A Little Talk


Bedford: W. White

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A Little Talk, Between John Robinson and his Master about Mormonism, Shewing its Origin,  Absurdity, and Impiety, 1–8. Bedford: W. White, 1840.





Master. Well, John, where had you been when I saw you last night?

John. Why, I had been to hear the new preacher, master, that’s making such a stir in the village.

Master. What! the Mormonite, John?

John. Yes, master, I think that’s what folks call him.

Master. Well, John, what did he talk about?

John. Why, he talked very fast indeed, master, sometimes about the Bible, and sometimes about the Book of Mormon, a sort of new Bible, he says he’s got. But do you know anything about these people, master? for some of our folks are packing up to go to America with them, to help to build the New Jerusalem ; but, for my part, I should like to know more about them, before I take such a long journey.

Master. You are quite right, John, and now, if you will listen, I will tell you all about these people, that you may tell it to your neighbours, and do something to stop the mischief that is going on.

John. Thank you, master, I’m sure I’ll listen.

Master. Well, then, John, I will first tell you how the Book of Mormon came to be written. The man who wrote it, was the Rev. Solomon Spaulding. He lived at New Salem, in North America. He meant it for a tale, or story, and he wrote it in 1812, to amuse himself and his neighbours. Mr. Spaulding afterwards went to live at Pittsburg, and there he shewed what he had written to a printer named Patterson, who wanted to print it, but Mr. Spaulding would not let him; Patterson, however, borrowed the writing, and after keeping it a long time, returned it to its owner. In 1816, [1] Mr. Spaulding died, and the story which he had written came into the hands of his widow, who kept it until the year 1834, when she was surprised to see it, somewhat altered, printed and circulated about as a new revelation from heaven.

John. But how did the printer get hold of it to print it, because Mr. Spaulding would not let Mr. Patterson have it?

Master. It is thought that one Sidney Rigdon, who is now a Mormonite, copied the book when he worked for Patterson.

John. But, master, will you tell me how you came to know this, for the people will be sure to ask?

Master. Certainly, John. The Rev. Mr. Storms, of Holliston, in Canada, wrote to Mrs. Spaulding, or rather Mrs. Davidson, for she is married again, and she sent a letter to him telling him all about it, and at the bottom of the letter there was a note from Dr. Ely, of Monson, in the United States, and from Mr. Austin, principal of Monson Academy, stating that Mrs. Davidson now lives at Monson, and is a humble Christian woman, and would certainly say nothing but what is true; besides which, in America, there are many people living, who remember hearing Mr. Spaulding read the story when he first wrote it in 1812.

John. Well, this is strange enough; but these people, rogues as they are, must be very clever, mustn’t they, master, to make so many people believe the Book?

Master. Why, John, I do not think it is because they are very clever, but because their hearers are very foolish; for the Book itself is so full of nonsense, that it is quite wonderful that any one can be found silly enough to believe it.

John. I wish you would tell me a little about it, master.

Master. Willingly, John. And first, do you know what a mariner’s compass is?

John. Why, I think I heard my brother Jim, the sailor, talk about it. Isn’t it something that they have aboard ship, to let the Captain know which way the ship is going?

Master. Yes, John. It is nothing more than a needle, which, being rubbed against a loadstone, points to the North, so that, when a ship is a long way out at sea, the steersman can always tell where the north lies, by looking at this needle. In ancient times, there was no such thing as a compass. It was not found out until about 1300 years after Christ was born; and before it was found out, sailors dared not to go very far out to sea, but used to keep as close to land as they could. [2]

John. But what has this to do with the Book of Mormon, master?

Master. I was going to tell you. This book, the Mormonites say, was written 600 years before Christ was born, and yet, at page 53, there is a mariner’s compass mentioned, so you see the man who wrote the book made a mistake, and talked about a compass as having existed NINETEEN HUNDRED YEARS before it was invented! The passage in the book reads thus:—“So I took the compass, and it did turn whithersoever I would.”

John. But, master, I think there is another mistake, for you said that the compass only turns to the north, but this man says it turned whithersoever he would.

Master. Just so, John; the beauty of a compass is, that it will not turn whithersoever the steersman wishes it, but only to the north. So, you see, it is quite clear, that, though these Mormonites want people to believe that this book is very old, it certainly was written after the mariner’s compass was found out; and it is also clear, that the man who wrote it did not understand a compass.

John. And yet, they want to make us believe that this book was sent by God. Oh dear, what a wicked world it is! But, master, if I had been the publisher, I should have been a little wiser than to have printed that part about the compass.

