Mormonism in All Ages


Turner, J. B. (Jonathan Baldwin), 1805-1898 Turner, J. B. (Jonathan Baldwin), 1805-1898

❮ Community

Turner, J. B. Mormonism in All Ages: Or the Rise, Progress, and Causes of Mormonism: with the Biography of Its Author and Founder, Joseph Smith Junior, 1–33, 65–206, 210–22,300–304. New York: Platt & Peters, 1842.

















THE Mormons boast of one hundred thousand adherents in this country, and more than ten thousand in Great Britain, where their faith is making rapid progress. This may be an exaggeration; but, at all events, it is time the absurdities of their scheme were exposed. They are, in truth, the most dangerous and virulent enemies to our political and religious purity, and our social and civil peace, that now exist in the Union: not so much, however, on the ground of their direct, as of their indirect influence. The ravages in the front of their march are far less to be dreaded, than the moral pestilence which follows them. The bubbles of fanaticism, it is true, leap and sparkle around their prow, but the dull and sullen waves of atheism roll, and spread wide, in their wake behind. It has ever been true that they have made one hundred infidels to every dozen converts. This fact has not been properly heeded. There is much reason to believe that many of their popular leaders are at heart infidels. Those who can believe that skeptical and ambitious men, who could not be converted to Christianity, have been really made to believe in Joe Smith, may do so if they choose. The multitudes who fall into their ranks and retire, are, in general, reduced to absolute atheism. Some are recovered again: many are not, but sink into still deeper and stronger delusions.

In their public addresses, nothing is more common than to hear them defend the Book of Mormon, in promiscuous assemblies, by attacking and ridiculing the Bible, either directly or indirectly. Their object generally is to show that if the Book of Mormon is ridiculous, in whole or in part, the Bible is so too. By these and similar processes, they succeed in affecting the minds of the thoughtless multitude with the [3] vague impression that the Book of Mormon is at least as truly of divine authority as the Bible. A few receive both, as divine; a far greater number make up their minds to have nothing to do with either.

Even the most pious and devout members of the professed church of the Mormons labor hard, at all times and in all places, to show that “if the gifts of miracle, healing, prophecy, &c., are not still in the true church, the Bible must be false.” To the ignorant, everywhere, they make this appear plausible. They then show that no church pretends to these gifts except their own, while they themselves still fail, totally, to exhibit them to the public. Yet they claim to possess these gifts, and bring forward witnesses from among the initiated, who testify that they have seen them exercised. Thousands are convinced by this argument that the Bible is false, and perhaps tens that Mormonism is true. Hence we find the books of Smith in the houses and hands of indfidels, who will neither read nor tolerate the Bible: and no class are so full of charity, sympathy, and compassion for the Mormons, as avowed unbelievers in the divine authority of the Scriptures, or downright Atheists. The secret is here: by tolerating the dreamy visions of Joe Smith, they are enabled with more ease to dispense with Jesus Christ and his doctrines.

Mormonism always fights with desperation; and, if it cannot save its own life, it resolves to stab all other faiths, good and bad. Here lies another of the secrets both of its triumphs and its havoc. It throws multitudes into this predicament. It urges them to feel and to say—“We must be either Mormons or Deists.” Some dread the latter; many more shrink back from the former. It concentrates all its energies, to throw the minds of those who will listen to its appeals, at once, and at all hazards, into such a position. Can any one, of common sense, doubt the result, whether it were publicly apparent or not?

The author of this volume has desired to meet and repulse both of the above tendencies of the Mormon scheme. He [4] has aimed to place the Bible and the Book of Mormon in their true relative positions; and to show that the distance which separates them is infinite; the one proceeding from the light of heaven, the other from the chaos and darkness of the pit. He has no personal ill-will towards any of the Mormons. As neighbors and fellow-citizens, he would desire, in all his social intercourse with them, to treat them with kindness and respect. But to treat their opinions, or their books, in a similar manner, is beyond the reach of his capacity. Nor does he believe that the public good either requires or admits it.

“Soft answers may turn away wrath,” but they cannot cure fanatics. The faith of the Mormons, and the practices by which it has been propagated, are of a class, which, “to be hated, needs but to be seen” in their true light. They require, therefore, to be exposed. Their Prophet complains that others have called him an impostor and a knave. It will be for himself and others to judge, whether this book does not prove him such. What course he and his friends may take in reference to it, is uncertain. They may pass it by in silent, affected contempt. They may call it all so many “dissenters’ and Gentiles’ lies.” They may also hunt out all the errors, misprints, and misquotations, or inaccurate references, which doubtless will be found here, as well as in the inspired works of Smith, and array these, as a specimen of the whole argument, before their credulous readers. There is one thing, however, they will not do: they will not recommend the book as it is, to the perusal of their followers, as a means of strengthening their faith. Yet they may even pretend to do this, in order to falsify our prediction. As in the game of “outwitting the devil,” which we shall have occasion to state, a few months reflection will doubtless enable Smith’s divinity to hit upon the most prudent course, whether silence, or contempt, or review.

Like all other fanaticisms, Mormonism is adapted in its own nature to awaken either the indignation and contempt, [5] or the sympathy and compassion of mankind. It is not the design of this book to excite the latter; but rather, by invoking the former, to exterminate, if possible, that silly credulity on which all similar delusions rest. The folly of Mormonism and the Mormons, and the turpitude of their leaders, are the principal themes of our pages. We leave to others the appropriate task of bewailing the miseries and ruin of this strange and extravagant enthusiasm.

The chapter on “Fanaticisms” may seem to some useless; to others harsh, misanthropic, and injurious. But there are particular reasons for presenting the subject of human credulity in its most gross and revolting aspects, aside from its direct bearing on Mormonism. Skeptical writers often insinuate, that if Christians only knew what they know of human credulity, it would destroy their belief in all forms of faith, Christianity not excepted. There is therefore an advantage in admitting, in the outset, even more than they claim on this point, and expressing it in terms equally severe; not only because it is true, but also because it prepares the way more effectually to demolish and annihilate their absurd inferences from that truth. The facts presented, both in this and the other chapters, are indeed far more numerous than it would be either needful or proper to quote in a strictly philosophical essay on these subjects. But if we would increase the real power of true religion, we must first weaken popular credulity. To accomplish this we must exhibit FACTS. Mere reasoning, with a bare allusion to the facts, can never produce the desired effect in the mass of minds. Again, we ought to take out of the hands of the skeptic the immense advantage which he gains, in first presenting such facts, and then wielding them as arguments against Christianity, by pretending that Christians are either ignorant of them, or afraid to allude to them. “We, the philosophers,” say they, “will give you facts, equally as wonderful as any pretended miracles, which the priests strive to keep you ignorant of.” [6] The skeptic should not have this advantage. Better to give him his rope, and then strangle him with the knots which he ties with his own hands.

Chapter fourth presents only an outline, and by no means a full view, of the proper evidences of Christianity. In giving up human testimony entirely, as a proper basis of religious faith, it may strike some minds that we must also give up Christianity. It is hoped that this chapter will lead them to such reflections as will show that they are mistaken—that they have really no ground for any such fear.

The chapters on the history, books, and faith of the Mormons may seem still more objectionable to many—on the ground that the subjects are often treated with too much harshness and levity. The reader is requested to consider, in the first place, that it is difficult to make that which is in its own nature ridiculous, appear respectable, when truly presented; and that it is indeed hard to reason down, by mere argument, what has in no manner been reasoned up. To those who can appreciate sound reason these chapters are unnecessary. But to the multitudes who are endangered by Mormonism mere reason can do no good. Throwing aside all other considerations, the author, in these chapters, has endeavored so to present the subject, that its inherent grossness and absurdity may be felt, even by those whose reason cannot perceive the truth. He would not simply arm them with arguments, but with what, in many cases, is more powerful than arguments— with contempt. A Mormon, it is believed, will find it difficult either to reason with, or to proselyte any man who has read this book, however unlearned he may be. This opinion is based not on conjecture, but on actual experiment.

By most, probably, the seeming spirit of the book will be deemed its greatest fault. It is hoped, however, that what may seem useless and even offensive to some, may prove useful to others. The subject is peculiar: the classes of minds to be influenced are equally peculiar: and if the au-[7] thor has wholly missed his aim, he hoped some one more able, and more successful, will soon supply the deficiency. There is need of it. Yet all must be aware that to write a book on such a subject is indeed a thankless task.

The present volume is the work of few weeks’ leisure. Neither other duties, nor the merits of the subject, would allow of expending either time or thought on mere style, as such. It is not probable that any able critic will trouble himself to read, much less to review, what is here written. If he should, he will probably find, so far as style is concerned, much to condemn, and little to approve. The ordinary reader, it is hoped, will pardon the book as it is; and, if his taste is sometimes offended, apply himself more exclusively to the thought: if that is generally understood, it is all the author has found time to attempt, and more, probably, than he has performed. If the book in any degree tends to strengthen rational faith, and annihilate its antagonist credulity, it will be all that can be hoped from it. Proximity to the evil, disgust with its authors, abhorrence of their impudent perfidy, their political intrigues, and pretended sanctity, together with the constant fear of an impending civil war, may induce those near at hand, both to think, feel, and speak with greater severity, than others, more remote, may judge either wise or expedient.

It is by no means intended, however, that the great body of the Mormons are obnoxious to these charges. They are, in general, an ignorant, simple, honest, industrious, deluded people.

But their leaders are NOT deluded. They know perfectly well the full scope of their own perfidious aims; which, absurd as they may seem to some, are neither more nor less than a religious monarchy in these free states, of which they themselves are to be the centres and the demigods.

Mormonism, if suffered to spread extensively, and unite with Atheism and Romanism, its natural allies, will soon have power to disturb, not single states only, but the entire Union. [8] . . .




Mormon Works—Smith’s conversion—Vision—Obtains the plates—Employs Harris—Mode of translation—His books—New Bible—First Mormon church—Union with Rigdon, in Ohio—Rigdon’s doctrines and spasms—His conversion and baptism—Removal of the church to Ohio—Kirtland miracles—REFLECTIONS on the real origin of the Mormon doctrines, and the causes of their original success.

THOUGH the Mormons profess that all their members are personally inspired, and directed of the Lord in all they do, in proportion to their individual faith, still they have but two books which claim to be pre-eminently Divine Revelations, viz., the BOOK OF MORMON and the BOOK OF DOCTRINES AND COVENANTS, both the offspring of J. Smith.

Besides these, they have several other books of great authority and influence in the church, as Pratt’s Voice of Warning, reserved volumes and numbers of their past and present periodicals, from the early history of their church to the present day—e.g., Morning and Evening Star; Messenger and Advocate; Elders’ Journal, together with numerous pamphlets, published occasionally, in defence of their church, by their leading elders and functionaries. [13]

THE BOOK OF MORMON was first published by J. Smith, 1830, at Palmyra, N. York, and professes to be the foundation of their whole scheme; in short, a new revelation from God, containing “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” by which God shall “work a great and marvellous work,” “bringing to nought the wisdom of the wise,” “gather the children of Israel,” and “convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”∗

Smith’s account of the manner in which he discovered the golden plates, from which he translated the Book of Mormon, is as follows.

In the year 1823, when our prophet was about seventeen years of age, his mind became, for the first time, deeply excited on the subject of religion, by Mr. Lane, a devoted and talented elder of the Methodist church, under whose preaching there was “a great awakening,” and numbers, among whom were our prophet and several members of his family, were “professedly added to the kingdom of the Lord.” After the revival had ceased, the usual strife for proselytes between the several sects commenced; this resulted, so far as the Smiths were concerned, in bringing the mother, one sister, and two brothers into the Presbyterian church; but leaving Joseph, as he states, in disgust with all the sects, and almost in despair of ever coming to the knowledge of the truth, amid so many contradictory and conflicting claims. He resorted to prayer for “a full manifestation of Divine approbation,” and “for the assurance that he was accepted of him.” This occurred some time in the winter of 1823. [14]

On the memorable evening of the 21st of September following, after the rest of the family had retired, while engaged in meditation, watching, and prayer to God, suddenly his room was filled with light, “far more pure and glorious than the light of day,” and above the brightness of the sun, when lo! a form stood before him, whose face was as lightning, and whose person beamed forth still more refulgent and unutterable splendor. This personage was of somewhat more than ordinary size, his garments were pure white, and apparently without seam. This angel (as he proved to be) proceeded to inform Smith that his sins were forgiven, and that the Lord had chosen him to bring forth and translate the Book of Mormon, which one Moroni, the last of the Nephites, of the seed of Israel, had abridged from the records of his tribe, and engraved on plates of gold, and deposited in a stone box upon the hill Camorah, in Manchester, N.Y., about three miles from his father’s house, where said records had already laid deposited about 1400 years.∗

Notwithstanding all these marvels were twice repeated before morning, and definite instructions given, still Smith says that the next day he went to his “labor as usual.” (?) Soon the messenger re-appeared, and warned him to go immediately to the spot described, in search of the plates.†

He went, and found them deposited in a box of stone, near the surface of the earth, nicely secured both from air and moisture, by means of a peculiar cement applied to the joints of the box. The plates were thin leaves of gold, six or eight inches square, and held together at one edge by metallic rings passing through each leaf.

On removing the slight deposit of earth, and the [15] stone from the top, he attempted to take possession of the records or plates; but he received a shock which not only frustrated his attempt, but also deprived him of his natural strength. This was repeated three times, until finally he involuntarily exclaimed aloud, “Why cannot I obtain this book?” Suddenly the angel of the Lord appears, and informs him, that it was because he had on his way to the hill indulged in

See titlepage; also the words of the angel to J. Smith. Messenger and Advocate, vol. I. p. 198.

See B. of M., p. 529.

† See Mess. and Adv. p. 156. mercenary thoughts and desires in regard to enriching himself and his family by the possession of the plates, and the sale of the wonderful book he was about to translate therefrom.

He resorted to prayer; and again “the heavens were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone around him.” Satan and his hosts passed before him, and the angel proceeded to instruct him still further, declaring that he must desire to obtain and translate the plates solely for the glory of God, and the good of his fellow man, without any selfish or pecuniary desires, either in relation to himself or his family, else his gift and power would be taken from him.

However, he was not permitted to take the plates at this time; but after listening to a long discourse from the angel, he withdrew, and engaged in the service of a man by the name of Stowell, who resided in the town of Bainbridge, Chenango Co., N. York. Stowell employed him, as Smith says, “to dig for a cave of silver, secreted by the Spaniards” near Harmony, Penn., where he first became acquainted with Miss Emma Hale, daughter of Isaac Hale, Esq., of that place. He spent some months, with several others, in search of this treasure, as he states, in the employ of Stowell.∗ [16]

Four years after this memorable 22d of September, 1823, i.e. on the 22d. Of September, 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records or plates of the Nephites to Joseph Smith, and with them the mystic “Urim and Thummim,” or two stones set in a bow, found in the same box with the plates; by looking through these, he was to be enabled to translate the record from the reformed Egyptian, in which unknown tongue they were first written, into what HE CALLS the English language.

As regards his history and employment during these four years, we must look to other sources for information, which we shall do hereafter. The reader will, in the mean time, bear in mind this story of Smith himself. Neither are we told who covered and secured the box again, although we are advised that these four years of the prophet’s life did not roll away without their appropriate marvels; all which matters, together with the events of the foregoing history, were related and varied to suit the exigencies of the case, until the year 1834, when the history was first interlarded with prophetic declarations of the angel, which had already been fulfilled, the whole story new vamped, stereotyped, and given to the world for the edification of the saints, in the columns of the Messenger and Advocate, under the supervision of Smith, and by the hand of Oliver Cowdery, in substance as above narrated.

Martin Harris, the first dupe and coadjutor of Smith, at the time of these transactions, (in the fall of 1827,) gave a very different account of the whole matter, on the authority of Smith, to the editor of the Episcopal Recorder, to which I shall refer the reader, instead of repeating the story here. Of the character [17] of Harris I shall speak hereafter. However, Smith persuaded Harris to engage with him in translating and publishing the book, which ultimately cost Harris a farm, worth, as it is said, $10,000.

At this time, Smith himself was both poor and unable to write for the press; Harris therefore loaned him his estate for expenditures, and his hand as a scribe.

According to one account given by Mr. Harris, Joseph suspended a thick blanket across the room, on one side of which he sat and looked through his Urim and Thummim, or stone spectacles, and the Lord caused the correct translation of the mystic record to pass before his eyes, word for word, which he (Joseph) uttered aloud, a word at a time, while Harris sat on the other side of the blanket, and wrote down all as he heard it from Smith.

See Adv. Vol. I. p. 100

Of course the divine wrath was denounced against all who should attempt to gain a view of the plates, except Smith. This kept Martin in his place, though not without some trouble, as sundry revelations∗ show in the Book of Covenants; until he finally gave place to Oliver Cowdery, as scribe, by whose aid the book was completed and published in 1830, three years after the pretended reception of the plates; thus giving from 1823, when the plates were discovered, to 1827, when they were obtained, four years, for general scheming, and three years for translation, from ’27 to ’30.

Various other stories have been circulated as regards the manner of translation; e.g., it is said by the Mormons that Smith put his stones into his hat, and placed [18] his face close to them, and thus saw the words through the stones; in reference to which only one thing is important to be noted, to wit: they all agree in making the Lord responsible not only for the thought, but also for the language of the book, from the necessity of the case, for they all claim that the words passed before Smith’s eyes while looking through the pellucid stones.

The reader will please bear this in mind while reading the chapter on internal evidence.

The Book of Mormon is a duodecimo volume of 588 pages, consisting of fifteen different books, purporting to be written at different times by the authors whose names they bear. These historical books profess to cover a period of about 1000 years, from the time of Zedekiah, king of Judea, to A.D. 420.

It is not my purpose to give even an outline of this bundle of gibberish, further than to remark, that it professes to trace the history of the aborigines of this continent, in their apostasies, pilgrimages, trials, adventures, and wars, from the time of their leaving Jerusalem, in the reign of Zedekiah, under one Lehi, down to their final disaster, near the hill Camorah, N.Y., where Smith found his bible; in which final contest, according to the prophet Moroni, about 230,000 were slain in a single battle, and he alone escaped to tell the tale. All which we learn, though Joseph Smith, by means of the plates and stones already mentioned. Did not this book claim divine authority, it would perhaps be about as harmless as the same amount of nonsense could well be, and might be read with no direct evil, excepting loss of time.

The Book of Covenants and Revelations, as it is called, contains about 250 pages, 18mo. [19]

The first seventy-five pages contain a series of seven lectures on faith, with questions and answers appended to each, touching peculiar doctrines of the church.

Part second is mainly occupied with professed revelations given at sundry times, by God, to J. Smith, respecting the translation of the Book of Mormon, the organization, doctrines, and government of the church; management of its finances, sending forth preachers, building temples and dwellings for Smith,∗ removing to the West, founding Mt. Zion, in Missouri, and purchasing lands there, for an everlasting possession, (?) transferring town-lots, tavern-houses, joint stock, tan-yards, chewing tobacco, doctoring cows, feeding horses, hogs, and hens; in short, revelations touching all those spiritual matters, in which Joe Smith’s divinity, in this latter-day glory of the church, appears to have felt a deep and peculiar interest. This is truly the BLACK BOOK of Mormonism.

The whole design of it, from beginning to end, is, to concentrate power and resources around Joe Smith and his compeers, and to swindle the poor fools who believe it divinely inspired, at once out of their money and their wits. It has really exerted a thousand fold more

See Book of Cov. §32.

B. C. p. 189. influence, on the doctrines and destinies of the Mormon church, than all other books put together; still it is usually kept in the background, and the Book of Mormon thrown forward, as their main authority, next after the Bible. True, its main design is tolerably concealed, though sufficiently apparent to any man who will compare the several revelations with the actual condition and history of the church at the time they were given. But more of this hereafter. [20]

Parley P. Pratt’s “Voice of Warning” does not profess peculiar inspiration, but is considered by the Mormons as the most able exposition and defence of their peculiar doctrines, especially those which they derive from the prophecies and those which pertain to the “kingdom of God,” or, the organization of the church.

