should again be brought to light in the latter days, by means of a Gentile nation, who should possess the land. The deposit was made about the year four hundred and twenty, on a hill then called Cumora, now in Ontario County, where it was preserved in safety, until it was brought to light by no less than the ministry of angels, and translated by INSPIRATION. And the Great Jehovah bore record of the same to chosen witnesses, who declare it to the world.”— Voice of Wor, p 129.

3. They claim to be the only true Church; all other churches are of anti-Christ, and exposed to God’s eternal displeasure.

“Wherefore I, the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant, Joseph Smith, jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave unto him commandments.”

“After having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant, Joseph Smith, jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon; and also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, * * * the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.”— Doct. and Cov. Sec. 1.

4. They say that God has sent down from heaven a city called the “New Jerusalem,” and located it in the Western boundaries of Missouri, where he requires all his true followers to go, under the pain of his wrath.

“America is a chosen land of the Lord, above every other land; it is the place of the New Jerusalem, which shall come done from God out of heaven, upon the earth.” — Voice of War. p. 179 .

“This is the will of God concerning his saints, that they shall assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence. Behold the land of Zion, I the Lord, holdeth it in my own hands; notwithstanding, I, the Lord, rendereth unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s. Wherefore, I, the Lord, willeth that you shall purchase the lands, that you may have advantage of the world, that you may have claim of the world, that they may hot be stirred up unto anger: for Satan putteth it into their hearts to anger against you, and to the shedding of blood. Wherefore the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase, or by blood; otherwise there is none inheritance for you.”— Ib. Sec. 20.

“A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted up their voices on high, . . for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem; which shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot, appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the Western boundaries of Missouri.”— Ib. Sec. 4.

“And that it was the place of the New Jerusalem which should come down out of heaven, and the Holy Sanctuary of the Lord.”— Book of Mormon, p. 566.

5. They affirm that the books above named, were written by inspiration of God, and that by plenary inspiration, the book of Mormon has been translated.

What they affirm of the translation of the book of Mormon, we have already shown. The book called “Doctrines and Covenants,” it seems, received the approbation of the Mormon General Assembly, August 17, 1835. The twelve bear the following testimony to its Divine authority:—

“We, therefore, feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, . . . that the Lord hath borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true.”

The first part contains seven lectures on Faith, but the second is of most importance, containing what are termed, “Covenants and Commandments of the Lord, to his servants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.”

This part includes one hundred and two sections, ninety-seven of which are occupied by as many professed revelations.

6. They affirm that their books, preaching, and pretended prophecies and revelations, are “SCRIPTURE” and of equal authority with the Bible.

“They shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and what they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, shall be scripture.”— Doct. and Cov. Sec. 22.

7. They pretend to have power to give the Holy Ghost to those on whom they lay their hands for this purpose.

“Behold, verily, verily, I say unto my servant, Sidney Rigdon, . . . . I give unto thee a commandment, that thou shalt baptize with water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.”— Ib. Sec. 11.

8. They threaten eternal damnation to all who reject Mormonism.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized with water, &c., shall be damned . . . And this revelation is in force from this hour.”— Ib.

Having thus shown, from the testimonies of Mormon’s themselves, what Mormonism is, we shall, in our text, the Lord willing, proceed to demonstrate the following propositions:—

That Mormonism does not differ materially from other systems of imposture and delusion, which have obtained converts in various ages of the world.

That it never did and cannot now show any just claims to our faith as a revelation from God.

That it is a system of money making.

That it is a system of unrelenting cruelty.

That it is a another gospel, and opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That it is a system of contradictions and errors.

That it is a system of nonsense and blasphemy.

That it receives no countenance from the Christian Scriptures, but it is evidently and directly opposed to them. And, finally,

That it contains, within itself, the means for its own confutation.

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