A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Corrill, John, b. 1794 Corrill, John, b. 1794

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Corrill, John. A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1–14, 16. St. Louis: for the author, 1839.


IN conversing with my friends, I have been frequently asked, “How did you come to join the Mormons?—”How could you yield to their delusions?” These inquiries, and others of the same nature, I have always answered frankly and fully, as it is my intention to do in the present little work, which, indeed, I have undertaken, not less for the satisfaction of my friends who have advised me to it, than to explain the motives which have governed my conduct. I know of no better way of doing this, than to give a brief history of the circumstances that have come to my knowledge from personal observation, as well as from other sources. It is not from personal observation, as well as from other sources. It is not pretended, however, that these pages contain a complete account of all the particulars connected with the Mormons. Such an account would not, perhaps, be of interest to the general reader. I shall confine myself to so much of their history as will enable him to judge correctly of the true character of the “Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints,” as well as to understand the reasons of my own conduct.




Introduction to the work—New Revelation—Golden Bible—Curiosity excited—Book of Mormon— Campbelites—Sidney Rigden—Conversion of—Feelings excited—Visit to Kirtland—Situation of the Society—sought argument—Rigden’s Answer—Return home—Reflection and Examination—Evil Reports—Second Visit—Extraordinary meeting—Return and Investigation—Subjects of Investigation.

Sometime in the fall of 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer and Tiba Peterson, came through the county of Ashtabula, Ohio, where I then resided, on their way westward. They professed to be special messengers of the Living God, sent to preach the Gospel in its purity, as it was anciently preached by the Apostles. They had with them a new revelation, which they said had been translated from certain golden plates that had been deposited in a hill, (anciently called Camorah,) in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New York. They were deposited about 1400 years since by one Moroni, under the direction of Heaven, with a promise that in the Lord’s own due time, they should be brought forth, for the special benefit of the remnant of his people, the house of Israel, through Joseph, of Egypt, as well as for the salvation of the Gentiles upon this continent. This soon became the topic of conversation in that section of country, and excited the curiosity of the people,— at first, more to inquiry than otherwise, as these messengers stopped in the place only one night. In the course of two or three days, the book of Mormon, (the Golden Bible, as the people then termed it, on account of its having been translated from the Golden plates,) was presented to me for perusal. I looked at it, examined the testimony of the witnesses at the last end of it, read promiscuously a few pages, and made up my mind that it was published for speculation. In my feelings and remarks I branded the “messengers” with the title of impostors, and thought I would not trouble myself any more about them. But I shortly heard that these messengers had stopped in Kirtland, about thirty miles distant, among a society of people called Campbleites, at whose head stood elder Sidney Rigden, a noted preacher of that order. With this news I was at first much pleased; for, from my former acquaintance with that [7] society, I knew that they were well versed in the Scriptures, and I supposed that, without fail, they would confound the impostors, convince them of their folly, and send them home again. But, to my astonishment, in a short time I heard that they had converted the majority of the society, together with Elder Rigden, to their faith. What does this mean, thought I? Are Elder Rigden and these men such fools as to be so duped by those impostors? I became much excited in my feelings; for in that society were several men for whom I had formed the most favorable opinion, and for whom I felt the greatest veneration and respect.

By the advice of a neighbor whose feelings were similar to mine, I concluded to pay them a visit, with a determination, if I could, to persuade Elder Rigden to go home with me, on a preaching visit; for I thought, if I could get him away from them until his mind became settled, he might be saved from their imposition. But before I arrived at his residence, I heard that he had embraced their faith, and had been baptised by them. On receiving this news, my feelings became much embittered, and I felt more and more determined in my opposition. But when within a short distance of their residence, I was met by a respectable old gentleman, (whose name I forget,) who tried to check my violence, and cautioned me not to go there with prejudiced feelings, but to weigh the matter carefully. I said very little to him in reply, but resumed my journey. On arriving at the place, I found the society under a high state of religious excitement, well pleased with their new religion, enjoying as they supposed, the gift and power of the Holy Ghost. I felt indignant, and sought an argument with Oliver Cowdery, who refused. Tiba Peterson then took the ground, and we contended a short time. After supper I was invited to see Elder Rigden. I requested to converse with him on the subject of his new religion. He observed that he was now beyond the land of contention, and had got into the land of peace. I proceeded to ask him if the Scriptures were not sufficient for our salvation, and what we wanted with another revelation. He answered that the Scriptures informed us of perilous and distressing times, great judgments that should come in the last days, and destructions upon the wicked; and now God had sent along his servants to inform us of the time, that we might repent and be prepared against it, and if we rejected them, it would be with us as it was with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who rejected the words of Lot. With this he refused to talk any more upon the subject. I then tried others, and found them of the same spirit. I could make no impression on them. The next day, I started home with my heart full of serious reflections. I thought of Solomon’s words,—“that he is a fool who judges a matter before he hears it;” that perhaps it might be well enough to investigate the matter; investigation could certainly do me no harm. The ancients rejected the Prophets and Apostles through a hasty spirit, and the people of Borea were said to be more noble than the people of Thesalonica, because they searched the Scriptures, daily, whether these things were so, therefore many of them believed.”— Acts, xvii. 11. Now, it is not impossible, thought I, but that ere I am aware of it, I may be found fighting against God; perhaps I had better stop and reflect on the subject a little; weigh the matter more closely, and com-[8] pare this new doctrine with the Scriptures; and if it does not agree with the Scriptures, I shall certainly know that it is not of God. Two or three weeks were spent in reading the book of Mormon, comparing it with the scriptures, and in reflecting and conversing with others upon the subject. Scarcely a day passed but I heard of some evil report against the new sect. These reports I need not relate.