Smith has another work of considerable importance and interest in manuscript, parts of which only have as yet been given to the world. This is a new edition of the Holy Scriptures, “Translated through the power and gift of God,” “by Joseph Smith, jr., the Prophet of the Lord.”

But how translated? Does Smith understand either Hebrew or Greek? Not at all: but he can read or translate any thing, through his famous stones, even the gibberish, which the Mormons mumble over, when they are endowed with the marvellous “gift of tongues,” of which so much “hath been spoken.”

The truth is, Smith at first knew so little of what was in the Bible, which he professed to believe, that he had not proceeded far, before a new translation of that was indispensable to save both him and his cause from utter disgrace and ruin.

Accordingly in this new edition, whole verses and almost entire chapters are added to the original text as occasion requires. In proof of which, compare the 34th of Exodus and the 24th of Matthew with this new translation. But as these examples may not be accessible to some, I will refer to those extracts quoted from the “new translation” in the Book of Covenants, p. 13, et seq.; in which few verses, taken from the first chapters of Genesis, the doctrines of the trinity, viz., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, also of the atonement of sacrifices, [21] and their import, are fully set forth by the angel of the Lord to Adam.

Is this from the Hebrew text, or from Smith’s stone spectacles? Still these are far from being the worst examples of this new translation; they are only referred to as being most universally at hand. I fear Joseph will have to make several translations more, before he will succeed in making the Bible in whole or in part, accord either with the Mormon bible, or the Book of Covenants, or with the Mormon hierarchy and church government.

It is wise to keep this new translation in manuscript, for the special use of the “saints.”

The profane eyes of the Gentiles might see more in it than is written, even though much more is written than ever was found in the original text. People who have not faith never exercise a sound and devout discretion in such matters. “But the Lord knoweth them that are his.” So says Joseph Smith; and it is kind to reserve now and then a sweet morsel for their special benefit, especially as he is the authorized prophet of God, “ to ALL NATIONS, kindreds, people, and tongues.”

The remaining periodicals and pamphlets of this sect need no further notice here.

Immediately after the translation of the Book of Mormon, i.e. on the 6th of April 1830, the first Mormon church was organized in Manchester, N.Y., with only six members, viz., Joseph Smith, sen., Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, the father and brothers of the prophet, Oliver Cowdery, scribe to Smith, Joseph Knight, and the prophet. Of these, of course, Joseph Smith, jun., the prophet, was “called and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ,” and first elder of the new[22] church, which afterwards assumed the title of the “Church of Latter Day Saints.” Oliver Cowdery, the scribe, was, with like propriety, appointed second elder.∗

Soon after, a branch was established at Fayette, and the June following, another in Colesville, N.Y., not far from Bainbridge, where Joseph was employed in 1823, by Stowell, to dig for money as we have seen.

Twenty were added to the churches in Manchester and Fayette in the month of April, and on the 28th of June following, thirteen were added in Colesville.

In October, 1830, the number had increased to between seventy and eighty, when four of the elders, P. P. Pratt, O. Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Tiba Peterson, started for the west, on a mission to the Indians; and in passing, founded a branch of the church in Kirtland, in the northeast part of Ohio. Here they baptized 130 disciples in less than four weeks, and before the next spring, the number was increased to about 1000.

As this passage in their history is somewhat marvellous in the eyes of others as well as in the estimation of the Mormons themselves, who declare “that the Holy Spirit was mightily poured out,” and “that the word of God grew and multiplied, and many priests were obedient to the faith,” I shall pause a moment to elucidate it.

It is evident that here Mormonism first received a decided and resistless impulse. In N. York, where Smith was well known, it crept in the dirt, and still does to this day; but here it rose at once, and soared as on the wings of the wind. What then is the cause of this phenomenon?

Many in the east have supposed [23] that the backwoodsmen of the west are of course either infidels or natural fools, in all matters of faith, and therefore ready to believe this or any other novel absurdity. I admit that we are all, naturally, sufficiently credulous. Nor do we claim any more than our due share of folly in this respect. But I think a more particular and satisfactory solution of this question is at hand.

The fact is, Mormonism, either by accident or intrigue, here met for the first time and concurred in a new system of doctrines prepared to its hand, and thus gained over to itself their original founders, P. P. Pratt and Sidney Rigdon, and secured not only their talent and zeal in its behalf, but also that of all, or at least, a great part of their followers. This happy concurrence of circumstances, united with the wily policy and stirring eloquence of Pratt and Rigdon, stirred up a popular fanatical sympathy, and set the ball to rolling with resistless force. But to be more particular:

About the year 1827, A. Campbell, W. Scott, and Sidney Rigdon, with some others residing in Virginia and Ohio, came off from the Baptist church, and established a new order under the name of Reformed Baptists.

Among these reformers, Mr. Rigdon, it appears, held to the literal interpretation of the prophecies, as the saints now do, and taught that the long lost tribes of Israel were soon to be restored, and that marvellous revolutions were at hand, not only affecting the moral, but also the political, and even the animal world.

These doctrines he not only taught and enforced with all that versatility and power of popular eloquence, with which he is said to be peculiarly gifted, but he [24] also brought to his aid the eccentric and grotesque workings of a nervous and enthusiastic temperament, which at times threw him into spasms and swoonings, similar to those nervous agitations which have so often prevailed, not only in individual instances, but raged as epidemics both in and out of the churches. These nervous fits he interpreted into the agency of the Holy Spirit, as multitudes had

B. of C. p. 77, and Mess. and Adv., Vol. I,. p. 204. done before him, and contended that the miraculous spiritual gifts of the apostolic age were now about to be restored to the church.

Here we meet for the first time with the Mormon doctrine of prophecies and miracles, in a region where Smith and his bible were never heard of, and long before either of these doctrines had appeared, distinctly, in any of the books, or, probably, in the thoughts of Smith.

The credulous and simple of course believed all he taught, especially when he confirmed his doctrine by nervous spasms and swooning, and their attendant rhapsodies and marvellous visions. Many hundreds were thus deluded and gathered into a church under his preaching, in Lake county, Ohio. Other preachers soon united their efforts with his, among whom was the famous Parley P. Pratt, the present mouthpiece of the saints. After his conversion to the doctrines of Rigdon, while on a journey, as he says, to visit his native place, Columbia county, N.Y., in August of 1830, he fell in with the Book of Mormon, which had then been published about six months, and gathered about fifty disciples in N.Y. “He was greatly prejudiced against it at first, but after praying to God he became convinced of its truth,” as he says, “by the power of the Holy Ghost.” [25]

But whether he had a jerk, or a twitch, or a swoon, he has not informed us. On his return to Ohio, he presented the book to his valiant compeer in the faith, Sidney Rigdon. With much persuasion and argument he was prevailed upon to read it, and after a great struggle in his mind, he of course fully believed and embraced it.

Probably he was convinced in like manner, by a similar spirit and power; for it is indeed difficult to see how any man, especially of a nervous temperament, could read Smith’s book through without being thrown into some sort of hysterics. The marvel is, that it should ever have happened otherwise.

Cowdery, in the mean time, had converted about seventeen of his society. Rigdon immediately assembled his old followers; a great congregation was gathered, and while he harangued them for nearly two hours, both himself and most of his congregation melted into tears. The next morning himself and wife were baptized, when again there was another outpouring of hysterics and tears; and during the fall of 1830, and the following winter and spring, many of his old disciples, and some others, in all about 1000, were baptized into the Mormon faith. In the glowing language of Pratt, “the Holy Spirit was mightily poured out, the word of God grew and multiplied, and many priests were obedient to the word.” In about three weeks after he was converted, Rigdon visited Smith, in N. York, and since that time has continued apparently at his feet, drawing his inspiration from the fountain head. Here he not only received a confirmation of his faith, but also a command from the Lord,∗ through Smith, [26] well suited both to his vanity and his aims. It is also reported that Rigdon, after joining the church, and spending a little time in Kirtland, was afraid he had been deceived, and visited Smith to have his doubts removed. He says that on arriving in N.Y., he went first to the enemies, and then to the friends of the church, and heard both stories, and the result was, that he was so fully convinced of the “truth,” that he afterward told A. Campbell, “that if Smith should be proved a liar, or say himself that he never found the Book of Mormon, as he reported, he should still believe, and also believe that all who rejected it would be damned.” Such remarkable piety rendered it highly expedient that the Lord should appoint him, forthwith, by an express revelation, the orator and oracle of the faith. ∗ This, however, is no unusual instance of faith

B. C. 117.

See B. C. 117, 5, 6. †B. C. 119. 7. among the Mormons. I have heard many of them express the same idea. Surely such faith should work wonders, and who can doubt that it does?

On the return of Rigdon in January, 1831, not only Smith, but also the whole church, removed, by divine commandment, from N. York to Kirtland, Ohio.†

During the fall and winter of ’30 and ’31, Kirtland was continually crowded with visiters, who came from all quarters to inquire after the “New Religion.” About this time, as we are informed by credible historians and eye-witnesses, “many in the church became very visionary and had divers operation of the Spirit.” They saw wonderful lights in the air and on the ground, and had many miraculous visions and experiences. Their conduct grew more and more eccentric and absurd. Sometimes they imitated the grotesque antics of [27] the wild Indian, in knocking down, scalping, and tearing out the bowels of his victim, thus anticipating the hour of their fancied mission to those lost sons of Jacob.

Again, they ran into the fields, mounted upon stumps, and, while absorbed in vision, and insensible to all around them, they plunged into the waters of baptism, or harangued the imaginary multitudes by whom they thought they were surrounded. Some professed to receive letters direct from heaven, written on stones or parchment, in characters which they alone had power to translate, and which vanished as soon as the work was performed. Others fell into a trance, and continued apparently lifeless for a long time, and woke only to relate the wonders they had seen touching the future glory of the saints, and the destruction of the unbelieving.

Sometimes their faces, bodies, and limbs were violently distorted and convulsed, until they fell prostrate on the ground. Indeed, it is reported by an eye-witness, that at first the laying hands on the heads of their converts to confer the gift of the Holy Spirit, generally produced an instantaneous prostration of both body and mind, often followed by a wonderful gift of tongues, as was supposed, in Indian dialects; which, indeed, none could understand except by direct inspiration. Some, in imitation of the prophet, received magic stones, through which they professed to see and describe not only the persons, but the dress and employments of persons hundreds of miles distant.

On page 182, B.C., there is an allusion to one of these marvellous stones given to Hiram Page, and translated by him. A new revelation respecting these wonders, and the spirits which produced them, may be [28]found on page 134, B.C. It seems that Smith’s paternal affection for the stone mania led him to treat that with some deference while he condemned all else as the work of the devil, though a most prolific source not only of wonder and faith to the saints, but of conversions.

All these eccentricities were undoubtedly in part hypocrisy, and in part the natural result of a contagious sympathy, emanating from Smith and Rigdon, and diffusing itself, on well-known epidemic principles, to be noticed more fully hereafter. The more substantial part of the church, however, soon became disgusted and appealed to Smith. After due prayer and deliberation he very wisely had a new revelation, informing them, in substance, that it was all the work of the devil, as mentioned above. It may be well to notice that the stone fever originated in Smith, while Rigdon seems to have been the original proprietor of the trance-vision, and spouting fever. After this new turn in their affairs, Smith and Rigdon appear to have taken to themselves the entire monopoly of wonders of all sorts, and to have commended the saints to the more quiet and appropriate duty of believing. This philosophical division of labor has doubtless conduced much to the quiet of general society, and the edification and docility of the saints. In the winter of 1831, the opinion that they should never taste death, was propagated among them, and all diseases were to yield, not to the profane aid of medicine, but to the faith, prayers, herbs, and poultices of the devout.∗

The prophet himself, however, in the case of his “elect lady,” had recourse to a surgeon, greatly to the [29] grief and scandal of the church. Others of less note were piously left to die in the hands of their elders and root doctors.


From the preceding narrative, which is taken from their own published writings, so far as the leading facts are concerned,∗ the following inferences are at once apparent and inevitable.

1. Rigdon and Pratt had been busy, either by accident or intrigue, in preparing for the triumph of Mormonism, in Ohio, for three years before the people in that region ever heard of Smith or his book; that is, from the year 1827, the very same year in which Smith pretends he commenced the translation of the plates, up to the year 1830, when Rigdon and Pratt were professedly converted.

2. Rigdon, and not Smith, was the originator of their doctrines concerning the literal fulfilment of the prophecies, the restoration of the Jews, the literal reign of the saints in Zion, and the restoration of the miraculous gifts of the apostolic age to the modern church; and that, too, according to their own showing.† Yet these doctrines lie at the foundation of the Mormon church, as all know. Take these away, and there is nothing left in their whole system of sufficient power to engross the intellect of an ape.

3. Before the union of these two forces, Mormonism [30] had neither form nor vigor, spirit nor power: it was a mere turbid ripple, eddying around the Smiths and Whitmers, and their money-digging comrades, without depth or motion, excepting in a very limited circle. It could scarce control the faith, much less excite the emotions of granny Smith herself. It had neither end nor aim, neither object nor force, beyond the already habitual and ordinary aspirations of Joseph, the money-digger. And, indeed, he did not know what to do with it himself, as we shall hereafter see. Before the accession of Rigdon, in 1830, not one of the peculiar and properly fundamental doctrines of Mormonism are to be found in the Book of Mormon; nor were they ever taught, so far as appears, by Smith, unless in loose generalities, which were susceptible of interpretations to suit circumstances.∗

4. But after the conversion of Rigdon, things soon begin to wear a different aspect.

Smith’s divinity, in his revelations, appears more explicit, decisive, and imperative. He drops his vague generalities, and occasionally utters a word that is clear, definite, and to the point. He proceeds to organize his church, and propound its doctrines, government, and duties, as though he, at least, had some indistinct ideas of what he meant himself; until finally, after much ado, and great anguish of logomachy, he finally succeeds in making the Mormons understand, that they are to receive at the hands of Smith, as immediate revelations, the same doctrines that, in substance, Rigdon had taught them, while he was, as he admits, an outcast from God and the true church, during the three or four preceding years, and [31] that they were to organize the church

B. C. 123, 12.

See Parley P. Pratt’s Truth Vindicated, p. 40; Evening and Morning Star, Vol. I., p. 167 and 90; Corill’s History of the Latter Day Saints, p. 16, et seq.

See Pratt, as above p. 40.

See revelation on the rise of the church, Fayette, N. Y., June, 1830. B. of C., §2. p. 77. with two distinct priesthoods, the Melchisedec and the Aaronic, both embracing a sufficient number of presidents, bishops, prophets, priests, elders, &c., to make every Mormon a man of authority, taking due care ever to keep Smith and Rigdon on the top of the heap, “according to the ancient gospel.” Let not the profane think strange of this; the ways of Providence are often mysterious, and if there is ever any thing inexplicable here, Joseph Smith, jun. is fully empowered to receive special revelations, explanatory, whenever or wherever either the edification or the uneasiness of the saints may require them.

5. Rigdon had been long accustomed to play upon the religious credulity of the people, and to arouse and concentrate the religious emotions of his fellow-men. He could preach, exhort, philosophize, rave, read, sing, pray, and cry whenever and wherever occasion required. And after the first “general heat,” at each and all of these at once, which occurred at the time of his conversion, confession, and baptism, Mormonism caught, as we have seen, not only his followers and doctrines, but also his spirit, his eloquence, and even his faintings, his swoonings, visions, and ecstasies, and thus became “a thing of life,” and rose at once from wallowing in the gutter with Smith, to soar in the sky with its new compeer. Some have thought that Rigdon was from the first the secret originator of the whole scheme. But of this, to say the least, there is no proof. On the contrary, there is a strong probability that he has been to Mormonism what Peter the Hermit was to the crusades; not the originator of the fanatical materials, but the explosive power from which they derived all their [32] terror, their brilliancy, and their force. Still, what precise part in the comedy of Mormonism posterity may ultimately assign him is doubtful.

Whether he is to be considered as the speaker of the prologue, or the hero, or the fool of the play, is yet doubtful. It is nevertheless true, and susceptible of moral demonstration, that if Sidney Rigdon had not lived, Joe Smith and his book must have perished in the same timely grave; or rather, in all probability, Joe would have lived to bear the pall of his own book, unaided, unhonored, and alone.

It has often been asked, whether it is credible that a man of Rigdon’s information should really believe the Book of Mormon a divine revelation? Those who are credulous enough to believe him sincere may do so if they please; but it is credible that a man of his perverted and ambitious temper, after having run through all creeds, dabbled in politics, turned skeptic, and then again enthusiast,—it is quite credible that such a man should be converted, with tears in his eyes, to Joe Smith’s creed, or any other, from which he could hope to raise the wind, and stand at the helm again, for a season. His well-known character and history render his sudden and whining conversion to Smith neither a mystery nor a miracle. Should Smith’s divinity dare to assign him some more humble station among “the Latter Day Saints,” probably the world would see him converted again, either to his former skepticism or to some newfangled fanaticism. At present, Smith has evident need of him at Nauvoo, at least until some of their new charters have done their best. [33] . . .



Instinct of faith—Instinct of independence—Desire of power—Operation of these to produce general credulity and fanaticism—False Messiahs—Peculiar analogous fanaticisms—Serpentinians—Millenarians—Circoncelleones—Stylites—Eonites—Beghards—Quietists—Whippers, Dancers, Jumpers, and Men of Understanding—Anabaptists—Davidists—Illuminati—Knipperdolings—Madame Bowrignon—Seekers—Muggletonians—Camisards—Falling Swords—Swedenborgians—Salem witchcraft—Glassites—Ann Lee—Jemima Wilkinson—Joanna Southcote—Richard Brothers—French infidels—Mad Thom, Dilks, Davidson, Miss Campbell, Irving, Mathias, and Joe Smith—Successive crops of fanatics and causes—General agreement of fanatics—The bottle conjuror—Love of exciting marvels—Rule for fanatics.

HAVING considered the rise and progress of Mormonism, we pause for a moment to compare it with similar delusions.

Much of the history of our race, in respect to religion, is the history of fanaticism. Amid so vast an amphitheatre of religious lunatics, we shall find some more eccentric, if not more insane, than others; and by casting our eyes back upon the scene, and reflecting upon the credulity and weakness of the race, we shall be better prepared to appreciate this new development of human folly, and to contemplate its absurdities without either amazement or alarm.

There are three fundamental principles which sway the destinies of the human race.

1. The religious element in the nature of man, which I shall call the instinct of faith.

2. The instinct of independence. [65].

3. The desire of power.

These instincts, propensities, or tendencies, exist in all; but the two former are more fully developed in the multitude, while the more exorbitant and striking manifestations of the latter are seen only in the few.

By the instinct of faith I do not mean any principle that is so inherent in the nature of man, that its development appears at the moment of his birth, and which cannot, by any possible combination of influences, be made to disappear. But I mean a universal propensity to worship, and to fear some higher power than human, which, by the necessary action of external influences and events, is invariably developed, before the period of maturity, in all the appropriate circumstances of human existence. Thus the instinctive nature of man leads him to build houses, wear clothes, and eat bread, though he neither builds houses nor eats bread at his birth, and though some savages, or maniacs, may be found who live on roots in the open air. Still, such a state is no more proved to be the nature of man than that it is the nature of fish to live on dry land, because a few are found flouncing in an exhausted pool.