Master. Ah, John, it is wisely ordered by God, that these blunders should be made. You know the Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” But I will now tell you what the Mormonites themselves say about their Book. They tell us that it was copied from gold plates, which were taken by an angel out of the earth, in 1827, where they had lain for some hundreds of years, and he gave them to one Joseph Smith. It is said, these plates contained the Book of Mormon engraven in the Egyptian language, and that Joseph Smith translated them into English by the help of the Urim and Thummim, which the angel gave him with the plates, and that the Book of Mormon is as much the Word of God as the Bible, and contains “the fulness of the Gospel of Christ”.

John. That’s very bold, master.

Master. It is not only bold, John, but awfully wicked. The Spirit of God, by the apostle Paul, plainly says, that all the counsel of God had been declared, and many other [3] passages there are in the Bible of the same sort. But let us look a little more at this statement about the origin of the Book. They say that the size of the plates was about 7 inches by 8, that, when all together, they were about 6 inches thick, and that the Book of Mormon is only part of what was written. Now, it is well known, John, by all learned men, that the Egyptian language takes up a very great deal of room, perhaps four times, or even more than four times, as much room as the English, and it is quite certain that, as the Book of Mormon is 600 pages thick, it would take at least a thousand plates to hold in the Egyptian language, what is there written. Now, a thousand plates of the thickness of the thinnest tin would measure 20 inches instead of 6.

John. But, master, where are the plates?

Master. Stop, John, I was going to tell you the weight and value of this gold; the weight would be somewhere about 400 lbs., and the value, more than twenty-five thousand pounds.

John. Ah, I don’t wonder that they keep these plates to themselves, and don’t let anybody see them; but, master, did Joseph Smith carry these plates away by himself, or did any one help him, for 400 lbs. weight on a man’s shoulders is no joke?

Master. It is said that he carried them himself, and that, when he was stopped by two thieves, he was strong enough to beat them off, and carry the plates too.

John. Master, that won’t do; that must be nothing better than a lie.

Master. You are right, John. Depend upon it, it is not only a lie altogether, but a very clumsy one too.

John. But you said that Joseph Smith translated the book into English, by help of Urim and Thummim, pray what did you mean by that? I have read about the Urim and Thummim in the Bible, but I never could make out exactly what it meant.

Master. It is not easy to understand what is meant by the Urim and Thummim mentioned in the Bible, but the Urim and Thummim which Joseph Smith says the angel gave him with the plates, consisted of two bright Stones, which, when he looked at them, shewed him the right words in English, and these words were copied by another person, as Joseph Smith was not able to write well enough to copy [4] them himself. So you see, if this be true, it was the Spirit of God which translated the book.

John. That’s very good, if true, because it’s sure to be done rightly, and I have heard that our Bible is not translated rightly in some parts.

Master. But, unfortunately, John, there are errors in this translation, as it is called.

John. Why, how do you know, master? You have never seen the plates; and if you had, you don’t know Egyptian, do you?

Master. No, John, I have not seen the plates, for, rely upon it, there are none, nor ever were any; and as to the Egyptian language, I know very little about it, but now listen, and I will tell you what I mean. In the Book of Mormon there are a great many verses of our Bible, and these verses are exact copies of our translation; now, in our translation, there are several mistakes, and the same mistakes are in the Book of Mormon. Now, it is very odd that the Spirit of God should have given the very same words as our translators used, but it is utterly impossible that the Holy Spirit could teach a man to translate wrongly.

John. Don’t say any more, master. You may rely upon it that, if any spirit had to do with this book it was the seducing spirit spoken of by Paul, in his Epistle to Timothy.

Master. Right, John, and you remind me that Paul foretold, in the text you have mentioned, that heresies should occur, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron,” 1 Tim. iv. 1, 2; and Peter, also, in that striking passage in his 2nd Epistle, ii. 1, 2, 3. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” I will now, John, give you a specimen of the Doctrines of the Mormonites.

They say, that the Church of the Latter-day Saints, or the Mormonites, is “the only true Church, upon the face of the Earth. ” [5]

John. What impudence! I suppose then that the Martyrs that were burnt in Smithfield, and Newton, and Scott, and Matthew Henry, and Wesley, and Whitfield, did not belong to the true Church.

Master. No! and they also say that the Bible is not complete, for “it does not contain all the words of God”. and that the Book of Mormon is “God’s New Covenant with the Children of Men,” and in another place all old covenants God has caused to be done away, and this is a new and everlasting covenant. There are a great many more blasphemies scattered through their book, but I will mention only one. You know what Faith is, John?