Suffice it to say, that every thing bad was reported against them, as I thought, that could be invented by man. I was always careful, however, to enquire after the author, and the truth or ground-work of his statement, and always found these reports to be without foundation.

Apprehending there might be some truth in them, I went to Kirtland to see for myself, and whilst there, watched every movement with a jealous eye. I attended several meetings, one of which was the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, which, I thought, would give me a good opportunity to detect their hypocrisy. The meeting lasted all night, and such a meeting I never attended before. They administered the sacrament, and laid on hands, after which I heard them prophecy and speak in tongues unknown to me. Persons in the room, who took no part with them, declared, from the knowledge they had of the Indian languages, that the tongues spoken were regular Indian dialects, which I was also informed, on inquiry, the persons who spoke had never learned. I watched closely and examined carefully, every movement of the meeting, and after exhausting all my powers to find the deception, I was obliged to acknowledge, in my own mind, that the meeting had been inspired by some supernatural agency. The next day I returned home, satisfied that the evil reports were not true, and spent about six weeks more in the further investigation of the subject.

I shall now proceed to set forth the faith and principal doctrines peculiar to the church that presented themselves to my view; and I would remark, in advance, that I always believed the Bible, (the Old and New Testament,) to be true. The whole course of my investigation was predicated upon that fact, and I felt safe in embracing any thing that corresponded with the Scriptures. The following were the subjects of my investigations.

1st. On the subject of prophets, prophecying, and the gift of revelation, in modern times.

2d. The Book of Mormon and its origin.

3d. The singularity of the hiding up, preservation, and coming forth of the same.

4th. Its contents.

5th. The doctrine of the Gospel.

6th. The work of gathering.

7th. The morality and effects of the new religion.

I will treat of these points in distinct chapters. [9]


Investigation—Prophets and Revelations—God the same in all ages—References to Scripture—Conclusion.

1st. On the subject of prophets, prophesying, and the gifts of Revelation in modern times.

It was objected, and I admitted, that we had no such things in our day. But what is the reason that we are not to look for them? They certainly were expected in ancient times, and were received. Has God changed? Are the Scriptures false? Has the plan of salvation been altered? Or have we departed from God, transgressed his laws, changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant, as the prophet said?—( Isa. xxiv. 5. Mal. iii.7.) Or has the time come, spoken of by the Apostle, when men would not endure sound doctrine, but turn their ears from truth, give heed to fables, and heap up to themselves teachers having itching ears, having a form of Godliness, but denying the power.—(2 Tim. iv. 3, 4, and iii. 5.)

I found, on searching the Scriptures, that from the commencement of time, through every age, God continued to send prophets to the people, and always when God had a message for the people, he chose a special messenger to send it by, and it was always headed with a “thus saith the Lord.” This was certainly the case in the days of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and so on down to the Apostles, and Jeremiah declares that the Lord sent them daily.—( Jer. vii. 25.) Now, if God did these things formerly, why not now? If he supplied every other age and people with prophets and special messengers, why not this? Many such reflections passed through my mind.