In this sense man alone, of all other animals, is endowed with a religious instinct, or an INSTINCT OF FAITH. His nature impels him to be a religious being; to worship and to fear some power higher than human. Skeptics may rail at this; they cannot help it. They may call this propensity the result of reason or of superstition, of chance, of education, of wisdom, or of folly; it is still human nature; and it will plead with, and warn even them, sometimes, in spite of themselves. And whether philosophical or unphilosophical, the attempt to exterminate it is as vain as to attempt to exter-[66] minate human nature itself, and let man still live. Pride, passion, and lust may either pervert or expel it, as the love of brandy sometimes expels the desire of water. Still God, the omnipotent and the wise, has made man to be a true and rational worshipper of himself; and man cannot avoid the action of this propensity without depraving and degrading every principle of his moral and social nature. He must be a religious being in some way. The only question is whether truth and reason, or folly and nonsense, shall lie at the basis of his devotion. If he will not bow before the omnipotent God, and yield to the clemency of heaven, he must fall before human absurdities, and be crushed by the arrogance of man. Hence every departure from the true and rational worship of God is based on credulity; for it necessarily implies the belief of some absurdity. Atheism itself is not mere unbelief; it implies actual belief in the grossest of all absurdities, not accepting the worship of Juggernaut.

These religious elements take such a deep hold of human nature that they necessarily move and control all else. Hence if you move and control these, you give direction to all the energies of his nature. Prostituted to falsehood, they are ever the ready and most efficient instruments of the tyrant and the despot. Guided by reason and truth, they are the sole foundation of personal freedom and safety, and of public order and peace.

2. THE INSTINCT OF INDEPENDENCE, or an instinctive aversion to all restraint whatever, come from what source it may, is another fundamental element in human nature.

We all naturally love to think, speak, act, and feel [67] as we please; to follow our momentary and transient impulses, without hindrance or restraint, right or wrong. To be without this aversion to restraint, this innate love of licentious freedom, is to be more or less than human.

Call it selfishness, call it depravity, call it what you will, it is human nature, and, so far as we can see, it is absolutely inseparable, not only from human nature, but from all animal existence.

Its influence throughout animal nature is as constant and universal as the law of gravitation, and its tendency, when unrestrained by higher instincts and principles, is always in the same direction, DOWNWARD, from the angel toward the brute. It was made to direct and control all animals, except where some higher power interposes; and it was designed to guide and control man, except where God interposes through rational appeals to the instinct of faith. It was designed at once to ensure the proper and rational independence and integrity of the individual, and to rescue him from all rule and all control, save the just and needful sway of heaven. In the mouth of the Christian apostles, it says, “Whether it be right to fear man more than God, judge ye;” but, perverted in the mouth of a Voltaire, it says, “Crush the wretch!!!”

It must, however, in general own a God. But the true God is all-seeing and omnipotent.

His claims are necessarily omnipotent. It must be religious. But the restraints of rational worship, though both natural and salutary, are at once onerous, constant, and ever present. It yields to the instinct of faith because it cannot help it. But it would fain stipulate for more freedom than either truth or the rational worship of the true God can give. Hence it corrupts religion, and thus [68] avoids God by stratagem, since it cannot do it by force. It bows to falsehoods and humbugs of its own creation, and thus, by grasping at more freedom than either God or truth can give, it massacres all freedom and all safety, and, in the end, by an act of suicide, it destroys itself. It hesitates to bound upward toward heaven; it stumbles and falls into hell.

3. INSTINCTIVE DESIRE OF POWER—But, indomitable as is this aversion to restraint, there is one thing which every son of Adam loves a little better than this much-desired freedom; and that is a little power. Give them that little, and they want a little more—and a little more—and so on, until the whole world is beneath their feet; and then, like Alexander of old, they sit down and cry for a little more power. This instinctive love of power was designed to stimulate us to the acquisition of those high moral and intellectual endowments, in which, above all, natural excellence and superiority consists; and to impel us to the use of these commanding qualities for the benefit, instruction, guidance, and elevation of those less highly favored than ourselves. But it has been perverted and prostituted to ends purely selfish. It was designed to acquire and dispense truth for the good of the race. It has grasped sophistry and lies, and wielded them, of course, only for destruction. This perversion results from the fact that it exists in, and works among a race, who, as we have seen, in a matter of the highest concern, love a lie better than the truth.

These three fundamental principles or instincts of humanity, if allowed to act as God designed, would constitute the true freedom and glory of our nature. But, when perverted, they become the most efficient [69] instruments of tyranny, degradation, and shame. It cannot be shown that moral and accountable beings could exist without them; nor that their perversion and consequent evils could be prevented, except by the protracted and terrible experience of the mischiefs that ensue. Be this as it may, all these instincts were originally angels of mercy. Two of them, by perversion have become devils, and made war upon the third. Here, then, is human nature, with one pure impulse from heaven, struggling against two perverted impulses from hell.

Hitherto the base and the malign have grappled the pure and the good by the throat, and held it in the dust. But their grasp is hourly relaxing, and their ultimate defeat is both glorious and sure.

Hitherto the love of power for selfish ends, in the few, and the aversion to natural religious restraint, in the many, have co-operated in prostituting the instinct of faith, through the most absurd schemes of superstition and credulity, to the vilest ends of tyranny, licentiousness, and lust.

The multitude must have some scheme of faith: they have hated the restraints of the true one. The few have perceived the predicament of the many, and, sympathizing with their aversion to the gospel, they have devised and imposed upon them schemes of false religion better suited to their own ends, of political or spiritual tyranny and misrule. But, when the hand of oppression has become intolerable, the multitude have not unfrequently defied at once all faith and all control, and rushed from the absurdities of superstition and abject submission to the still greater absurdities of atheism and anarchy. They, however, brave the [70] roar of the cataract, only to sink in the abyss of a more hideous and pestilential fanaticism. They should sail upstream instead of down; but this implies labor and restraint from which they shrink, because they see it. But what lies below the rapids is unseen, until it is experienced.

The operation of these inevitable causes has, in all ages, divided the majority of mankind into two general classes, so far as their religious history is concerned. A small class, who, from the desire of political or spiritual power, have aspired to teach, and a large class, whose only business it has been to believe. “The knaves said so, and the fools believed them.” These nine words exhibit an epitome of the religious history of the majority of our race, atheists, deists, and all, except the very few who have honestly yielded to the law of nature and of God. Here is the grand arena on which knaves have piped and fools have danced, throughout all generations.

From among those whom we have here dignified with the name of teachers, we do not exclude the self-styled philosophical atheist. Nor do we include those who teach any form of rational or true religion; nor yet any of those multitudinous fanatics and lunatics, who either originate absurd notions, from insanity, or receive them, second hand, from adroit villains, and propagate them from sheer credulity. These either fall in regular order among the marshalled dupes of the craft, or form an eccentric platoon of maniacs in the rear. In the ranks of imposture, we place only the ambitious and selfish originators of absurd dogmas of either superstition or skepticism. Some of these have sought political power, like Mohammed. Others have [71] aspired to spiritual rule, like the autocrats of India and of Rome. Others have aimed at intellectual and social elevation or literary fame, like the French atheists. Others are looking at social elevation, through ecclesiastical or spiritual sway, as many among the shoals of ambitious sectarians, reformers, and system-mongers of modern christendom. Now all these, of course, profess the purest motives. We cannot believe them; the world has lived too long. Our charity may force our incredulity to admit, that, in many cases, they themselves are not fully conscious of the strength of the selfish motives which urge them onward. This is the best opinion we can form of them, till the world lives its life over again, or we get a new revelation from heaven.

These three causes, the necessity of faith, the aversion to restraint in the many, and the love of power in the few, have conspired to make the religious history of the mass of mankind a history of credulity and infatuation. Mormonism is not an exception to the general rule. It is but one of the many hideous errors imposed, by the lust of power, on the credulity of the multitude.

In all ages of the world the majority of mankind, both in Christian and heathen lands, have been ready to believe any thing in religion, however absurd, provided it was both false and absurd, and proffered eternal happiness, or at least eternal exemption from merited punishment, as the reward of belief, without the pain and trouble of a thorough moral reformation.

Melancholy and degrading as this picture is, it is the true picture of human nature and human society. Beginning from our great progenitor and descending to [72] our own times, throughout the long track of five thousand years, in the religious history of our world, we traverse an immense swamp of credulity and lies. With the exception of the few spots which have been reclaimed and fertilized by the genial influences of Christianity, uncorrupted, we see nothing but darkness, desolation, and death; we hear nothing but the boastings of hypocrites and the creaking of their torturing engines of cruelty, followed by the sighs, and groans, and mortal agonies of unnumbered millions of poor deluded dupes, or of martyrs to the true faith of the gospel.

If perchance a ray of light divine flit athwart the scene, it is only to make us more sensible of the darkness which envelops us, and to reveal, for a moment, more clearly the horrid and detested phantoms that hover about our path.

Through the whole line of our march, the only verdant spot we meet is found “fast by the oracles of God,” and the only solitary being in human shape, who can for a moment challenge our faith on his own responsibility, is Jesus of Nazareth; and even his divine words had scarce fallen from his lips, before these same demoniac principles were again inciting men, with more than satanic skill, to distort, pervert, and corrupt them; and again the darkness and the terrors close around us. Even while the chosen and inspired Paul lived, this “mystery of iniquity” was already at work.

In proof of these positions, we need not stop to survey the splendid temples, the lying oracles, the besotted priests, the sacrificial pomp, the polluted and Bacchanalian worship of the detestable gods of the philosophic Greeks, or of the grave and invincible Romans, or the [73] multitudinous similar faiths, which infested the globe before the coming of Christ.

Nor need we contemplate the hundreds of millions of pagan lands in our own day, with their sacrificial cars, crushing or crippling thousands as they move along, their rivers swollen with the bodies of the dead, or re-echoing with the groans of the dying; age, helpless and tottering, either left to starve in solitude, or hurried away to the altars of their truculent gods; infants, writhing in the death-grasp of a mother’s hand; mothers, shrinking in wild and frantic despair from the burning funeral pile—fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters gathering around the direful scene, and vainly attempting to drown the agonies of their victim with tumultuous and triumphant shouts! The dead and dying forgotten or despised, the living tortured with the consciousness of what is, and agonized with the fear of what is to come; crushed beneath the tyranny of the present hour, and expecting an aggravation of their woes in the next. Heartless, soulless, homeless, and undone, they still cling to the creed which engendered, and the faith which fosters their woes, because ambitious knaves so teach, and they obediently and devoutly believe. Yet this is the boasted religion of nature, and the freedom of nature, when nature is left free and untrammelled to work its own cure.

But we pass on to the history of revealed religion. We pause neither upon the ceaseless rebellions, revolts, and apostacies of the Jews, nor upon that awful and final catastrophe of their fate, when mothers sliced and ate their young, and Titus floated their devoted walls and temple in blood. We will not dwell upon the crusades, nor upon the Mohammedan delusion, originating[74] in slaughter, and pregnant with lies more incredible than ordinary powers can imagine or conceive of; nor yet upon that hideous, that immense, that most terrific perversion of the mild and beneficent religion of Jesus, which under the Papacy held the human race, through twelve long centuries of agony and despair, in the very crucible of tyranny, and extorted from them the last pang, the last groan, of which human nature and human endurance is capable.

We will pass by all these cases, though in themselves they comprise the history of the vast majority of the human race throughout the world. Still, it may be said, that all these monstrous absurdities sprung up amid surrounding darkness, and held their despotic sway from the peculiarity of the ages in which they originated; that they engrossed to themselves the public sentiment of large portions of the globe, instead of hanging, as Mormonism does, as a mere local and loathsome excrescence on the surface of a more healthful and vigorous body politic. And although this does not relieve the matter, still we will pass on to look only at those temporary and local impostures, which have sprung up in eras and under circumstances in which such infatuations might have been deemed entirely impracticable.

And first, the world has witnessed, since the coming of Christ, more than twenty false Messiahs or pretended Christs, who have obtained sufficient notoriety to live on the pages of history, besides shoals of similar pretenders, whose memory has rotted with their bones. We will briefly note, as specimens, a few of those whose memory still survives.

The first one of much note was one Caziba, who [75] lived in the second century. The Jews acknowledge that they lost between five and six hundred thousand souls, in fighting against the Romans in defence of this pretender. Here is human credulity. When the true Messiah came, and fulfilled all their own sacred prophecies before their own eyes, and wrought wonders and gave signs from heaven above and earth beneath, they crucified him. Why? Because they hated the restraints of true religion. Again, when a few years after an impostor arises, without a solitary proof of either authority or virtue, they rally around him, and pour out their blood like water in his defence. Why? They loved to indulge in the false hopes of a false and preposterous faith.

This is human nature in all ages and climes.

In 434, another pretender arose, called Moses, who persuaded the Jews in the island of Crete to abandon their houses and lands, and to assemble on a given day on a rock overhanging the sea, from which they were to cast themselves into the deep, that he might conduct them in safety (Joe Smith like) to their promised land, the Mount Zion of old. Multitudes came, and men, women, and children, without the least hesitation, threw themselves headlong into the sea, until at last so great a number were drowned as to open the eyes of the rest.

In 529, another by the name of Julian appeared, who, after an immense slaughter of his followers, was taken and put to death by the Emperor Justinian.

In 1157, another arose in Spain, under whose guidance almost all the Jews in that kingdom surrendered themselves to utter extermination.

In 1167, another arose in Arabia, who pretended that if he should be beheaded, he should come to life again. [76] The Arabian king took him at his word, and ended the delusion by taking off his head.

In 1199, another arose in Persia, called David El David. Vast numbers of the Jews were butchered for following this impostor. The twelfth century, alone, produced no less than ten of these false Christs, who brought prodigious calamities upon the Jews, in various parts of the world; and though their names may be forgotten, their deeds of infamy will still live.

In 1666, immediately after the dreadful massacre of the Jews in Persia, Sabbatai Levi appeared in Smyrna, a man of learning, and an impostor of surpassing skill among the Jews.

They flocked around him in multitudes, and styled him “The King, our King and Lord, the man elevated to the height of all sublimity, the Messias of the God of Jacob, the true Messiah, the celestial Zion, Sabbatai Levi.” He promised them deliverance from captivity, and, to hasten and ensure the day, they gave themselves up to all kinds of religious austerities and enthusiasms.

Some starved themselves by fasting, others buried themselves in the earth, until their limbs grew stiff and useless; some dropped melted wax upon their flesh; some rolled naked in the snow, until frozen; others immersed themselves in cold water, in winter; and others, still, burned themselves alive. Many of his followers fell into strange ecstacies, and fits of prophesying. Four hundred men and women predicted his growing kingdom, and even infants, before they could talk, pronounced him the “Messiah, the Son of God.” The people heard voices from their bowels, fell into trances, foamed at the mouth, and predicted the coming triumphs of their Messiah.

When brought before the Cadi, or justice of the peace, they saw a pillar of fire [77] between him and that functionary. The grand seignior finally ordered him before him. The Jews believed that the messengers and janisaries, sent to escort him, all fell dead, and were restored at the word of his mouth. Though barred, bolted, and chained in prison, they fancied that they saw him daily walking the streets, with chains of gold about his limbs. Finally, the grand seignior gave him his choice, either to stand as a target for his archers, or to turn Mohammedan; he wisely chose the latter. But still, the Jews insisted that it was not their Messiah, but only his shadow or spirit, which they saw walking the streets, in the garb, and with the beard of a Mussulman, and that God had taken his body to heaven, and would again return him in his own due time.

These few will serve as specimens of the whole. It is worthy of remark, that all these, and scores of others, pretended, as Smith and Co. now do, that they were raised up of God to fulfil the ancient prophecies, and restore the Jews to their promised land. Like Smith and Co., they based their claims on a literal interpretation of prophecy, found manifold texts as explicit as the Mormon wall, the stick of Ephraim, the flying angel, &c., &c., are now in favor of the Mormons.

They added miracles and prodigies, wherever they were wanted, and found dupes enough to believe and run after them, and sacrifice all earthly good to their preposterous claims, as the Mormons now do to the claims of Smith.

The SERPENTINIANS, or Ophites, arose in the second century. They were so called because they believed that the serpent, spoken of in Genesis, who taught mankind “good and evil,” was Jesus Christ. Hence they [78] worshipped the live serpent, which they kept in a kind of cage. Before their sacrament, they opened the cage door, and made the serpent crawl out, mount upon a table, and twine himself about the loaves of bread, which they used for the sacrament.

The MILLENARIANS arose under one Carpocrates, sixty years after Christ. They increased rapidly after the council of Nice, in the year 340, and their doctrines have been caught up, and reiterated by almost every fanatical sect which has appeared since. They believed that Christ would literally reign on earth a thousand years. Hence their name. All who have part in the first resurrection, were to reign with him; Jerusalem was to be gloriously rebuilt; the saints were to see Christ descend from heaven to the new Jerusalem, to reign with patriarchs, prophets, and saints, in perfect bliss, for a thousand years. Then they were to ascend with Christ to heaven, to enjoy forever the second resurrection. At the first resurrection, there was to be a great destruction among all nations; at the second, the wicked and the saints were to pass into their final state of retribution. Others since have modified these doctrines somewhat, to suit the prejudices of their age, but all proceed alike, upon what they call a literal interpretation of the twentieth chapter of Revelations, and similar passages.

The CIRCONCELLIONES arose in the beginning of the fourth century, among the Donatists in Africa. They renounced labor, professed continence, and wandered in hordes, with loose women, about the country, as the professed “vindicators of justice, and protectors of the oppressed. ” They at first went armed with clubs, which they called “Clubs of Israel,” and which they handled with such cruel skill as to break the bones of their [79] victims without killing them, and then left them to die a languishing and protracted death. They took life at once, only as a favor. They sometimes filled the eyes of the wretches whom they had crushed with blows, with lime and vinegar, and thus left them to their torments. The dissolute women, who accompanied them in their brutal debaucheries, they called the “Sacred Virgins,” and their chief was named “Chief of the Saints.” In their onset upon their defenceless victims, they shouted “Praise be to God!” a signal of slaughter more terrible than the roaring of the lion. After having glutted themselves with blood, they turned their rage upon themselves, and sought the death of martyrs with the same fury with which they dispensed the death of heresy to others. They raged only against those whom they deemed heretics. These deluded people only “contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” as they maintained!! They continued their ravages in Africa through half a century, and were finally crushed only by the civil power of Rome.

The fanatical sect called the STYLITES, or Pillar Saints, originated with Peter the Stylite, in the fifth century. In order to be nearer heaven, this fanatic spent a great part of his life on the tops of different pillars, the last of which was forty cubits, or about sixty feet, in height, and but three feet in diameter at the top, with a slight balustrade around the edge. Here he remained, day and night, in all weathers, for thirty-seven years, devoting himself to prayers, fastings, prostrations, and haranguing and healing the multitude who thronged around him.

He finally died in prayer on the top of his pillar, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. So precious an exam-[80] ple human vanity, fanaticism, and folly, could not, of course, fail to improve. Multitudes inherited his faith, and from imitating his example, so far as they were able, they have been called Stylites or Pillar Saints.

In the year one thousand, a man named LEUTARD, in the village of Voitres, in the diocese of Chalons, pretended to be a prophet, and deceived many. He affirmed that one day, while lying down in the field, a great swarm of bees entered the lower part of his body, passed with a great buzzing out at his mouth, and after stinging him severely, communicated to him some supernatural instruction for the edification of the church. The silly multitude, as usual, ran after him until his hypocrisy was detected by the bishop, and then the maniac prophet drowned himself in a well.

In 1148, another lunatic appeared in Brittagne, by the name of Eon, who believed that he was the judge of the quick and the dead. He was at last thrown by the Catholic church into prison, where he died. But his followers, not convinced even by his death, still persisted in their delusion, and numbers died at the stake, in attestation of the sincerity of their faith. The Mormons, we are told, as well as many others, have laid down their lives in the same way.

In the thirteenth century the BEGHARDS, or Brethren and Sisters of the Free Spirit, arose and spread over Italy, France, and Germany. They were also called Turlupins.