John. I hope I do. It is the trust and confidence which we poor sinners put in God; so that when the Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” it means, that if we really believe that Christ died for our souls, we shall be saved everlastingly. All Christians stand by faith.

Master. Exactly so, John; but do you believe that God stands by faith?

John. Master, if I did not know you to be a serious man, and one that would not joke about such solemn matters, I should say you are joking. God stand by faith! How can that be? In whom is He to have faith? The Bible says, “He is the Most High, God over all.”

Master. I hope, John, I shall never jest or trifle with divine things; but, foolish as you may think it, the Mormonites say, in their Book of Doctrines and Covenants, “take away faith, and God would cease to exist, ” and that “the worlds came into order, by reason of the faith that was in him. ” This is shocking blasphemy, but it is certainly in their book.

John. Well, master, you surprise me indeed, though I never had any opinion of the fellows, though they do talk very loudly about the good they wish to do to us poor people.

Master. Do good to poor people, John! Rely upon it, John, it is not their object to do good to the poor, or else they would not talk, in their book, about the poor slaves as they do.

John. Slaves, master! Why, what do they say about them? I love to hear about them. Poor things! How often has my heart bled for them, when I have heard of their sufferings; and when I have attended the Missionary meetings, and heard that thousands and tens of thousands of them had [6] become real Christians, I could hardly help crying for joy, for I thought about those words in the Testament. that in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free, and I said to my wife, “ Well, if they have a hard lot here, they will be blessed hereafter, for there are no slave-drivers in heaven.” But go on, master, I beg pardon for stopping you, but when I hear about the poor slaves, I can never help speaking.

Master. So, John, I hope an English Christian will always feel, but the Mormonites say, that “it is not right to preach the Gospel to, nor baptize, slaves, contary to the will of their masters. ” In England, John, thanks to our merciful God, we have no slaves; but these Mormonites come from America, where there are slaves, and where the slaveholders beat their slaves most cruelly. So, to please these wicked dealers in human flesh, this horrid sentence is put in the Book of Mormon. The Bible says, “Jesus tasted death for every man,” and that in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free, and Jesus bade his apostles, “to preach the Gospel to EVERY creature.” Surely it is bad enough to deprive these poor wretches of their bodily liberty, but to keep back from them the blessed gospel, which is able to make them wise unto salvation, and try to shut them out of heaven is cruelty so horrible, that those who are guilty of it can hardly be Christians.

John. Christians! I think not indeed! for, “if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of this,” and I am sure that is not the spirit of Christ. Were there ever books so full of nonsense, blasphemy, and cruelty, as these? Oh, master, I thank God more and more every day, for the Bible. What should we do without it?

Master. Ah, what indeed, John; it is truly the best of books, and whilst we have it, what can we want more? Is it not able to make us wise unto salvation? But, John, I hope that there are none of your neighbours so foolish as to think of going to America with these people!

John. But there are, master, more than twenty that I know. They seem to believe all that the Mormonite says, as though he were an angel sent from heaven.

Master. Well, John, I hope you will tell them all that I have said, and ask them how they can be so foolish as to put themselves into the hands of a man, about whom they know nothing.

He may, for aught they know, be a man of the worst character.

John. I have told them so, master; but this chap talks [7] so fast, and jumbles such a lot of texts of Scripture so oddly together, that I cannot keep up with him. But, master, I set him fast last night.

Master. How, John?

John. Why, you must know, he was talking at a fine rate about what he had done in America; how, he had healed the sick, and cast out devils, and done a great many more wonderful things. So I said to him, “Friend, I dare say all you tell us is very true, but if you could do such fine things in America, I should think you might do something of the same sort here.

Now, here is old neighbour Dobson has been blind for more than thirty years, and I will tell you what I will do. If you will open neighbour Dobson’s eyes, I will go with you to America.”

Master. What did he say to that, John?

John. Why, he said that he was afraid we had not faith; so I said, “And I am afraid, Friend, if you don’t open Dobson’s eyes until we have faith to believe you can do it, his eyes won’t be opened just yet.”

Master. Very good, John! You did right. And remember, that when our Lord came with a new revelation, he did work miracles, and so did his apostles; and as this man brings us a new Bible, as he calls it, he certainly ought to work miracles, to prove that it is a real one. But I must bid you good night, John, for it is getting late.

John. Good night, master, and thank you for your kindness.



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