But I was told that the prophets continued until the Saviour came, but since that we have had no need of them. On searching the New Testament, I found that the church had prophets in it after Christ as well as before, and the Apostle said that God had placed them in it for its benefit.—1 Cor. xii. Eph. iv. 11, 12.) And the Apostle Peter, in explaining the prophecy of Joel, said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days,” (saith God) “I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, and on my servants and on my handmaidens, I will pour out, in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophecy.”—( Acts ii. 17–20.) Instead, therefore, of there being no prophets after Christ, it looked to me as if God meant there should be many; for the assertions are positive, “that your sons and your daughters shall prophecy,” and this should be in the last days. Now, if the last days are past and gone, then we may give up looking for prophets; but if not, then the promise stands good for more prophets; and if God made this promise and did actually place prophets in his church, as the Apostles say he did, I ask by what authority have they been taken out; or who has had authority, since the Apostles, to alter or change the order which they established in the church, and certainly prophets constituted a part of that order. [10]

Thus I reasoned, and became satisfied that it was just as consistent to look for prophets in this age as in any other. As to the person of Joseph Smith, jun’r., he might as well be a prophet as any one else, but it was said of him that he was a money hunter, and a bad man before he was called to be a prophet. So it was said of Moses, that he murdered a man, hid him in the sand, and ran away from justice, and while in this state God called him to be a prophet.—( Exod. ii. 11—25 & xii. 1—18.) As to the gift of prophecy and revelation, it is well known to every man who is acquainted with his Bible, that God always endowed his prophets with the gift of prophecy, and through them revealed his will. As, however, God never called a servant without having something for him to do, the question was what did he want with Smith? What great work had he to perform? This leads me to my second proposition.



Book of Mormon, the production of Smith—Witnesses— Bible, the production of many generations.

The Book of Mormon and its origin.

This was the first production of Smith after his call to the prophetic office. As to the origin of the book, I made very diligent inquiry, and from all I could learn, I became satisfied that Smith was the author, and I never have been able to trace it to any other source. As to its being a Revelation from God, eleven persons besides Smith bore positive testimony of its truth.

After getting acquainted with them, I was unable to impeach their testimony, and consequently thought that it was as consistent to give credit to them as to credit the writings of the New Testament, when I had never seen the authors nor the original copy. As the Bible, (although we see it bound in one volume) was made up of many detached parts of Revelation given from time to time, as God saw proper, through the space of four thousand years, for the special benefit of those to whom it was given, I thought it was no more than reasonable that we should also receive additional Revelation for our special benefit; for this was according to his promise, to give line, upon line, precept upon precept here a little and there a little.— ( Isa. xxvii. 9, 10.)


Account of the Golden Plates, and the finding of them—Smith chastened by an Angel—his wickedness—Plates obtained and translated—the Language—Martin Harris—Characters shown—Urim and Thummim—Translation published—Plates shown to witnesses—Church organized—Reflections—Scriptures not complete—Word of God sealed and hid—Ezekiel’s two Records.

The singularity of the hiding up, preservation, and coming forth of the Book. [11]

The simple story as related by others was this. Sometime in A. D. 1825, as nearly as I can recollect, Smith was informed by an angel, that there was a valuable record concealed in the earth, and the time had now arrived for it to be brought forth and published to the world. After being warned several times, he went to the spot and found the record engraved on leaves or plates of gold, fastened together by rings passing through one edge of all the leaves, on which they would turn as you opened them. The plates, as near as I can remember, were said to be about six by eight inches square, and very thin. This Book was carefully enclosed in a stone box, provided for that purpose, which Smith broke open. After he obtained the plates, and before he left the place, he began to contemplate the vast riches that he would acquire by their means.

While thus thinking and contemplating upon the subject, the Angel hid the plates from his view, and chastised him for his wickedness in acting contrary to the commandment; for the Angel had informed him that it was for the bringing about of God’s purposes in the salvation of his people, that the Lord gave him access to the plates; but as he thought to become rich and aggrandize himself, therefore he should not obtain the plates any more till he repented of his folly. A year or more elapsed before he obtained the plates again, which I think he did in A. D. 1827; after which, through much difficulty, on account of persecution and poverty, he translated it by degrees, with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery and others, who wrote as he dictated. If I remember right, the language in which it was written on the plates, was the reformed Egyptian.

And Martin Harris, who contributed much towards the publication of the Book, drew off several of the characters on paper, took them to the learned in New York, to see if they could be translated, but was requested to bring them the plates, which Smith was forbidden to do of the Lord, but was commanded to translate them himself, which he did, by the help of what he calls the Urim and Thummim, two stones set in a bow, and furnished by an Angel for that purpose.

After finishing the translation, the plates and stones of Urim and Thummim were again taken and concealed by the Angel for a wise purpose, and the translation published to the world in the winter of A. D. 1829 and ’30.

In the course of the translation, these plates were shown to eleven persons, by the special command of God: three of whom had it manifested and shown to them by an Angel from Heaven, who declared the truth of the Book, and the other eight saw the plates and handled them; and all were commanded to bear testimony to the world, of the truth of what they had seen and handled, which they did, and published their testimony in the end of the Book.