They held, as some affirm, that, by protracted, unnatural effort at religious contemplation, men could divest themselves of the instincts of nature; a favorite dogma among enthusiasts of all ages, in some form or other.

They professed to live without any other rule than [81] simply to follow the leadings of the Spirit. And since the excitement of any libidinous desire, or any sense of modesty or shame indicated that they were still very far from God, in order to accustom themselves to habits of indifference and self-denial, they not only lodged promiscuously, but held their principal religious meetings in a state of perfect nudity, male and female. And yet so great was the strength of their religious hallucination, that they are said for many years to have been chaste and devout.

Neither popes, nor cardinals, nor anathemas, nor bulls, nor fagots, could arrest the rapid spread of this fanatical sect. In attestation of the sincerity of their faith, multitudes of these, too, surrendered all earthly hope, and expired cheerfully, and calmly, amid the flames or upon the rack. Some think their follies are exaggerated, as perhaps they are; and if they stood alone it would be rational, as well as charitable, to admit it.*

In the year 1281, Wilhemina, a delirious Bohemian woman, died at Milan. She first seems to have persuaded herself, and then others, that the Holy Spirit had assumed human nature in her person, in order, through her, to save the Jews, Saracens, and false Christians; and she imagined that she was destined to suffer on the cross for them, as Christ had done for real Christians. After her death and burial, her numerous followers still believed, and not a few of these also perished in the flames, in attestation of their sincerity.†

In the fourteenth century, the QUIETISTS, or Navel [82] Souls, appeared in the South, first at Mount Athos, in Greece.

They seated themselves daily in some retired corner and fixed their eyes steadfastly upon their navels, until a wonderful divine illumination beamed forth upon them, and diffused through their souls peculiar delight. By this process they imagined that they acquired peculiar insight into the spiritual world, saw God himself with their bodily eyes, and other things equally strange and unutterable.

In the seventeenth century, Molinos, a Spanish priest, and Madame Guyon, in France, revived many of their notions, and spread them over Italy, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.*

Emperors, popes, monks, and cardinals discussed the merits of this mighty wonder in successive solemn councils. They finally concluded that such a divine illumination was in accordance with the Scriptures and the dogmas of the church. The poor monks being thus allowed to look at their navels, without roasting for it, they soon became tired of it, and concluded that they could see as well by looking some other way.

About the year 1260, a sect called the Flagellants arose in Italy, under one Rainer, a hermit, and was propagated throughout almost all Europe. A great number of persons, of all ages and sexes, walked two and two in solemn procession, whipping their bare shoulders until the blood ran down to their heels, in order to obtain mercy from God by mortifying the flesh.

They substituted these cruel lacerations for all other religious duties and privileges, not excepting even baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This displeased the Pa-[83] pists, who tried in vain to suppress their spread by substituting burning for scourging. They continued to spread for two hundred years.


Mosheim, Vol. II., pages 409, 480, 540.

† Ibid., p. 412.


Mosheim, vol. II., page 476.

The Merry Dancers appeared in the Belgic provinces, and spread, alongside of these Whippers, in the year 1373. Instead of scourging their backs, or looking at their navels in quiet seclusion, they ran from house to house and danced with all their might, until they fell exhausted, and thus saw wonderful sights and visions.*

In 1760, a kindred sect of JUMPERS arose in Wales, who substituted jumping for dancing, with shouts of glory, amen, &c. These several receipts of the Quietists, Flagellants Dancers, Jumpers, &c., for obtaining the influences of the Spirit, all succeeded equally well, so long as faith was ardent and persecution severe.

In 1411, another sect arose, called MEN OF UNDERSTANDING, headed by an ignorant fellow by the name of Cautor. They denied that any one could understand the Scriptures without peculiar divine illumination, as many of the Mormons now do. They pretended to have divine visions, and promised a better and more perfect revelation of the will of God than the Scriptures; which we doubtless realize in the Book of Mormon.

In 1691, Rosamond Juliana, a noble lady of Asseburgh, was favored with divine visions, saw and conversed with God himself, and reported commands from him. She also proclaimed the Mormon doctrine of Christ’s literal reign, for 1000 years, on earth, and the final restoration of all things, on the direct authority of [84] God. Many received and promulgated her opinions, but nevertheless their expected Millenium did not come, as predicted.*

In 1525, a sect called the Anabaptists arose in Germany, amid the turmoil of Luther’s reformation. They were headed for a time by one Thomas Munster, the Joe Smith of the clan, himself at once their prophet and general. They pretended to be the peculiar favorites of heaven, the chosen instruments of God to effect the millenium reign of Christ on earth. They believed that they had familiar personal intercourse with God, that they were on an equal footing with the prophets and apostles of old, and were armed against all opposition by the power of working miracles. Their pretended visions, miracles, and prophecies soon kindled the flame of fanaticism in the minds of the peasants, and excited great commotion and consternation throughout Europe.

Their prophet finally appealed to the sword, under the absurd pretence that Christ was about to assert his millenium reign on earth, by force of arms. About five thousand of them were slain in battle, the rest routed, and their leader put to death.

In 1532, John Matthias assumed the command of these fanatics, and ordered them to assemble at the town of Munster, which was declared to be the “MOUNT ZION OF GOD” by express revelation, where the saints were to assemble and reign, in Mormon glory, over the kings of the earth forever. They were finally besieged by the civil authorities, and after a terrible havoc, in which the saints lost over one hundred thousand lives, “Mount Zion” was taken, and the Joe Smith of the day put to death. [85]

In the same year, 1525, David George, a native of Delft, proclaimed himself the true Messiah, and declared that he was sent by God to the earth again, to fill heaven with people, which he said was quite empty, for want of people to deserve it. He declared the doctrines of scripture insufficient, without his additions. At his death he promised his disciples that he would rise again at the end of three years. This prediction proved true; for, at the appointed time, the magistrates ordered him dug up and burnt by the common hangman. This unexpected mode of resurrection somewhat puzzled his disciples, who took the name of DAVIDISTS from their leader.

He died in 1556.


Mosheim, Vol. II., page 481.


Mosheim, Vol. III., page 441.

About the year 1540, Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, pretended to peculiar favor and intimacy with heaven. During this same period also, the Effrontes made their appearance, a fanatical sect, who scraped their foreheads with a knife until they bled, and then poured oil into the wound, instead of baptism.

In 1575, immediately after the dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew, a new sect of mystics appeared in Spain, and spread over France, under one Anthony Buckuet. They called themselves ILLUMANATI, and held in substance to the doctrines of the ancient Quietists. They taught that none of the doctors of the church knew any thing about religion; that Paul and Peter were well-meaning men, but knew nothing of devotion; that the whole church lay in darkness and unbelief, and that in ten years their creed would be received all over the world.

In the year 1616, ANTOINETTE BOURIGNON was born in Lisle, in France, and proclaimed her doctrines as the climax of illuminism. At her birth, she was so de-[86] formed that it was debated whether it was not proper to stifle her as a monster. Nevertheless, in after life she travelled through France, England, Scotland, and Holland; and by pretending to divine inspiration, she found plenty of admirers, and founded a sect which bore her name.

Cotemporaneous with Madam Bourignon, BERTRAND KNIPPERDOLING founded the sect of KNIPPERDOLINGS. He taught, as Smith now does, that the saints who followed him were to have a monarchy on earth; that the wicked would be destroyed; that infants ought not to be baptized; that immersion was the only mode of baptism, &c., &c.

In 1641, the Irish rebellion broke out: the massacre of the Protestants, and civil war in England, completed the consternation of the people, and shot up a new crop of fanatics in that realm.

In 1645, the Seekers arose. They taught, like the Mormons, that the Scriptures were mutilated and defective; that the true church, its ministry, and ordinances, were lost; that the present ministry was without authority, and that miracles are in all ages indispensable to faith.

They were subject to prophetic impulses, and ran through towns and villages, declaiming and prophesying against ordinary modes of worship. Females performed a distinguished part in these excesses. One of them went into Whitehall Chapel in time of service, and in presence of Cromwell, in a state of nudity, having been moved by the Spirit, as she said, to appear as a sign unto the people.

Soon after, in 1653, the MUGGLETONIANS appeared, headed by one Muggleton, a journeyman tailor, and an ignorant man by the name of Reeves. They gave out [87] that they were the two last witnesses spoken of in Revelations. They denounced the “ministry of the churches as a lie and an abomination unto the Lord,” declared that they were great prophets, had power to work miracles, absolve sins, &c., &c.

The terrible persecutions which attended the revocation of the edict of Nantes, in 1685, were accompanied with another shoal of fanaticisms on the continent of Europe.

Three years after, in 1688, the Camisards, or French prophets, appeared. In Dauphiny and Vivarais, in France, five or six hundred of both sexes gave out that they were prophets, inspired of the Holy Ghost. Their number soon increased to thousands, and though of all ages and sexes, they were mostly boys and girls from fifteen to twenty-five years of age. They had strange fits of trembling, fainting, and swooning. They fell on their backs, shut their eyes, saw heaven opened, the angels, paradise, and hell. They dropped down thus, not only in popular assemblies among thousands, but also in the fields alone they fell, and made the hills resound again with their cries for mercy, imprecations on the prevailing sects, and predictions of the near approach of the day of millenium glory. Then, New Jerusalem, the marriage of the Lamb, the reign of the Messiah, and acceptable year of the Lord, was of course to be ushered in by a deluge of judgments:— sword, fire, famines, earthquakes, plagues, and wars, were all piously reserved for the benefit of their enemies; while the one faith, one baptism, one Lord, and one eternal reign of Mormon glory, was to be their own peculiar inheritance. They pretended not only to the gift of prophecy, but also to the gift of tongues, of mir-[88] acles, and of healing, of discerning spirits and the secrets of the heart, and to the Mormon power of conferring all these by the laying on of hands.

They were brought to the fullest conviction of the reality and truth of all their pretensions, by the internal voice of the Spirit of God, communicating delight and holy joy to the soul, and pouring forth upon them a wonderful fervor of assurance and spirit of prayer. All they said was heard with the utmost reverence and awe. They spread like wildfire, not only on the continent of Europe, but in England. They there gave out that one of their teachers, who had died, would come to life again: fortunately he did not appear, though the multitude kept on believing.

In 1685, the Tremblers of Cevennes appeared, and were soon followed by the Convulsionaries of St. Menard, both of which sects will be noticed in another place, for a different purpose from the one now on hand.

In 1686, Sir Walter Scott informs us that the good people of Lanark, in Scotland, saw showers of spiritual swords, guns, hats, bonnets, caps, &c., fall for days in succession.

About this same period, also, Sabbatai Levi appeared in the east, and the Quietists in France and Spain, already alluded to. Valentine Greatrakes, who appeared in Ireland, and Emanuel Swedenborg, of Sweden, were also among the progeny of this wonderful period of combined persecution, credulity, and delusion.

Swedenborg, a son of the bishop of Gothnia, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1688. He was a man of genius, enthusiasm, and extensive learning, and ultimately founded the New Jerusalem Church, which bears his name. His hegira occurred in 1743. At that [89] time, also, the Lord manifested himself to him, as he imagined, by personal appearance, and opened his spiritual eyes, as he had done the eyes of thousands, both before and since. He, however, was peculiarly favored, for he was enabled to see and converse with spirits, uninterruptedly, for more than twenty-seven years. Thousands, in all parts of christendom, have believed in the revelations which he published. He maintained that all others might enjoy this same gift of second sight, if they would live in accordance with what he called the laws of their spiritual nature, as doubtless many of them might, and indeed all who could first get a spiritual nature, like his own.

Multitudes of day dreamers, in as many various churches, might attest the truth of this. Unlike most other enthusiasts, however, he was probably sincere in his delusion; and, whatever may be said of the whimsical absurdity of his conceits, his writings, doctrines, and life, were neither vulgar nor immoral, as is the case with most other marvel-dealers. He was probably a learned, pious, devout monomaniac; a little more eccentric, though scarcely more absurd, or insane, than thousands of others whom the world call wise and devout.

The famous witchcraft phrensy, which exploded in Salem, New England, in 1692, belongs to this same period. Previous to this time, all classes believed in witchcraft, both in this country and in Europe. It was deemed the highest impiety to doubt it, and supposed witches were treated as capital offenders throughout christendom. Divines, statesmen, jurists, physicians, philosophers, and scholars, were all alike swept into this vortex of fanatical delusion, the combined offspring of that infernal spiritual despotism and contemptible cre-[90]dulity, which had for ages crushed and enfeebled the human race. So direful was this mania, that when the British parliament repealed the laws for the execution of witches, in 1735, Scotchmen, of the kirk, confessed and deplored that act of benevolence and humanity as among the annual category of their national sins. In New England, the learned and pious Cotton Mather, by a mistaken zeal, harangued and inflamed the already exorbitant credulity of his hearers. He taught them that they were, one and all, attended by an escort of devils, at home or abroad, awake or asleep, from whose malignant power they could not escape; and, to cap the climax of absurdity, he declared that the detestable proceedings of the court at Salem, he thought, had shed marvellous light upon the Word of God!! Of course, these devils soon furnished the people with business. Not only decrepid old men, and helpless women and children, but even dogs were solemnly adjudged and executed, for the imaginary crime of witchcraft. This example is not quoted as an instance of religious fanaticism, properly speaking, but rather to show that there is no end to human credulity, when guided by a popular and fanatical corps of spiritual instructors. Some have imagined that the devil was indeed let loose, in a peculiar manner, at this period. No doubt he was; but it was to befool fanatics and courts, not to bewitch dogs. Doubtless, also, the impending horror of Indian wars, and the general consternation of the times, both aided the credulity of the age and prospered the devil in his work.*

In 1728, soon after the rebellion in Scotland, John Glass arose in that country, founded the sect of Glassites, [91] and taught, among other dogmas, the Mormon doctrines of weekly administration of the Lord’s supper, washing each other’s feet, literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and community of goods, so far as needed for the poor and the service of the church.

Another general crop of fanatical sects sprung up, in Great Britain and America, after the great revivals of Whitfield, Wesley, Edwards, and others, and which seem, in some measure, to have clustered around the American and French revolutions. In this class come the Jumpers of Wales, already mentioned, and Jemima Wilkinson, Ann Lee, Mrs. Buchan, of Scotland, and Joanna Southcote, of England.

In 1776, Ann Lee, daughter of a blacksmith in Manchester, England, commenced her operations near Albany, New York. She was subject to peculiar spasms and convulsions, as many other impostors have been. In these fits, she would clench her hands until the blood oozed through the pores of her skin. She sometimes continued in them until her flesh and strength all wasted away, and she was fed and nursed like an infant. She had supernatural visions and revelations. Like the wife of Smith, she pretended that she was the elect lady, and also that she was the woman spoken of in Revelations; that she and Christ were the two first pillars of the church, and that no blessing could descend to any person but through her. She declared that she was the mother of all the elect, and travailed in childbirth for the whole world; that she could converse with the dead, and speak seventy-two different languages; that she should never die, but ascend to heaven in the twinkling of an eye. She did die, however; but her death was so far from opening the eyes of her dupes, that it [92] rather confirmed them in the faith, and she still numbers about five thousand followers in the United States.

Like the Mormons, they believe that they are the only true church on earth, that they shall reign with Christ a thousand years, that they have all the apostolic gifts, and like them, they prove all their doctrines from prophecy, as well as by signs and wonders.

In the same year, 1776, Jemima Wilkinson, the daughter of a Quaker, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, gave out that she had been taken sick, and had actually died, and that her soul went to heaven, and continued there. She heard the inquiry in heaven: “Who will go and preach to a dying world?” She answered, “Here am I, send me.” Her body was then re-animated by the spirit of Christ, upon which she set up as a public teacher, to give the last call of mercy to the


See Upham’s Witchcraft, pages 256. 268. human race. She declared that she had arrived to a state of perfection, and knew all things by immediate revelation; that she could foretell future events, heal all diseases, and discern the secrets of the heart. And, if any person was not healed by her, she attributed it, as the Mormons do, to the want of faith. She assumed the title of universal friend; declared that she had left the realms of glory for the good of mankind, and that all who would not believe in her should be damned. Her first visions occurred during her pretended illness and death, when twenty-four years of age, in 1775. After this, she enjoyed them at her leisure. She pretended that she should live a thousand years, and then be translated, without death. She preached in defence of a community of goods, and took, herself, whatever “the Lord had need of.” Multitudes of the poor, and many of the rich, believed on her in New England, and made large [93] contributions to her.

Some gave hundreds, and one even a thousand dollars for her use. Several wealthy families were ruined by her. Neither theft, nor attempted murder, nor the hypocrisy of failing to walk on water, and of attempting to raise a living man to life, placed in a coffin for that purpose, in all which she was fully detected, could undeceive her followers. In spite of her pretended immortality, she died in 1819. Her followers would not believe in her death, even when they saw her corpse. They refused to bury her body, but, at last, were compelled to dispose of it, in some way, in secret.

Those most interested in the game, by the double magic of either loss or gain, pretended that she had only left them for a time, to return again, and that her spirit would still be the guardian angel of all her followers, who of course kept on believing.*

In 1783, a Mrs. Buchan, in Glasgow, pretended that she also was the woman spoken of in Revelations; that the end of the world was near, and that all who believed on her should be taken up to heaven without tasting death. Her own death, however, in this case did somewhat stagger the faith of her followers.

In 1792, Joanna Southcote, a servant maid of Exeter, England, assumed the character of a prophetess, and pretended that she was the woman of the wilderness, and could give the seal of eternal life to her followers. Like Smith & Co., she uttered dreadful prophetic denunciations upon her opposers and the unbelieving nations, and predicted the speedy approach of her millenium. Of course her thousands of followers found all her predictions fulfilled. In the last year of [94] her life she secluded herself from the world, and especially from the society of the other sex, and gave out that she was with child of the Holy Ghost, and that she should give birth to the Shiloh promised to Jacob before the end of the harvest, which would be the second coming of Christ. Harvest, however, came and went, but no Shiloh appeared. She died on the 27th of the following December. Her disciples refused to bury her. They waited four days for her resurrection and the birth of the Shiloh, until she began to rot. They then consented, with much reluctance, to a postmortem examination, which fully refuted their belief. Her disciples then, with still greater reluctance, buried her body, but not their faith either in her or the promised Shiloh. On the contrary, they continue to flatter themselves that she will yet, in some way, reappear, and that with her will come their long expected Shiloh, and their Mormon gathering and millenium of Mormon glory.

In this same year, 1792, Richard Brothers published a book of prophecies and visions, and an account of his daily intercourse with God, in London. Among his followers was a member of the British parliament, a profound scholar, and one of the most learned men of his time. He made a speech in the house of commons declaring his full belief in one of the greatest absurdities ever presented to the British populace.


Millenial Harbinger, vol. II., page 278.

In the crop of religious fanatics we must also mention the Illuminati, or French atheists, whose particular fanaticism, owing to the peculiarity of the age and country in which they lived, took the form of extreme and puerile credulity in unbelief. That is, they refused to admit and believe the religion of truth and reason [95] which God has given to the world, and set themselves to work, as all other fanatics have done, to make a better one for themselves and their race. Other fanatics have disbelieved and denounced what they called the absurdities of a particular faith, and advanced and pretended to believe still greater absurdities of their own. The infidel fanatics of France, on the contrary, denounced the absurdity, or what the deemed such, of all faith, and advanced an absurdity of their own which implies and demands a greater stretch of human credulity than the combined sense and nonsense of all other creeds. Men may prattle about unbelief, but, after all, they believe something, and that something which infidels and skeptics do actually believe, be it more or less, will be found, on examination, to be more absurd than the combined dogmas of all other fanatics. Atheism is necessarily the greatest of all credulity. It is the same perversion of a man’s religious nature which constitutes the basis of all other fanaticisms. Disbelief of what is rational, is real or pretended belief in what is absurd. The greatest fanaticism of any age is the fanaticism of the atheist. Probably most of the impostors of other names have themselves been at heart atheists, or at least skeptics.

Other fanaticisms are more or less selfish and malignant. The fanaticism of atheism is, inherently, all selfishness and all malice. Other fanatics attempt to relieve a portion of mankind of their instinctive fear of a final retribution, by inculcating the belief of some particular absurdity. The fanatical atheist attempts to relieve at once the whole human race from the same salutary fear by inculcating belief in dogmas which render the globe a riddle, and man the greatest of all [96] absurdities in and of himself. To relieve their followers from fear, other fanatics sometimes reason absurdly; but the atheist does the business at once by making all reason, and the universe itself, a riddle and an absurdity.

In France, however, they compromised the matter somewhat, at last, and after proclaiming that there was no God, no virtue, no crime, no heaven, and no hell, they established the worship of the goddess of reason, to satisfy the unquenchable instincts of the human soul, instead of the worship of Joanna Southcote, or Jemima Wilkinson, or Joe Smith, as other fanatics have done.

The result of this experiment, and the number of their dupes in this country and Europe, are too well known to need further comment here.

These are all the religious fanaticisms of note which clustered around the political revolutions of the last part of the past century, unless we include the fanaticism of what is called the Kentucky revival, in the year 1800, which will be adverted to in another place.

After these tumults had subsided, the world again had some rest, until about the year 1830, when another crop of fanaticisms seems, from some cause, to have been produced, particularly in the United States.

In this shoal we find Miss Campbell, of Scotland, Irving and Mad Thom, of England, Dilks, of Ohio, Davidson and Mrs. Thompson, of Vermont, Matthias and Joe Smith, of New-York.

Miss Campbell appeared, in good old Scotland, about the year 1828. She pretended that she had come back from the dead, and had the gift of tongues. Several ministers of the church of Scotland are said to have believed on her, as well as some distinguished members of the bar. The mad rhapsodies of Irving [97] are too well known to need further notice. The particular history of Mad Thom is not at hand; that of Matthias has recently appeared in most of the journals of the day. Like him, Dilks, the impostor of Ohio, pretended to be Almighty God himself. Davidson, his disciple, appeared in the vicinity of Bakersfield, in Vermont, in 1829. He pretended that Jesus Christ was a woman, and inferior to Dilks, who was God himself. A female, by the name of Thompson, accordingly appeared as Jesus Christ, the son of Dilks. The millenium was to take place in 1832. Dilks and his followers were to assemble at Philadelphia, as their Mount Zion, where they were to reign forever, while the rest of mankind were to be swept from the earth.

They made preparations, as Jemima Wilkinson had done before them, to raise the dead; but the woman selected for the purpose got tired of lying in the coffin, and came forth of her own accord, before they were ready to pray her into life. They got about thirty disciples in the vicinity of Bakersfield, where they assembled on the Sabbath, and rolled naked on the floor, men and women together, as part of their worship, and committed other sins too revolting to mention. Still they found plenty of followers.*

Another fanatic appeared in Connecticut, about the year 1833, who pretended that he was Jesus Christ, and, in a public meeting in——, professed to show the prints of the nails of his crucifixion in his hands. The people, finding that he was working upon the credulity of the simple, wrongfully imprinted more needful and obvious marks upon his back, and he suddenly[98] disappeared, as Davidson and his followers did on the application of the tar and feathers in Vermont. We must protest, however, against these things, even in the most extreme cases.

Instruct the people, and not abuse fanatics. That is the only way to kill fanaticism and rid the world of impostors.

The history of Smith, who marches triumphantly in front of this last escort of fanatics, has been already given.

I have been thus tedious and particular in giving a brief summary of all the recorded fanaticisms of these later times, because a simple statement of facts will tend to wither up that lamentable credulity of the human mind, which lies at once at the foundation both of all fanaticism and all infidelity, more effectually than all the logic and argument in the universe.

“Let but the people know these things,” and they would act with more enchanting power upon their minds than the will of Cæsar could upon the Romans.

The people generally have homilies, doctrines, and dogmas enough ever at hand; but they are starved for want of facts. The well-informed, because they themselves know all these and similar facts, are too apt to take it for granted that everybody else knows them too; and that some bare allusion to them will awaken the same ideas in other minds which it does in their own. This is a great mistake, and one which we have endeavored to remedy, not for the benefit of those who have been tolerably instructed in matters of faith, but for the good of the ignorant and uninformed. Others may pass this tedious and disgusting detail, or read and pardon it, as they choose.

In view of these facts, however, some few remarks [99] will perhaps be useful to all: at least, they will conduce more directly to the specific end in view.

1. During the dark ages, amid the total dereliction of all reason in matters of faith, and the consequent persecutions, massacres, famines, and plagues that at once ravaged and terrified the globe, the prime causes of the most eccentric human credulity and fanaticisms, ignorance and terror, were ever present and ever active.

By examining the dates, it will be perceived that the most hideous fanaticisms, since that period, have all either clustered about similar epochs of general terror, or have followed, as a sort of after-clap, some more dignified, if not more rational, outbreak of religious enthusiasm.


See Burlington Sentinel, June, 1831, and Millenial Harbinger, Vol. II., page 357.

1. The first was the German crop, of about the year 1530, which attended the agitation and turmoil of the Reformation. It embraces the various adherents of the Anabaptists and the followers of David George.

2. Next came the English crop of Quakers, Seekers, Muggletonians, &c., about 1650, in the days of the English Revolution.

3. Then came the great French crop, during the terrible persecutions that attended the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and the horrid hangings, starvings, smokings, drownings, and roastings of that infernal era, including the French Prophets, the Quietists, and Tremblers of Cevennes, followed by the Convulsionaries of St. Menard.

4. The English-American crop, escorted by the French infidels, appeared at the close of the last century, during the French and American revolutions, and immediately after the great revivals in this coun-[100] try and in England. It embraces the Jumpers, in Wales, the Buchanites of Scotland, and the followers of Ann Lee, Jemima Wilkinson, and Joanna Southcote, and, if you please, the Kentucky Revivalists.

The crop on hand, viz., Miss Campbell, Mr. Irving, Mad Thom, Mrs. Thompson, Dilks, Matthias, Joe Smith, Abner Kneeland, Fanny Wright, &c., were produced neither by famine, war, nor terror, but by folly. It would seem, in this case, as if all antecedent causes were reversed, and that now, in an age of profound peace and universal ease and plenty, men turned maniacs, and ran after fools from sheer ennui, because they had nothing else to do.

The Illuminati of France and Spain, and Antoinette Bourignon, appeared immediately after the Massacre of St. Bartholomews, in 1572.

Sabbatai Levi appeared in 1666, immediately after the terrible massacre of the Jews in Persia.

The Glassites, in Scotland, arose soon after the Scotch rebellion in 1715. The Salem witchcraft followed the terrors of a dreadful Indian war and other calamities.

These are the most noted instances of human credulity, in respect to religion, since the revival of letters, except Emanuel Swedenborg, and a few similar cases, which stand either sacred or sui generis. I have merely located these events; others may philosophize upon them as they choose. So will I. It is sufficient for my present purpose to remark, what must be apparent to all, that both persecution and terror, of all sorts, tend to increase the general credulity and fanaticism of mankind. Where these are wanting, an enthusias- [101] tic, semi-rational, and sectarian Christianity will answer a good purpose.

If such facts do not demonstrate that mankind will believe any thing in religion, however absurd and preposterous, provided it be absurd, and at the same time promise salvation as the reward of faith, it is difficult to say what would prove it. The truth is, Mormonism is no anomaly in our world; it only conforms to the general rule. We ought not to think it strange that thousands are ready to lay down their lives in defence of its absurdities. It would be more strange if an equal number should be found equally ready to profess and adhere to the simple, uncorrupted, unostentatious, rational, and tranquillizing doctrines of Christ and his apostles. Amid the utter discord of these professedly inspired opinions, it is interesting to notice that there are certain points of resemblance in which they generally agree.

1.They are all perfectly sure that their dogmas, and those of their own teachers, are true, for they have the witness of the Spirit to their truth in their own souls. And the more ridiculous and profligate their schemes of faith or practice, the brighter and clearer the internal gleamings of this mystic evidence become.

2.They all, however debauched, pretend to great sanctity, declaim against the degeneracy of the times, and pretend to be commissioned of God for the reformation of the church and the world.

3.They of course proclaim that the day of millenium glory is near at hand, and already commenced in their own clan; and most of them have talked of reigning on earth, with Christ, a thousand years.

4.They profess a literal interpretation of so much [102] scripture as is needful to their several schemes; but whether the rest is interpreted at all, or annihilated, they seem not to care.

5.They claim the gifts of tongues, of prophecy, healing, miracles, &c.

6.They all profess peculiar intimacy of intercourse and communion with God. Most of their leaders have been content to be regarded only as the virtual vicegerents of God on earth: others, with equal success and credit, have affected to be Gods themselves.

Now whether we call any or all of these impostors, knaves, or simple madmen, it matters little, so far as our present object is concerned, which is to exhibit and demonstrate human credulity. One fact still remains; they, as well as Joe Smith, all obtained followers, even the lowest and the meanest of them. We might suppose that their followers also were lunatics, unlike the rest of their kind; but a single glance at the history of the Pagan, Mohammedan, Catholic, and Protestant world, where things equally absurd, if not equally eccentric, meet us on all hands, must convince us that if these are maniacs, it is only because they belong to a race of religious madmen who have more industriously and systematically prosecuted the regular trade in credulity and delusion, while these have only wrought by fitful experiments in the hours of pastime. Their madness only appears singular and eccentric when compared with the more prevailing, settled, and popular phrensy of their fellows.

We except neither pretended philosophers, nor atheists, nor skeptics from this general rule of religious lunacy, but only those, whoever they are, and in whatever sect, who have sincerely and honestly applied their minds and [103] submitted their hearts to a simple, practical, common sense interpretation of the word of God—the only cure of religious insanity the world has ever seen.

We have accounted for the credulity and insanity of all others by attributing it primarily to the perverse action of the desire of power in the few, and aversion to restraint in the many, upon the constitutionally religious nature of man, or upon the “instinct of faith.”

Some choose to designate this same tendency to perverse belief by the general name of human depravity. Others stoutly deny that human nature is depraved as regards religion; very philosophically, no doubt, as all the above facts show. However, they, as well as other philosophical maniacs, can find fools enough to believe them; each whom is “wiser than ten men who can render a reason,” at least in his own eyes.

There is, however, another subordinate principle of great power which is made to play into the hands of these more active agents in the great game of credulity and delusion. It is an innate love of excitement of any kind, but especially of that excitement which is produced, in the minds of individuals and communities, by whatever is new, strange, mysterious, or marvellous.

Personal agitation will do; but popular uproar is far better. A marvellous and mystical church dogma, with its attendant ranting eulogies, is tolerable; but a stump speech, a good tragedy, a horse-race, or a mob, is first rate.

A single fact will illustrate the action of this principle.

In the year 1749, the facetious Duke of Montague, speaking of this innate love of exciting marvels, offered a wager that a large audience could be assembled at the new theatre in London, to see a man jump into a [104] quart bottle. His proffer was accepted; he accordingly advertised “that on the following Monday, a gentleman would appear in the theatre, in the Hay Market, who would perform the most surprising feats. First, he would take a common walking-stick from any of the spectators, and thereon play the music of any instrument now in use; then he would take a common winebottle, place it on the table, leap in at the cork-hole, and there sing and play as before, while any gentlemen might handle the bottle at his leisure to ascertain that he was actually in it.” Other wonders were added, as for example, “the conjurer would bring to life and present any deceased friend upon the stage, whom any gentleman or lady might wish to see or hear from,” &c. &c.

On the other hand, the opponent of the duke, in order to defeat the hoax, put up a supplement to the advertisement, in which it was stated that another gentleman, “no taller than a tobacco pipe, would, on the same evening, among other wonders, transform his body into ten thousand different shapes, and finally open his mouth and jump down his own throat.”

It was all in vain; human credulity prevailed, and the duke got his wager. A prodigious throng assembled. The house was crowded with dukes, duchesses, lords and ladies, of all degrees and ranks; they waited for the performance until they grew impatient; an uproar ensued—some shouting, some beating with their canes, others hurling the candles about the house, until finally the greater part made off as well as they could, losing hats, wigs, cloaks, and swords as they went; while others staid to demolish the theatre within; carrying all the furniture out into the street, they made a [105] bonfire of it, and only ceased from their work of destruction on the arrival of the superior force of the city guards.*

Here is a principle at work which has ruled the multitude in all ages to an incredible extent. Men will believe any thing or do any thing, which promises them excitement, if not deterred by fear.

In the country, a discourse, based on simple reason and truth, from the wisest and best man in the nation, on the most important of all concerns, would not draw out a dozen of these marvel-hunting lovers of excitement. But a horse-race, or a bear-dance, or a stump speech from any hypocritical demagogue in the land, would bring out thousands of them. Reason with them in church on the duty and necessity of their forsaking their sins, and honestly attempting to live in accordance with the laws of their nature and their God, as the only possible condition of safety, either here or hereafter, and how they yawn! Tell them that they can be saved by falling into some wonderful and inexplicable ecstacy, or by believing some mystic absurdity, or by submitting to some external ceremony, or performing some senseless mummery, and they are all awake. The first doctrine is obvious and onerous; they others are marvellous and transient; and you have only to blow away at it hard, and keep it well shrouded in mystery, and well inflated with passion, and there will be an old shouting of “GLORY” and “AMEN FOR EVER!!!”

Proclaim in the city a public thanksgiving to Almighty God, and you will not gather a basket-full of this fashionable rabble of ingrates. But proclaim that a new ape or an old debauchee, will play King Lear, or Jack [106] Falstaff, or that a new prostitute will sing, or dance, or climb a rope, and all the peculiarly rational and respectable part of the community will be there—unless they chance to hear that a man is going to jump into a quart bottle somewhere else—and then of course they will be there.

Such being the order of things, it is no wonder that enthusiasts, fanatics, and impostors, find both hearers and believers, provided they can muster absurdities enough to draw them


See Sketches of Odd Characters, page 124. together, accompanied with a good supply of promises to save them, and threats to damn them if they wont believe. The only thing needful in order to make proselytes to any monstrous absurdity, which proffers salvation without the pain and trouble of a thorough moral reformation, is to tell your lie, and stick to it, at all hazards, through thick and thin. It matters not if it contradicts not one, but all the five human senses. Proclaim that the sun shines at midnight, and the stars at noonday, and maintain that all will be saved, or at least annihilated, if they will believe, and stick to it, and they will believe—you will find followers. As soon as you get enough together to work on popular sympathy, get up before them, and if you are not prepared to go the whole length in fanaticism, and proclaim Deism or Atheism at once, take the Bible along with you: the devil is compelled to work chiefly by the aid of the Bible in these days; its truths are so obviously obligatory, that he must quote scripture, except among the very lowest grade of religious maniacs. Never fear then, the more the Bible contradicts you, the more readily you will be believed. Only take care not to quote too much in the same connection; but snatch a text here, another there, now from Ezekiel, [107] now from the Evangelists, now from the Apostles, now from the Apocalypse; jumble them all up together, and though every text you quote is directly against you, still bellow away, and assert the contrary—tell them they will be damned if they dont believe you, and stick to it, and you will find enough to believe. Oh!—they will say—see how he quotes scripture! The Bible is all at his tongue’s end!! His argument is all scripture!!

Strange this wicked and perverse generation will not believe!!

This simple rule would be of incalculable benefit to the ambitious reformer, or the pliant catspaw of any petty sect; and the more absurd their dogmas the better. Jesus Christ could scarce find a dozen followers in our world, and even these at last forsook him and fled. Joe Smith could find a hundred thousand to “fight to the death” for him, in any province in christendom.

If it is asked—What then is our reliance for the final dominion of truth over error? we answer, because error is strong only in tumult, truth only in repose. The one mounts like a rocket, only to fall like a stick: the other rises slowly and imperceptibly indeed in the world, but steadily and surely, as the ascent of the sun. The few, with the one, are and must be, in the long-run, stronger than the many with the other. And when Christianity can once be rendered rational, as it really is, without being made soulless, its hold and its sway, over minds of all orders and tendencies, will be at once strengthened and confirmed. But ere that day arrives, it seems destined, by the perverse ingenuity of man, to pass through all imaginable corruptions, and contend against all possible sophisms. This last great battle of eternity cannot, in the nature of things, be fought by a [108] single arm or a simple age. It is pleasant to reflect that even the absurdities of Mormonism are in many ways, though unwittingly, hastening on this great day of the final triumph of truth. Even here, it may be noticed with gratitude, that the Lord is bringing good out of evil. [109]



Grounds of caution—Charter of freedom—Basis of false schemes of faith—1. Force—2. Sympathy—3. Fanatical experience—4. Human testimony—God’s judgment of—Value of testimony—Puerility of skeptics—True grounds of religious belief—Existence of the Deity—Personal experience—Inherent truth of Christianity—Objections, interpolations, &c.—Proofs from inevitable inference—God’s mode of furnishing the facts—Man’s mode of explaining them—Origin of the Bible—Authority of the Bible—Laws of nature—Moral necessity of miracles—Hume’s sophism—Examples of facts to be explained—Conclusion.

IT was our object, in the last chapter, to exhibit the fact, and some of the principal causes of the extreme credulity of mankind in matters of faith. We will now endeavor to derive some further practical inferences from these phenomena, which will lead us to consider the grounds on which a professed revelation from heaven can be made rationally credible to mankind.

I. And, first, I remark that the facts adduced in the last chapter warn us to scrutinize all such professed revelations with extreme distrust, caution, and care. We cannot believe, if we would, one in a million of those who have had the impudence to challenge the faith of our race.

This fact, by itself, shows, if we were to reason only from the general nature and tendency of the human mind to believe in such revelations, that some such revelation of the will of God is at once probable, necessary, and natural, in a moral sense, because the race have been so constituted by their Maker, as universally to expect it. By analogy, this appetency, as [110] well as all others, would necessarily demand its appropriate object, somewhere, in some age or country. The basis of this universal credulity is the peculiar nature which God has given man for wise and holy ends. That nature leads him to expect a genuine revelation from his Maker, through his fellow-man, in some way. But, perverted, it leads him to believe in the counterfeits instead of the true; which counterfeits, in and of themselves, imply a true, genuine original, somewhere, as necessarily as counterfeit coins imply the previous existence of their genuine originals.

Reasoning, however, from the ACTUAL EXPERIENCE of mankind, as regards the claims of any particular new revelations, professing to come from God, they are, in any age or country, in the highest degree improbable and absurd. If their claims were true, they would be a sort of miracles, which no other being but Almighty God could render, in the least degree, credible. The chain of evidence, on which alone we are authorized to suspend our faith, in any professed revelation, must be seen to hand from the eternal throne, and each successive link, as it drops through coming ages, must be attached, secured, and held only by the same omnipotent hand.

The polluting touch of either men or angels, at once dissevers the dishonored link, in what part of the chain soever it is placed, and from that point the chain falls. We know that God is not wont to converse with mortals as a man converses with his fellow-man; and among the millions who have pretended to such converse, from motives or pride, ambition, or power, or impelled by insanity, we have found them UNIFORMLY LIARS. Men speak the truth generally, in other matters, and can be believed, but in religion experience has [111] proved the WHOLE RACE, AS SUCH, a race of LIARS. They can neither be believed in part, nor in whole, on the ground of their own veracity. The greatest miracle, apparent in the New Testament, consists in the fact that God has enabled us to demonstrate, independently of all direct human testimony, that the evangelists and apostles, and authors of the Scriptures, SPOKE THE TRUTH, while the rest of their race, in similar circumstances, have UNIFORMLY LIED. New versions of an old and accredited scheme of faith would fall under the same rule. Whether a man comes forward, therefore, with either a new scheme of faith, or a new version of an old scheme, the rational presumption is that he is either a lunatic or an impostor. He must demonstrate that he is not, before we can believe him, however plausible his scheme. To hold him rigorously and unsparingly to this, is a duty we owe at once to ourselves, and to the human race.