On the sixth day of April, A. D. 1830, they organized the first church in the State of New York, consisting of six members only.

This tale, simple as it is, formed a new subject of contemplation for me. As to the preservation of the record, if the plates were pure gold, of course they would remain pure any length of time, and as to the language, it might as well be reformed Egyptian as any other language, if it had to be translated by the power of God.

I searched the Scriptures again to see if God had ever concealed or [12] hid up his word, or commanded his servants to do so for a wise purpose. I always thought before, that we had all the Scripture that we ever should have, and that the Bible was complete; but on searching the Scriptures, I found to my surprise, that they, in many instances, refer to books for information that they do not contain; nor are they any where to be found,— such as the Book of Jasher, of the wars of the Lord—of Nathan the Prophet—of Shemaiah the Prophet, of Goed the Seer, and of Iddo the Seer, &c.—(1 Chron. xxix. 29; 2 Chron. ix. 29, xii. 15.) and many others which I need not mention at this time. This satisfied me at once, that there was much of the word of God that we had not got, and still are referred to it for further information: therefore, the Scriptures are not complete without it. Neither could the knowledge of God cover the earth as waters do the sea, without receiving more knowledge or revelation from God. I also found that Habakkuk, (ii. 2, 3.) as commanded to write the vision and make it plain upon tables; for, at the end of the appointed time, it should speak and not lie, and though it tarry, yet we must wait for it, for surely it would come. And Daniel, (xii. 4, 9,) was commanded to shut up the worlds and seal the book, which was to remain so till the time of the end. And John, the Revelator, was commanded to seal up the words of the seven thunders. And old king David declares, that truth shall spring out of the earth, (Ps. lxxxv. 11) Isaiah, (xxix. 11, 12,) said that all their visions should become the words of a sealed book, that should be delivered to the learned to be read, but they not being able, it should be read by the unlearned, whereupon the Lord would proceed to do a marvellous work, &c. And Ezekiel, (xxxvii. 15—21,) plainly shows, that two records should be written, one for the house of Judah and his companions, and another for the house of Joseph and his companions, and these two records should be brought together for the purpose of bringing about the gathering of all the tribes of Israel, &c.



Contents of the Book of Mormon—the object of bringing it forth—Offspring of Joseph—Blessings of Jacob—Reflections.

I then proceeded to examine the contents of the Book of Mormon, which I found to contain an account of the posterity of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. It gives the history of their journey from Jerusalem across the ocean to this land, and their settlement here, with their manners, customs, wars, and more especially their religion, which was the same as existed among the Jews, both under the law of Moses, (which they brought with them) and also the Gospel, after Christ, in its purity. This looked to me very much like the record of Joseph in the hand of Ephadins, (kept by his seed) that should be joined to the record of Judah (our Bible) for the restoration of the house of Israel, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel, as quoted above. For it also con- [13] tains many promises of great things that should take place in the last days, for which purpose it has come forth, such as the preaching of the Gospel in its purity, setting up the true church of Christ, and establishing the regular orders of priesthoods in it as the ancients had them, and to bring about the great work of gathering the saints and the house of Israel—making preparations for and ushering in the great Millennial, building up the New Jerusalem, &c., as spoken by the prophets.

As to the seed of Joseph, I found it the Scripture a curious blessing pronounced upon them by Jacob his father. It reads thus: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall—The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills, these shall be upon the head of Joseph,” &c.—( Gen. xlix. 22, 26.)

Now, we know, that Abraham and Isaac were Jacob’s progenitors and they had the land of Canaan promised to them and their seed for an everlasting possession; but Joseph’s blessing prevailed above, or exceeded theirs; he was to have an inheritance, somewhere of course, that far exceeded the land of Canaan: it was to extend to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. Now, when and where did they ever receive it? According to the Book of Mormon they received it upon this continent. And if so, we discover the fulfilment of the promise made to Ephraim and Manassah, that they should become a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth.— Gen. viii. 11, 20. [14] . . . .


New Religion compared with the Bible—Mode of admission into the Church—Effects.

The morality and effects of the new religion.

I found that the Book of Mormon taught all the morality, piety, virtue, honesty, righteousness and Godliness that the Bible did, and even condemned the whoredoms of David, Solomon and others, and strictly enjoined family and secret prayer, and that too, in great faith, that our prayers may be answered; and, in order to be admitted into the Church a person must manifest faith in Christ, and a hearty repentance of their sins. Baptism, by immersion, they believed was for the remission of sins; and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, they think will be attended with signs following, just in proportion to the faith and righteousness of the believer. [16]

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