As human beings, we have each and all an inalienable and inborn right to do, to say, or to think whatever we please, unless good and unanswerable reasons can be shown, in particular instances, why we should refrain.

Our powers of action, bodily and mental, are, in and of themselves, the great charter of our entire freedom, signed, sealed, and delivered to each one of us, by the omnipotent God himself, in that hour when he formed our bodies, and breathed into us our eternal souls. And no being in heaven, earth, or hell, has any right to abstract the smallest item from this innate freedom, but God himself—God, speaking to us, in some way, through that reason and conscience which he has implanted within us. God, who alone gave, alone may take away. If man becomes the agent, he must demonstrate his au-[112] thority from God; otherwise, it is our duty to resist it even unto death. But to seize hold of the religious elements of man’s nature, and wield them for the ends of pride and power, is the surest of all ways to trample millions in the dust, and reach all earthly emoluments at a single grasp. The man who holds the religious confidence of any community, holds them all: and we need not trace, to the world of despair, the terrible consequences of the hypocrisy and perfidy of false guides in faith, whether professed enthusiasts or atheists, in order to startle our confidence, check our credulity, and throw us back upon our reason and our rights. There is enough in both the past and present history of the world to do it, and do it effectively, if we have any claim to either reason or common sense. The man who allows himself either to believe or to disbelieve, in matters of such vast concern TO ALL, without the most demonstrable proofs, is at once a traitor to himself, to his race, and to his God, and deserves the contempt and execration of mankind.

II. Let us then, notice some of the grounds upon which false schemes of faith have been received and passed from man to man.

They are, in general, four:—1. Force, or military power; 2. Sympathy; 3. Fanatical experience; 4. Human testimony.

1. The first ground of faith, we notice, is force, or civil, or military authority.

The world has seen many great logicians, but, after all, there is nothing that will reason like a well-disciplined army. Men are wont to listen to truth when it comes from the cannon’s mouth. The sword carves out a path of argumentation for itself, and the halter [113] silences all objections. In this way, Mohammed, the Popes, and many others, have convinced half the human race.

2. The next false ground of belief is sympathy, or a tendency to believe, because others do, without knowing why or wherefore. I mention this, not as peculiar to false faiths, but as a false ground of belief common to all faiths alike.

It is self-evident that nothing can be more childish, and more truly contemptible, than either to believe or disbelieve any religious system, merely because our associates, or those around us do. Still, it is probable that Christianity itself is frequently received, at least nominally, and almost uniformly rejected, on this ground, and on this ground alone. It is the mere force of moral sympathy which gives such ridiculous power to the social authority, or mere “dictum” of congenial tempers, whether writers or speakers, either for or against the truths of Christianity.

The stripling wight and the hoary debauchee, read a few passages from Paine, or Voltaire, or Gibbon, or Hume, or Fanny Wright, and they swallow down all they read, because these skeptics say so, and because it chimes in with their own moral sympathies. The valorous sticklers for orthodoxy, among twenty belligerent sects, each read the “dictums” of their favorite Joe Smiths, and believe them for precisely the same reason. They chime in with the ruling spirit of their day-dreams of sectarian supremacy.

If we cannot receive and interpret the Scriptures on better grounds than these, we had better pack off to Nauvoo. We belong there, at any rate, whether professed believers or skeptics.

Let all those, of what-[114] ever name, who, from the mere impulse of social sympathy— the “esprit du corps” —put their own little clan above the human race, and the several generals of their hosts above even Jesus Christ himself, look well to the Mormons. There are striking resemblances between this sect and their own; and between their own leaders and the general at Nauvoo. Man-worship is not confined to the Mormons.

3. The next ground of belief we noticed is fanatical experience, or immediate personal revelation of the truth from God himself. God speaks to the soul of the devotee, and openly declares, or obscurely intimates, or at least obviously confirms, the truth of his opinions.

Now, whatever God says, must of course be true; and the only thing is, to be sure that it is the God of truth who speaks, and not our own vain, conceited imaginations; or our vagrant, wild, and frantic impulses. There are several things to be observed here.

1. The first is, that all good thoughts, and all good things, come, either directly or indirectly, from God, the author of all good.

2. All truth, and especially all religious truth, tends undoubtedly, when known and received, to render the mind calm, tranquil, peaceful, and happy, and to harmonize the action of all its powers. Truth was made for the mind, and the mind for truth. Pure religious truth, indeed, gives, from its own nature, a peace which the world of error knows not of.

3. Those persons who talk most of these fanatical assurances and rhapsodies of faith, are in temperament, and generally in temper, directly the reverse of all this. Enthusiastic in their habits, impetuous in their temper, vehement in their desires, and impatient of ne-[115] cessary ignorance, they at once affect all knowledge, and imagine for themselves all truth. This is, in reality, arrogance. But by making God, directly, their teacher, they contrive to call it humility.

Such a man may be, indeed, conscious of his thoughts and impressions, but he cannot be conscious of their origin. Whether they proceed from God, man, or the devil, mere consciousness cannot inform him. If he knows beforehand that his thoughts are true and good, he knows they are from the Fountain of all Good, either directly or indirectly, and should be thankful for them.

Otherwise he has no ground for such belief, no more than the sot has proof that the reveries of his delirium are from the direct inspiration of God.

If his opinions and thoughts merely serve to awaken grateful and turbulent, or what he calls sweet and holy emotions in his soul, any opinion firmly believed to be true and acceptable to God would do the same, however false and absurd it might be. Probably no one will ever surpass Simeon the Stylite of old, or hundreds of Mormons in these days, in what they call the holy comforts of these devout raptures. But is there no way by which God assures us of the truth? Yes; when we search for it in accordance with his will, and the laws of our own minds.

God made man to find the truth, as he does his natural food, by searching for it abroad, and not by feeling after it in his own stomach. And if he sets himself to seek for it in this way, he will soon, like the dyspeptic, learn to imagine that a thousand things suit his nature, which God made only for pigs and reptiles. God has taught us his truth by his works, his providence, and his word; and if human arrogance cannot be satisfied with this, it had better re-[116] main unsatisfied.

At least it is probable that it will, at any rate. And yet all fanatics and all enthusiasts, of all ages, make common cause here. However diverse in all else, as we have seen, here they agree. They all know that their own, or the absurd schemes of their leaders, are true, either because God has personally revealed it to them, by some mystic voice, or by kindling up some holy rapture or ferment in their souls. In this common den of inspiration, we find monsters of all shapes and sizes, from Simeon the Stylite to Mad Thom.

In these rhapsodies of faith, or rather of folly, every silly figment of a diseased imagination is deemed either a voice or an impulse from God; and the more absurd the better, provided it chance to chime harmoniously with the ruling impulses or prevailing delirium of the hour. It is impossible to reason against this folly, for it defies all reason in the outset. The overweaning self-conceit, and the total paralysis of all the powers of reason, which such a morbid state of mind both engenders and implies, render all hopeless and all useless, while the spell is on, save handcuffs and the madhouse.

4. The fourth false ground of religious belief is mere human testimony, or the naked “dictum” of some one or more of our fellow-men.

This subject merits a careful consideration. We have already proved, by reasoning from past experience, that, however worthy of belief the human race may be in all else, in matters of faith they have, as a race, proved themselves liars, and utterly unworthy of all credit.

We shall see, now, that the exceptions only serve to confirm the rule, God himself being witness. [117]

The facts are as follows. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of men, came on earth and fulfilled all the leading prophecies of the Jews, before their own eyes. They and the world had long and anxiously awaited his appearance. They were eye-witnesses to the immaculate purity of his life. They listened to all the “gracious words that came out of his mouth.” He lived, spake, and acted as never did man before.

If now, in any case, it could be reasonable to require men to believe on the mere testimony of any thing in human form, was it not reasonable to demand that they should take Christ at his word?

Would not even the Deist admit, that his testimony, in such a case, and under such circumstances, was far more credible than the combined testimony of the whole human race together? And yet, what does he say? John, x. 37: “If I do not the works of my Father, (referring to his miracles,) believe me NOT.” “If I testify of myself, my testimony is NOT TRUE,” (that is, not credible.) Again, John, xv. 24: “If I had not done among them the WORKS which none other man did, they had not had sin,” (that is, they would have been under no obligation to believe.) Acts, ii.

22: “Jesus, approved [accredited] of God by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him.”

If, then, the eternal God of all reason and truth deemed it necessary to accredit even his own Son, the foretold and long-expected Messiah, by miracles and wonders, and signs from heaven above and earth beneath, before requiring even the Jews to believe on him; and if Jesus himself commanded them not take his word—not to believe on him—without these vouchers of his veracity, what a comment is this on the utter in-[118] credibility of the human race in matters of faith, God and Christ themselves being judges? And have they suffered this momentous revelation of divine truth, after all this agony of effort to plant its credibility on higher ground, to fall back on mere depraved human testimony? If so, it is again on the level with all other books.

We cannot receive it, as from God, on that ground alone. And has this same God, who deemed it unreasonable to ask men to take his Son at his word, merely because found in human form, really commanded them to believe the bare dictum of Joe Smith, on pain of eternal damnation!!!

At all events, God, who knew beforehand the history of man, has, in these and in numerous other passages of scripture, practically estimated human testimony in religion, and human opinion, at precisely what they are worth. He has dealt with men as a race of liars, unworthy of the smallest credit in faith, merely because they are so.

But though God has in fact thus decided that mere human testimony is no PROOF of the divine origin of any scheme of faith, he has not decided that human testimony is of no USE in transmitting a genuine scheme of faith. Neither shall we; and here we will make some distinctions indicative of that utility.

1. We should distinguish carefully between believing IN human testimony and believing ON ACCOUNT OF human testimony. We believe IN the testimony of one or more of any number of notorious liars when we are compelled, from knowledge derived from other sources, to admit that that testimony is true, and that one out of a multitude of knaves has thus unexpectedly been proved a man of truth. But we do not believe ON AC- [119] COUNT OF such testimony. Just so we believe IN the testimony of the evangelists; but we do not believe their statements ON ACCOUNT OF their testimony, or any other human testimony whatever. It is indeed true, that many sensible and eloquent men have maintained that our belief in Christianity is based on the testimony of the evangelists and others, and have proceeded to argue its truth professedly on that ground alone.

They set themselves, however, at once to showing from FACTS, that the testimony of these witnesses is and must be true, thus evincing that they themselves do not believe ON ACCOUNT OF their mere testimony, but only that they believe IN their testimony, when they find that Almighty God, by his providence and his prophecies, has placed their testimony beyond the possibility of reasonable doubt. This is indeed believing IN, but not ON ACCOUNT OF human testimony.

2. We should distinguish between the testimony of interested and disinterested witnesses.

It is a maxim both of common law and of common sense, that the testimony of all interest witnesses should be rejected in evidence, whatever their previous character for veracity. Jesus Christ, as we have seen, did not exempt himself from the rule. Nor will he exempt any of his followers, or attempt to transmit a revelation on such grounds as to require their exemption, either in whole or in part. On this ground the testimony of the avowed enemies or the indifferent spectators of any new scheme of faith may be taken for what it is worth, more or less, but the mere uncorroborated testimony of any one or all of its partisans and friends, touching any fundamental point of its credibility, we set down for nothing. It is good for nothing. [120] Aside from the general corruption and incredibility of the race, in which we must presume that they participate, until the contrary is shown, they are interested witnesses, not to the amount of a few dollars only, but to the amount of all they have on earth and in heaven, if they are sincere. If there were no other proofs of Christ’s mission and miracles than the bare narrations of his followers, nobody but a lunatic could believe one word of it.

We should distinguish between direct and incidental testimony, both in friends and foes.

When there is an evident design either to confirm or to overthrow a new faith, by the testimony given, that fact in itself diminishes its credibility, even when the witness is in other respects unexceptionable. Incidental testimony which springs up spontaneously, and evidently without any such design, is of far more value.

In any matter of miracle or faith the direct testimony of friends to its credibility is of no avail whatever, unless corroborated and sustained by other known and admitted facts. The incidental testimony of friends is less exceptionable, while the incidental testimony of enemies, of credible capacity, is of more value still. But no array of such mere testimony could render any revelation or miracle credible, from age to age, without the constant and efficient interposition of the sustaining and corroborating evidence of Divine Providence. Hence the burden of proof must rest, from age to age, on God, as well as begin with him. This proof Christianity alone is enabled to exhibit.

With these distinctions in view, then, we do not deny that the direct, positive testimony of friends may be of great use in a new and credible scheme of faith; but [121] we do deny that such testimony, however much or little, can ever make any professedly new revelation from God in the least degree credible. And the more desperate the attempt to multiply converts and witnesses on such ground, the more utterly incredible it becomes; for it only more clearly betrays the artifice and uneasiness of its detestable and hypocritical authors and founders. There is not a competent court in christendom that would consent to arbitrate five dollars on any such ground. For, aside from the fact that the temptations are so great, that men in all ages and climes have been wont to lie about new revelations, there is no subject on which the majority of men are so easily duped as on this same all-important and awfully solemn subject of religion. And when a man’s love of the marvellous is once thoroughly excited, the religious elements of his nature utterly crazed and distracted by new hopes, new alarms, new prodigies, and new phantasms, it is impossible to say what he may not see, and hear, and feel, and bear witness to.

The honest, or at least the undesigning aberrations of the human mind in such circumstances, surpass all credulity and defy all philosophy; and it is absolutely certain that the all-wise and omnipotent God never could have resorted to the contemptible expedient of suspending the eternal salvation of a depraved race on the bare testimony of their confederates in guilt. Nor would he attempt to prop up the rotten credibility of one selfish and depraved human being by the naked testimony of others notoriously just as depraved. If Christianity be indeed a revelation from the true God of the universe, such a miserable expedient on the very face of it would destroy its credibility. And if Chris-[122] tianity is not credible, surely there is not, and cannot be, any other revelation which is; for its credibility was never staked for a single moment on mere human testimony, but it has been sustained from age to age, throughout the entire history of the world, by the direct, obvious, and signal interposition of God at every step; and if these signs all fail, no other conceivable, if any possible, signs can avail. At any rate the world must be in its dotage indeed, before it can accept any lower proof; and it ought to be consigned to a madhouse if it demands higher.

But how shall a man render his professed revelations credible? He cannot do it. It is impossible. He must, if honest, throw that responsibility back upon God, who alone can sustain it. And if a pretended prophet evinces any reluctance to do this, and attempts to prop himself upon mere human testimony, it is demonstrable proof that he is a knave; for if the whole human race should combine, to a man, aided by all bad angels, they could not render a professed revelation from God in the least degree credible. God the omnipotent, the all-wise, and all-controlling, alone can do that work.

How ineffably silly, then, to compare that revelation which God has made with any other which ever was or ever can be made! Deists often speak of distrusting human testimony, as a ground of religious belief. They are right. It is a thousand-fold more unworthy of confidence than even they have ever claimed it to be; and if they would be as careful in distrusting the vile originators of their fanatical doubts, as they are of distrusting St. Paul, or John, there would be both sense and consistency in their pretensions. As it is, they are [123] usually the greatest of all dupes. The great names found in their ranks no more shelter them from this charge, than they do other fanatics, who can plead the same exemption on the same ground. Coincident insanity in faith and skill in science are common in all factions, all parties, all sects, and all ages. The insanity of the skeptic is none the more rational, because more common: his dupes are none the less dupes, because they are the dupes of an unbeliever, so called.

Notwithstanding these very obvious considerations, all forms, both of false religion and of professed irreligion, have in reality rested their claims to credibility on this rotten foundation of human testimony, or authority. Christianity is the only exception the world has ever seen; and much that is called Christian is as rank fanaticism, as are paganism, Mohammedanism, or infidelity.

It will be observed, that the question before us is not what use children, or idiots, or ignorant persons, or others necessitated to submit to authority, are to make of human testimony; but what use a man of mature years, who pretends to be governed by his reason, ought to make of it. If others may be compelled to lean on him, surely he ought not to lean on a cobweb or a rush. The strong must rest on reason and legitimate evidence, before even the weak can repose with safety on authority. The firm and unyielding bones and sinews of the father can alone bear and sustain the relaxed weakness of the infant. So God ordains—blessed by his name! The palsied dotage of human credulity is unfit for even the nursery of faith. How unequal then to its battles, sieges, vicissitudes, and wars!

III. Having thus briefly noticed some of the false [124] grounds of faith, we will now consider the only true ground on which a professed revelation from God can be rendered worthy of the least credit.

But before advancing to this topic, it is needful first to advert to the proofs of the existence of a Supreme Being; and to show that this does not rest, either in whole or in part, on mere human testimony, as many fanatical sects pretend.

The main proof of the existence of the Supreme Being is three-fold.


The universal and instinctive conceptions and tendencies of the human race, in all ages. No rational account can be given of the instinct of faith, of which we have spoken, without admitting the being of its prime object, GOD. Man is so made, that in all the appropriate circumstances of his being he feels that there is a God, and cannot help it, without perverting and degrading his nature.


Inference from known facts. We know that the universe around us exists. We KNOW also, equally well, that either it has in some past time sprung forth from nothing, or else it has existed from all eternity in a successive series of events, such as we now behold, or, that some supreme intelligent being created it.

The first supposition is on the face of it absurd; the second is contrary to all known facts—to the known history and progress of human beings, and human language, and to all known astronomical and geological facts. Every mountain and every clod demonstrates its falsehood; for eternity would have reduced all to the same dead and muddy level. The last supposition is therefore the only possible one: viz, the universe began, and God began it. [125]


All things, within and around us, are governed by laws, which imply a lawgiver!

They are also full of design, which necessarily implies a designer.

Infidels wrangle against these proofs; they talk large: let them talk. Fanatics also frequently reject it. They want to stake our belief in the being of a God solely on testimony, or direct revelation, because if their followers can be made to believe without a reason here, they will be better prepared to swallow down their dogmas on other points of pretended revelation, or interpretation of admitted revelations, on the ground of the mere dictum of their leaders.

Moreover, by making every thing in religion depend both for its proof and importance on positive instruction, mummeries and ceremonies can more easily be placed on the same level with moral duties. This generally suits the design of those learned or artful knaves, who teach only that fools may believe.

The true grounds of the credibility of a revelation from God are in general two-fold.


PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, or individual certainty of its truth, derived from consciousness, observation, and experience.


NECESSARY AND INEVITABLE LOGICAL INFERENCE from facts which we know and admit; that such a revelation must have come from God as its author, because all other suppositions involve in themselves an absurdity, or a train of absurdities.

The personal experience to which I refer is not based, either in whole or in part, on any supernatural or fanatical light, or impulse, or any mystical or mysterious commotion or excitement of soul whatever; but on a calm, deliberate, and rigidly philosophical knowledge

[126] of the fact, that such a professed revelation agrees with, and is adapted to, all the known laws and necessities of both matter and mind: in short, to all the laws and exigencies of our being, and that it is therefore calculated to promote in the highest degree, not only our own individual well-being, but all the great social, civil, and religious interests of the human race; insomuch that none can attain either the highest excellence, or the greatest happiness of which human nature is capable, without a proper practical regard to its doctrines and laws.

This experience shows that such a revelation must have come, either directly or indirectly, from God, the author of all beneficence and truth.

Now the sole grand end of Christianity, from first to last, is to induce all men to strive to become, in moral temper and character, like its great archetype and founder, JESUS CHRIST. All else are merely the necessary means to that sole grand end.

But every man, of even tolerable common sense, who will throw aside his passions and prejudices, and subject himself solely to his reason, will immediately discover from his own personal observation and experience the following things.


Neither individuals nor communities can ever attain the highest excellence, or the greatest happiness, of which their nature and condition are capable, without an honest and thorough attempt to become such, in their moral character and feelings, as Jesus Christ was; and the nearer they approximate to this standard of moral purity, the greater will be their share of both social safety and personal bliss, and the further they depart from it, the greater the ruin that ensues, both to them and their fellows. [127]


He will discover from his own personal experience that this moral purity and elevation of character cannot be obtained, even in any degree, without admitting all the fundamental doctrines, submitting himself to all the influences, and diligently employing all the means commended to his notice in the gospel. The more closely he follows and believes the truths therein contained, the greater his success in attaining this moral purity and its attendant blessings; while the more he disregards these truths, the more signal will be his failure, and the more corrupt and miserable his career.

In order to come to this conclusion, he needs to do but three things.


Consider what Christianity, even with all its corruptions and abominable perversions, has effected, and is at this moment effecting, for christendom, as compared with the rest of the world.


Consider what sort of a community that would be, in which all its members were in moral temper and character just like Jesus Christ.


Consider what changes must be made in himself, before he can become such; what means are requisite, and what the amount of obligation resting upon him, as well as on all others.

We hope it will be understood here that we are referring the inquirer to no sect, no creed, and no exposition of Christianity, either ancient or modern, but to the New Testament itself, as it is; and should he honestly attempt to live in obedience to pure reason, and in strict accordance with the laws of that moral nature which God has given him, he will find, from individual experience, two things more:

1. He will be compelled to make honest and unre-[128] mitting efforts to become, in moral temper and character, like Jesus Christ, the only perfect model of humanity.

2. He will find himself under an equal necessity to take the New Testament for his guide.

Such facts prove that Christianity is true, WHETHER FROM GOD OR NOT; and secondly, reason alone teaches that such important truth must have come, either directly or indirectly, from God; and also, that any scheme of religion which cannot endure these tests is false, and cannot be from God.

The first grand question, as regards the New Testament, is not a question respecting either its origin or authorship; but it is a question which pertains, fundamentally, to that and all other books, viz—IS IT TRUE? Are its fundamental doctrines and precepts true doctrines and useful precepts? Does the book contain and develop the great fundamental laws and principles of the moral and social well-being of the human race, or does it not? If so, whatever of truth it does contain is binding on the conscience of the human race, come from what source or through what hands it may, because IT IS TRUTH.

Now we might safely permit the sectarian, the dogmatists, and the deist, each and all, to take their shears, and cut from the Bible every text which has been either doubted, or disputed, or slandered, or ridiculed; and when they had, one and all, cut away until they were satisfied, we might take the remaining texts, more or less, together with such others as the simple light of reason, in this age of the world, would compel them to restore and admit as true; and if we should throw them at random, thus mutilated and tattered, without order or arrangement, among any barbarous race on earth, [129] they would, if read, believed, and obeyed, exert a more energetic reforming influence upon their character and destiny, than all the other books the world has ever seen, which have neither drank nor stolen from this same fountain: for they would still contain more important moral truth, adapted to the nature and necessities of man, than all other books, not emanating from the same original source. But how is it with the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and the moral speculations of deists and skeptics? Only take away what their authors have manifestly stolen from the Bible, and there is nothing of moral truth remaining; their moral power is annihilated, and they become vain speculations or baseless fancies.

This single broad view of the subject renders the difference between the Bible and all pretended revelations sufficiently apparent, and the ordinary objections, sophisms, and cavils of skeptics, sufficiently frivolous and contemptible? Suppose that it could be demonstrated that half of the Bible was really made up of human interpolations, errors, contradictions, and absurdities, what then? Would that alter the truth of the other half? No: for it might still be shown, that, in that other half, there was more renovating, soul-reforming, moral truth, demonstrable to reason, and indispensable to man, than in all the other books in the world which have neither stolen nor borrowed from its light. If we sincerely want the religion of nature then, we must, after all, take it from the Bible, whatever may have been its origin, because there, and there alone, is found the religion of nature—a religion adapted to human nature as it actually is. Can any other book, either moral or religious, plead the same prerogative, [130] on the same ground? If so, where is it? Show it to us, and we will at once believe it to be from God.

These and similar considerations, derived from our own individual consciousness, observation, and experience, assure us that the Bible is substantially true, and, like all other truth, from God, whether directly or not. We find its truths adapted to the laws and necessities of our own moral nature, and to the highest well-being of human nature as such.

In the books of impostors we find no such things, except in the fragments or scattered thoughts evidently derived from the Bible.

2. We will now briefly advert to a very few of the sources from which a professed revelation from God may derive demonstrable proofs of its authority, by necessary and by inevitable logical inference from known and admitted facts.

By such inference, we intend no mere conjecture, no tame probabilities, but an absolute necessity, imposed upon us by the God of nature and of mind, himself, of inferring and believing one thing from seeing or admitting another, or else of giving up our claim to be considered rational beings. As, for example, when we see a smoke, we inevitably, if not insane, infer a fire; and when we see a temple or a ship, we infer the existence of architects, worship, water, winds, &c., because we know that one of these things could not exist without the others, as certainly as we know the existence of the things we behold.

This chain of logical inference, of course, embraces all those considerations which are usually treated of under the separate heads of miracle, prophecy, and providence. But, as it is not our present design to write [131] a treatise on the evidences of revelation, we shall only indicate the general principles upon which this great law of inference proceeds, in determining the divine authority of a genuine revelation, and summarily illustrate it by citing a few from the multitude of examples which God has furnished to every age.

It is obvious that there are here two things to be considered. First—In what manner the Deity must proceed, in order to furnish the human race with facts from which they will be compelled to make the necessary inference. Second—In what manner man is to proceed, in making those inferences, in each successive age; and it will be found that man must begin where God ends. He must take nothing for granted which is not self-evident, and believe nothing until compelled to believe by the most rigorous principles of logic.

1. First, then, God must begin to furnish facts, as proof by miracle, or other supernatural means, as soon as, or rather before, belief is required; and these facts must, in the outset, be exhibited to all who are required to believe, whether friends or foes, just as the Egyptian miracles, in fact, were exhibited under Moses. It must not be done in secret, nor in a party, but with a “high hand and an outstretched arm,” so that all may know, at once, that it is God, and not man.

2. Such a commencement renders all subsequent revelations and divine interpositions, obviously forming a part of the same grand scheme, credible on a far less amount of proof than would be required to authenticate them, if they stood disconnected, either really or apparently, from any such scheme. The natural and inevitable inference of the human mind, that God will

[132] complete what he has begun, in itself furnishes a part of the necessary proof in all subsequent cases.

3. But these original events, themselves, would become utterly incredible, if left to stand on mere human testimony, however much or little. On the contrary, miracles, in the limited sense of that term, if continued from age to age, in all lands, would lose their power of impression, and thus annihilate their own force, aside from abstracting seriously and irreparably from the harmony of providence and well-being of man. They are a sort of moral volcanoes, which, if diffused too widely, must consume and annihilate our reason, instead of enlightening it. Hence, to relieve both of these difficulties, after a revelation has once been rendered credible and complete, by such signal interpositions of direct omnipotence, its credibility must be sustained, from age to age, by subsequent miracles, or by the exhibition of peculiar institutions, monuments, memorials, prophecies, and providences, which none but God could originate and control; and it must never be left to rest, for a single moment, on the mere uncorroborated testimony of man.

It is not needful to contend that this is the only way God could render a revelation credible to man, but only that this is one way, at once natural and rational, and that any mode whatever, less efficient, would be incredible; while it is believed that any other mode whatever will be found, in a moral sense, either unnatural or totally irrational; but these evidences, Christianity, and Christianity alone, is enabled to exhibit.

God commenced the great enterprise under Moses in Egypt in accordance with the first condition, and has prosecuted it down to our own age, by the con-[133] tinued exhibition of institutions, monuments, prophecies, and providences, obvious, impressive, multiform, and inexplicable on any other ground, except on the ground that the God of nature and providence is also the God of the Bible. This, then, is the mode which God has taken to furnish us with facts from which to make our inferences.

2. Our next inquiry is: In what manner are we to proceed in making rational inferences from these facts?

Our answer is, we are to begin from facts which we know and admit, and proceed, as in all other cases, from the known to the unknown. Throwing all direct human testimony entirely out of the question, as being in and of itself no rational ground of belief, either in miracles or revelations, we should take facts before our own eyes, and attempt rationally to account for them; and we shall find that Almighty God has bound the most trivial events of our own age and our own firesides to the original displays of his miraculous power on the banks of the Nile, and in the land of Judea, by a chain of evidence which no human power can break, and no human sophistry dissolve.

To trace all the links and branches of this mysterious chain is the work of ages and volumes; we can only give one or two examples. In giving these examples we shall make but two points of inquiry.

1. In what ages of the world did the several books of the Bible originate?

2. Is God responsible for their truth?

Now I hope it will be granted that every man of common sense knows that there is such a part of the world as christendom, in which he lives and acts, and that this said christendom has peculiar institutions, cus-[134] toms, laws, and manners which control his own destiny and the most ordinary occurrences of his life. But all these imply the previous existence and belief of the Bible. The Bible is the parent, and christendom is the offspring; and if the Bible were annihilated, he would be compelled either to make or imagine another, before he could explain the peculiar institutions and manners of his own country, or even the most common events of his life. The date of a deed, an almanac, a copper, or a letter, is a miracle, if Christ did not live eighteen hundred years ago; and all christendom is a miracle, if he did not, at some time, live and teach as the Bible says he did. So in any previous age, since the coming of Christ, the facts of the Bible have been admitted, its doctrines believed, its rites and ceremonies practised, its monuments reared, and its influences felt and exhibited in action by all christendom; and not to know this with absolute certainty by direct and necessary inference from facts before our own eyes, is either not to reason at all, or to reason like a maniac.

Again; every man of common intelligence knows that there is now scattered abroad over the face of the earth, a distinct and peculiar people called the Jews; having, in like manner, institutions, laws, and manners peculiar to themselves, and making both their past history and present condition, in and of themselves, moral miracles in every age of the world. Of all this the Old Testament is the parent, and Judaism, in all ages, is but the offspring. And to attempt to reason upon the actual condition of Jews and Christians, in any age of the world, and deny the substantial historical truths of the Bible, is as absurd as it would be to attempt to reason upon the present condition of Europe without [135] admitting the substantial truth of feudal history, or on the present condition of the United States without admitting the history of the revolution, or the validity of the documents of the continental congress. The previous existence and belief of the Bible, substantially as we now have it, is as indispensable to the existence of Jews and Christians in the world as the Koran is to Mohammedans, or the Book of Mormon to the followers of Smith. To admit the existence of Jews and Christians, and deny that Moses and Christ lived and taught, as they have reported, is the same sort of absurdity, both in kind and degree, as to admit the existence of Mohammedan and Mormons, and still deny that Mohammed and Smith have lived and taught, as represented by them. Considering the peculiar age in which Christ lived, the extreme singularity of his character, and the overwhelming influence that character has in fact exerted on the destinies of the globe, as we now see it with our own eyes, if the world is not in possession of the substantial truth of both his character and doctrine, (setting aside all that is miraculous,) just as they are in possession of the substantial history and doctrines of Confucius, Socrates, Seneca, Bacon, Washington, and others, that fact in itself is a moral miracle, more incredible than all the natural miracles of the Bible, and all the legends of monks and of Mormons. But if his character and doctrines are thus known to the world, they are substantially in the New Testament, and nowhere else.

True, a character may be imagined. But a purely imaginary character could no more rule the globe than it could create one. It would be more rational to suppose that an imaginary phantom created the universe, [136] than to suppose that the present condition of the human race resulted from any other influence than from that of such a character and being as Jesus Christ is represented to be in the New Testament, both living and teaching at the time and in the manner he is represented to have lived and taught. This point, it will be noticed, does not touch the truth of his doctrines, but only the great fact, that they were promulgated and believed at the time, and substantially in the manner reported. We are brought then inevitably to this point—Can we rationally account for the appearance of Smith, of Mohammed, and other impostors, and the success of their doctrines, without admitting the supernatural interposition of God? Doubtless we can, and therefore ought to do so. But can we rationally account for the appearance of Jesus Christ without such admission? We shall see. This will bring us upon the second point, viz: 2. Has God made himself responsible for the substantial truth of Christianity, as we now have it in the Bible?

We will content ourselves with the lowest possible view of the character of Christ, viz, the deist’s own favorite notion, that he was a mere man, of matchless moral wisdom, benevolence, and purity. We will assume that there is a benevolent God in heaven who cares for the general well-being of man on earth. We will admit, if you please, that he neither foresaw, nor designed, nor planned for the appearance of Christ on earth; that the event took him by entire surprise, but still that he has sufficient capacity to estimate, with at least tolerable correctness, the true value of any given character to the world when it appears. The simple [137] question, then, is this: Did even such a meager Divinity as we have described, permit such a character of matchless purity, wisdom, and benevolence to appear, and live, and die on earth, beneath the continual frowns of his providence, without any attestation of his divine complacence in his immaculate life and doctrines, and thus suffer him to sink among the general herd of our guilty race, and all the peculiar moral advantages of that character to be lost to mankind for ever? Or did he leave man to supply by fraud what he had omitted to grant from negligence? There can be but one more monstrous supposition, which is, that the God of heaven actually foresaw, and designed, and planned the appearance of Christ, who was himself peculiarly near and dear to him on the ground of his moral excellence, if on no other, and left him then to such a silent and ignominious life and death. Analogous cases cannot be found, for another similar character never appeared. And, considering the good which even a corrupted Christianity has wrought for man, and what we now know that a pure Christianity is adapted from its own nature to effect for human weal, such a supposition is in and of itself more absurd and incredible than that all the dead should have leaped from their graves, the stars from their thrones, and the ocean from its bed, in attestation of the divine complacency in such a character and doctrine; if there be indeed in heaven a God who cares for the well-being of man on earth.

But once admit that Christ was his Son, sent on purpose to instruct and reform the world, and the only possible supposition by which we could get rid of miracles, even if none were on record, would be too childish and contemptible even to reason against. To be-[138] lieve that God made Joe Smith’s barges with a hole in the bottom, is in that case infinitely more rational than to believe that such a being as Jesus Christ appeared in such a world as ours, without supernatural evidences of the divine favor.

It is true, the laws of nature are usually held steady and uniform in their operation by the all-wise Creator. But for what end? For whose benefit has God decreed that these laws of nature shall be held thus uniform? Is it merely that he may sit and gaze in eternal wonder upon the ceaseless whirl of this vast machinery, as the child does upon his top? Or is it for the benefit of clods, and stones, and pigs? or for the good of moral beings like ourselves?

Precisely the same reason, then, which induces the Divine Being to hold the laws of nature steady and uniform, in all other cases, should impel him to interrupt them, whenever that same good of moral beings requires it; and to fail to do it would be to act not like a Deity, but like a dunce. And if such a crisis did not occur, on the appearance of Christ in our world, one can never occur, nor even be imagined.

The ordinary laws of the moral universe as much require the laws of physical nature to be interrupted at such a crisis, as they do that they should be held steady at all other times. At that crisis, therefore, there must have been either miracles in the natural world, or a still greater miracle in the moral world; that is, the natural and indispensable laws of the moral world must have been at once interrupted and outraged by the Creator himself, so far as we can see, or the natural laws of the physical world must have yielded to the necessity of the occasion. Possibly such an infamous [139] negligence of the good of mankind, had it occurred, might have been concealed from our view; but it would have been none the less infamous and unworthy of the Deity. And even if the innate benevolent nature of that blessed Being who rules over all, could be imagined to allow him to sit in silent and listless negligence, in such a momentous era as that of the birth of Christ, a prudent regard to his honor among intelligent beings must have impelled him to action; and to act too just as the Scriptures assert that he did act. We need not talk here of the subsequent perversions of Christianity, which only make its deep and unutterable utility and necessity the more apparent. Nor is it of any use for the objector to tell us that the councils and conduct of the Creator are above the scrutiny of human reason; for, if so, he may work miracles as well as omit them, even when we can see no good reason for it.

But again, all the miracles of the Bible were expressly designed to concentrate around the person, character, and doctrines of Jesus Christ. They all point, like so many finger-boards, either backward or forward, to him, who alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life;” they were all designed either to prepare mankind for his appearance, or to complete and consummate his mission. The precise thing, therefore, which renders the miracles of the Scriptures credible, is the appearance and character of Jesus Christ. With him they are both natural and necessary, without any human testimony. Without him, or some similar character, they would have been incredible, on any amount of mere human testimony whatever. We believe, therefore, neither the doctrines nor the miracles of the Scrip-[140] tures on account of human testimony, though we believe IN human testimony, when we have first rescued that testimony from the disregard which it merits, on the ground of its being human testimony to matters of faith. Whatever human testimony God has not enabled, and in reason compelled us, thus to rescue from the general rule of infamy, deserves only our utter disregard, be it much or little.

Hume’s puerile sophism on miracles, amended so as to accord with reason and common sense, would stand thus: “All experience shows that God, for the good of man, holds the laws of physical nature steady and uniform, except when the same good of man and the higher laws of moral nature requires that they should be interrupted; and then he uniformly interrupts them.”

The appearance of Christ produced one such moral crisis in our world, and the appearance of any other similar being would undoubtedly, by the same uniform moral law, produce another similar exhibition. In all other connections, and in all other cases, miracles are utterly incredible on any amount of human testimony whatever. True, the Mormons and other fanatics hang around the Bible, just as vermin suck their vigor from the most noble forms; but that does not make them an organic part of such bodies. A profound philosopher should be able to distinguish between them.

This is, however, what most skeptics profess themselves unable to achieve. We would gladly put them in possession of the means of this necessary discrimination.

Thus far, our cause stands precisely thus. Reasoning from known and admitted facts— facts with which God has purposely filled the world—we must imagine millions of moral miracles and absurdities, in order to [141] get rid of admitting that Christ appeared, lived, and taught, in substance as recorded in the New Testament. But if we admit the appearance of such a character, and such doctrines of morality in connection with such a life and death, we should be compelled to imagine supernatural interpositions of the Divine Being in their favor, even if we found none on record, or else to deny that there was a God in heaven who cared for the well-being of man; or we must admit that he lacked the power thus to interpose, for the proof of his veracity to the minds of men. Deists and skeptics may take their choice; or they may confound all creeds together, paganism, Mormonism, and all, and then prate about one religion’s being just as good and just as susceptible of proof as another: that will not make it so. Yet these are only some of the considerations which show that deism implies, in itself, the most absurd and childish credulity.

Again: human nature is so averse to the principles and restraints of the gospel, that it is only with the utmost difficulty that only a few individuals, comparatively, are found, who can be persuaded honestly to adopt and practise its doctrines, even after convinced of their general truth; and that, too, in an age when there is nothing to forbid, but much to impel to such a course. After centuries of effort, it has been found impracticable to force the doctrines of Christ upon any except the most enlightened and benevolent nations and individuals. (I am here speaking of the real doctrines of Christ, not of the dogmas of bigots and fanatics.) How did it happen, then, that such doctrines should have actually acquired the control of the intellect and destinies of the globe, amid a race naturally so averse [142] to its restraints, if God has not interposed continually in its favor? If that interposition should now cease, all christendom would become infidels in less than a century. How, then, could belief of such obnoxious doctrines have originated, and advanced, as it has, without such interposition, when the power of the globe was against them?

If such interpositions as are reported did not occur, why did not the stubborn Jews, or the warlike Romans, or the philosophic Greeks contradict the report, especially when they saw that it not only implicated their own characters, but endangered their religion and their state?

Joe Smith arises and claims miraculous power, and though he exhibits nothing, makes war upon none, and endangers none directly, still he cannot live five years without setting all pens and all tongues in motion to expose and contradict the lie. Affidavits and books are accumulated by scores every year. Jesus Christ arises, declares direct and determined war upon all the institutions of the globe, civil, political, and religious, works miracles, is apprehended and put to death, by the most gigantic military despotism the world has ever seen. A few fishermen record his doctrines and miracles, give them to the word as true, and thus not only consign his persecutors to infamy, but openly charge them with his deliberate murder! Not a pen moves! Not a tongue speaks! All is silent! They are pricked to the heart! multitudes believe; and these uncontradicted tales now rule the world. Surely there was a different species of human beings on the globe then from what there is in these days.

Let us account for facts. That is all we have to do. [143]

Again: the whole world of talent and genius have agonized, through ages of toil, to devise a system of morals and religion adapted to the nature of man, and consistent with all other known truth. The Egyptian labored; the Greek labored; the Roman labored; Socrates, the “wisest and best of men,” Plato, the universal genius, Aristotle, the wonder of the world, Cicero, the prince of scholars and orators—all labored and toiled, and toiled again, and all failed. Their systems and their works are with them in the dust. Jesus Christ, an obscure, unlettered, and despised Galilean, touched the subject, and threw around it the light of eternal day, charming, by the unearthly music of his divine wisdom and virtue, the most distant and enlightened ages and nations. Was this of God, or of man? We must account for facts.

Again: all these, and multitudes of others, have toiled to gain an eternal sway over human opinion and action, in enlightened nations. For this end, they have ransacked the world of fiction and of fact, written volumes upon volumes, and all who have relied upon mere moral means have utterly failed. But this same despised outcast of Nazareth, without study, without education, and seemingly without design—without even writing a single scroll himself, has acquired, and still retains, an uncontrolled and undiminished sway over the faith, laws, manners, and customs of the only civilized nations on the globe. Here is a fact. God calls on us to account for it, as rational beings.

Again: the light of modern science has overthrown, and, if known, would inevitably sweep away all forms of false religion, as well as all perversions of Christianity, from off the face of the globe, and leave [144] man, with all the instinctive longings of his religious nature, unsatisfied forever. On the contrary, in spite of the assaults of skeptics, each new science tends only to confirm and strengthen the truths of Christianity, insomuch that the great masters in every science, the Bacons, and Newtons, and Lockes, and Cuviers, of every age, have been almost without exception Christians of firm, if not of a devout faith. While the wisest and best of mankind, our Washingtons, and Hancocks, and Hales, and even our invincible Bonapartes, and our skeptical Franklins, declare that Christianity is still, even in this remote age, indispensable to the civil and social well-being of mankind. How, then, alone, of all other mere men, did Jesus Christ, or the twelve fishermen of Galilee, foresee the teachings of science, and anticipate the political and social necessities of remote ages and unborn nations two thousand years after his death?

Again: all who have made an honest, experimental application and trial of the moral truths of Christianity, aver that they find them in all respects to accord with the most secret consciousness of their souls, and adapted to all the laws and exigencies of their being. But how did Jesus Christ alone, of all others know the hearts and moral necessities of men in remote and unborn ages?

Again: whenever or wherever, in all countries, and in all ages, the Bible has been opened, read, understood, believed, and practised, even in a tolerable degree, in any given community, there peace, order, tranquillity, plenty, and freedom have abounded; law and right rule; science shines; intelligence sparkles; hope brightens, and joy abounds. But wherever the Bible [145] has been closed, or cast out, or corrupted, or despised, there ambition, intrigue, rancor, treason, anarchy, and war have stalked abroad; tyranny has there revelled, liberty departed, science faltered, industry slackened, plenty vanished; passion, lust, and crime have become rampant; hope has sickened, and joy fled forever. Let any village in christendom try the former experiment, and they will become a happy and prosperous village in six months from the hour they commence. Let them try the other, and sots and knaves will soon abound, but honest men will starve or fly.

Is the God of providence, then, the God of the Bible? and does he care for it, or does he not? He has given us some few facts to look at as well as “testimonies.”

Again: how happens it that men have been able to add to, or take from, the pretended truths of other religions without individual or public harm, while every corruption of Christianity has uniformly resulted in the most terrific evils to the human race? The Greeks and Romans voted in gods and voted out gods, and all was just as well as before; while a few seemingly slight corruptions of Christianity filled all Europe with blood and terror, through mourning ages of darkness and dismay. Does the God of providence care for Christianity, or does he not care for it?

These are but a few of the manifold facts, which God has thrown across our track, in every age of the world, and by which he compels us to admit, that the God of nature and providence is also the God of the Bible, or else give up our claim to be deemed rational beings.

There are also the standing and peculiar monuments [146] of the Jews and Christians, Circumcision, the Passover, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper; all running up, inevitably, to the same original idea, and more than all these, lucid and miraculous predictions of prophecy. Here our simple duty is to compare the present and past history of the globe with its prophetic history, given two thousand years ago, and make the necessary and inevitable inference from such a comparison.

Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, Judea, Egypt, Edom, Tyre, Ammon, Moab, Philistia, Nineveh, Babylon, &c., are all at this moment so many monuments, reared by Omnipotence, in face of the globe, in every age, to compel them to infer that the Bible is not of man, but of God.

In short, God has in no age failed to keep the world, in all parts of it, filled with facts open to the eyes of all, which are utterly inexplicable on any other ground except on the obvious and simple position that the Bible is the word of God. Admit that, and all is plain. Deny that, and all is riddle, mystery, and miracle, from the stamping of a copper to the desolation of empires.

A full survey of all the absurdities which must ensue from denying that the Bible is the word of God, while attempting to account for facts before our own eyes, and in the world at large, would be necessary, in order to a full exhibition of the evidence of the divine authority of the Scriptures, from necessary and inevitable logical inference from known facts. This our design will not permit. Can any other book advance such claims? Yet so it is: when men undertake to make a new revelation, they construct about us a perfect hedge of riddles, from which we may indeed not easily make our escape. But when God undertakes it, he enstamps [147] the proofs of its authority on all without and within us; so that without it, all else is but a riddle, a perfect maze of utterly inexplicable riddles. The same all-skilful hand that weaves the web of Providence and of Destiny, so interlocks the golden lines of his revealed will, that no mortal hand can sever the two without the simultaneous destruction of both.

Here we find evidence that is worth something; this looks indeed like Divinity. We want no human testimonies, and human probabilities, and human authorities, and human impulses, and human phantasms here. We have the great seal of high Heaven, enstamped, not merely on the record of the original facts, but on all we see, and hear, and know, and feel, in all ages of the world, and through every hour of our lives, from the cradle to the grave. The bank notes of heaven are not so easily counterfeited, after all, as many seem to imagine. It requires something more than somebody’s mere “say so” to make them current. They must be traced with a pen which none but Omnipotence can wield: its eternal lines must run through all ages and encircle all the generations of men so plainly, that all may see for themselves, and that even he that runneth may read. How far forth Joseph Smith’s pretended revelations can endure the scrutiny of these tests, we shall see in the subsequent chapters. [148]



Its claims—Character of Smith—Contrasted with Moses—The sainted twelve of Smith—Testimony of Smith’s three witnesses—Character of Harris by Smith—by his own wife—Character of Cowdery and Whitmer by Smith—by others—Capacity of witnesses—Eye of faith, power of God, &c.—Disinterestedness of witnesses—Testimony of the eight witnesses—Smith’s mode of translation.

HAVING briefly considered the general grounds on which a revelation professing to come from God can be rendered credible, we are now prepared to examine the pretensions of Smith.

The Book of Mormon claims to be the foundation of the whole scheme; and though this claim is unfounded, as we have shown, still we will first consider its credibility and authority.

By referring to the general account already given of the origin and history of this book, the reader will at once see that it does not even pretend to base its claims on either of the two grounds, on which a revelation can be rendered credible, viz, on the personal experience and observation of the individuals whom it addresses; nor, secondly, on the ground of inevitable inference from known and admitted facts.

So far as argument is concerned, we might here consign both the book and its author, without further remarks, to the infamy which, in common with all similar impostures, they really deserve.

But, since Smith’s pretensions, not only to the char-[149] acter of a prophet, but also to that of an honest man, rest primarily on this book, we will, for the common benefit of the credulous and the curious, proceed to examine the only remaining claims which it ever has, or ever can set up. These are four:

1. Claims on the ground of the known character of its author, Joseph Smith.

2. Claims on the ground of the credibility of the witnesses who have endorsed it.

3. Claims on the ground of the Scripture prophecies.

4. Claims on the ground of its own internal excellence.

1. Our first point respects the character and credibility of Joseph Smith, jun., who announces himself, on the title-page of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, as “the AUTHOR and PROPRIETOR;” of that work.

Our first remark is, that we cheerfully admit this claim.

We cannot conceive how any man of common sense could ever have imagined that God, or any other being, except Joe Smith, was either the author or proprietor of such a book. The only difficulty is, to see how God can be responsible for a work of which Joseph Smith is .“Author and Proprietor;” and one ground on which such a claim must be sustained, is the admitted excellence and trustworthiness of Joseph Smith’s moral character.

We admit that a man may have great faults, and still be not only worthy of credit, but an accredited and appropriate agent of the Most High.

All the ancient worthies, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, were frail and sinful men, [150] like ourselves; still they became the approved and accredited messengers of God.

We admit, also, that God often chooses “the weak things of the world to confound the wise;” and that want of mere worldly talent, acquirement, or genius, is therefore no insuperable objection to the credibility of a prophet of the Lord.

Still, we contend that God never has, and never will, choose a character notoriously weak, silly, profane, and rotten in all its parts, to deliver a new dispensation of his will to man.

What, then, was the NOTORIOUS CHARACTER of Joseph Smith BEFORE, AND AT THE TIME, of the writing of the Book of Mormon?

After the union of Smith and Rigdon, as before related, it became apparent that Smith was about to gain credence and make mischief in communities where he was not known. The citizens of Palmyra and Manchester, where the Smiths formerly resided, then, for the first time, felt it to be their duty to make some effort to expose his real character, that the world might see it as it is.

A large number of the most respectable citizens, who had known Smith from a boy, appeared before the proper tribunals, and gave testimony, upon solemn oath, before God, of what they themselves personally knew of Smith and his family, touching their previous character and conduct.

These affidavits were at the time published in most of the leading journals of the day.

The number of persons, whose several testimonies have fallen into the hands of the author, is above ninety; mostly men of known character and respectability [p. 151] where they reside. Their affidavits and testimonies, if given at length, would occupy at least fifty pages of the present volume. To republish the whole would be useless. We shall therefore select a few, from among the most concise and explicit.

The first is signed by about fifty gentlemen in Palmyra, of the highest respectability, of almost all professions in life, and equally diverse in their religious sentiments. Lawyers, physicians, clergymen, civil magistrates, farmers, mechanics, Episcopalians, Quakers, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, elders, deacons, &c., &c., all are represented upon the list of names. Here, surely, is no confederacy of interest.

Their testimony is as follows. . . . [152] . . .

. . .

We have given only brief extracts from the affidavits of a small part of the original witnesses. To swell our volume with a full rehearsal of all the tedious and disgusting detail of facts, which they adduce to prove and illustrate the consummate knavery of the prophet, and his family, would be indeed a thankless task.

The above will answer as specimens of the depositions of some hundred respectable witnesses, both as [158] regards their opinion of the character of Smith, and the facts on which that opinion is founded. No attempt has ever been made by the Mormons to impeach the credibility of any of these witnesses, nor could such an attempt be made with success. They can declaim long and loud, and call all this persecution, and impiously compare it to the persecutions of Christ, whose moral excellence even deists have been compelled to admire; but they can bring no opposing facts from any source whatever. They can ASSERT that Smith’s character was good, but they cannot find a man to admit it, who knew him, except those leagued with him in his detestable scheme of fraud.

So far, then, as the bare testimony of Smith is concerned, the case stands thus—We may either believe in the testimony of some ninety or a hundred individuals, of unimpeachable veracity, given under solemn oath, and all corroborating one another, or we may believe the absurd and contradictory statements of one interested and notorious liar, respecting a matter before unheard of, and utterly incredible on any amount whatever of mere human testimony.

But, if the evidence of these witnesses is to be taken, either in whole or in part, what becomes of Smith and his pretended revelation?

Here is the singular phenomenon of a new revelation, claiming credence, fundamentally, on the ground of mere human testimony; but the moment we admit the credibility of human testimony, even on the ordinary rules of a civil court, both the book and its author are prostrated at once, and their character and credibility destroyed forever.

In one dispensation of faith, God chose Moses, a man [159] skilled in all the wisdom of Egypt, not faultless, indeed, but at least respectable, even in the judgment of his enemies. In the second dispensation, he chose his own Son, in whom even the heathen Pilate could find no fault.

Now, in a third dispensation, if Mormonism were of God, “the crowning glory” of the whole, as we are impudently told, would he have chosen Joe Smith, the money-digger? If so, he would not only have chosen a weak instrument, but the choice itself would have been preposterous, had he expected any man of common sense to believe on him. True, Moses, David, the prophets, and apostles, were all faulty, all weak and imperfect beings, like other men; but the character of Joe Smith is not merely faulty, it is utterly void and rotten; and so entirely unworthy, as to make it more credible that the whole human race should lie than that the all-wise and benevolent God should challenge the faith, and stake the eternal well-being of his dependent creatures on the labors of one so heartless and utterly unworthy of credit of Joe Smith is proved to have been from his youth up. Yet this “crowning dispensation of the fulness of the gospel” is impudently promulgated on the bare dictum of Joe Smith! It is compared to that gospel which came “with signs and wonders on earth beneath, and in heaven above,” through him “who spake as never man spake”! But it is incredible that he, in whom Pilate could find no fault—he who once miraculously appropriated to his use the virtue, energy, courage, wisdom, and skill of a Paul to consummate his designs—it is incredible that he, in these last days, has made choice of an instrument so vile and disreputable. To suppose it possible would be to degrade the character of God, and bring reproach upon [160] his cause. But it is not so. It awakens in our minds feelings of painful incongruity to admit such an absurdity, though it be only for the sake of argument.

Even Smith himself is conscious that he is worthy of no credit, as his conduct plainly shows. He well knew, from the beginning of his present movements, that nobody either would or could believe a word he should say. Hence he resorted to the despicable subterfuge of getting others equally infamous to testify and endorse his absurd pretensions.

According to Smith’s account of this pretended revelation, God first sets one Mormon* to hide away the records of an extinct people, in the earth, lest he should forget their history, and he keeps them buried for fourteen hundred years. Then he commissions an angel to disclose the mighty treasure to a money-digger, and orders him to translate the record, as the words are revealed to him through two pellucid stones. In the midst of the process, the devil steals a part of the translation of this precious and indispensable history, preserved through centuries with so much care, and the Almighty, it would seem, could neither recall the events, nor again translate the plates, nor force the devil to give up the first, the stolen translation!† Finally, however, with much ado, after three years’ toil to induce the Lord to instruct Joe Smith how to read in the stones, and in preparing Harris and Cowdery to write, the wonderful history comes forth to the world—all except that part which the devil stole—and Joe Smith, Jr., is of course ready to swear to its divine authority. But will the world believe him? Doubtful. God, therefore, [161] next commands him to get Martin Harris, his scribe, a fit tool for such an enterprise, to come forward and “bear witness.” Then comes Oliver Cowdery, the other scribe, and he testifies. Then the whole family of Smiths, the old man and all, come on to the stand, and they testify; and, finally, the family of Whitmers, “fit body to fit head,” bring up the rear to this valiant squadron of martyrs. And now, wonderful to tell! “Infandum O Regina!” here are the sainted twelve! counting the bellwether of this hopeful flock, (the present general at Nauvoo,) they amount to the precise number of the ancient apostles! Nothing more is wanted but to promulgate the lie and stick to it. They have done so, and found followers.

But when or where did God ever before resort to the miserable expedient of attempting to prove the testimony of one depraved being by that of another just as depraved? What should we have thought of Paul, if he had got Peter, and John, and James, and others to endorse his epistles for him, certifying that they were true? Why that single fact would have been sufficient to have overthrown the entire credibility of the whole of them. We might still have said that the sentiments in them are true and good, but we never could have believed that a man, conscious of a commission from the Most High, could have resorted to such a contemptible expedient. Much


See B. M. p. 529. †See B. C. p. 168, 156; and B. M. pref. to the first edition. less can we believe that God himself would authorize and countenance such a measure, as Smith pretends he did in this case.*

What! God, the omnipotent and the wise, with such a black and dismal scroll, as this world’s religious history presents, distinctly before his view—God, who did not [162] require us to take even his beloved Son at his word—would he challenge the confidence and faith of his creatures, in the concerns of the immortal soul, on the mere ground of the testimony of twelve depraved human beings? Satan himself would blush to do it, were it not that he is the father of lies, and the father of all such pretended revelations.

Again: it would be more rational to believe that the whole human race had perjured themselves, instead of a dozen indolent sots, than to believe such an absurdity as this is, on the very face of it, even admitting the witnesses to be the purest men on earth.

But we are willing, in this case, to waive all considerations of this sort, and admit that the story is not, on the face of it, absurd, and that a revelation could be made credible in this way, provided the witnesses were trustworthy. On this ground alone, then, let us examine the testimony of the endorsers of the Mormon prophet.

To render their testimony more imposing, these twelve witnesses are marshalled before us in squadrons. First comes the name of the valorous General, on the title-page, as “author and proprietor” of the marvel. Then, at a proper distance in the rear, quite on the last leaf, comes the platoon of three: Oliver Cowdery, as sergeant, leads the way; David Whitmer follows; and Martin Harris, as corporal, brings up the rear; all of whom have since abandoned the society! So it would seem that Smith’s divinity was almost as unlucky in choosing his select platoon of witnesses, as he was in choosing his translator; or, rather, his “author and proprietor.” Next comes the formidable battalion of eight, “who have seen, and hefted, and know [163] of a surety.” Of these, three, viz, Christian and Peter Whitmer, and Joseph Smith, sen., have since died, and all the rest, except the two Smiths, brothers of the prophet, have apostatized—at least, they have abandoned Joe Smith—viz, Jacob Whitmer, John Whitmer, and their brother-in-law, Hiram Page. This looks rather squally; but, however, there is nothing like faith; let us go on. And first, let us hear the apostate three, of the first squadron.* [164] . . .

… The reader is requested to notice particularly the words in Italics. One would indeed think, that if honest men had heard and seen such marvels, they ought, at least, themselves to have believed it through life, and lived accordingly, as the apostles did. But we will examine their credibility on other grounds than the fact of their apostacy.

The credibility of a witness depends on four things mainly: 1. His character. 2. His capacity. 3. His disinterestedness. 4. His explicitness. We will examine these several witnesses on these several points, in order.

1. And first, as regards the character of Martin Harris, we have the inspired testimony of Joseph Smith, the prophet.

In the Elders’ Journal, published at “Far West,’ Mo., August, 1838, and edited by the prophet himself, on the fifty-ninth page, the reader will find the follow-[165] ing explicit and elegant testimony of the prophet to the character of Harris:

“Granny Parish had a few others who acted as lacqueys, such as Martin Harris, &c.—— but they are so far beneath contempt, that a notice of them would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make. While they were held under the restraints of the (Mormon) church, they had


See B. C. page 171.


See B. M., p. 588.

to behave with some degree of propriety. But no sooner were they excluded from the fellowship of the church, than they gave loose to all kind of abominations, swearing, lying, cheating, swindling, with every species of DEBAUCHERY.”

So says the prophet himself; and in two respects this extract differs widely from his other inspired productions. It is both more explicit and more credible, on the face of it. The prophet seems here to be animated with something like a consciousness that he is, for once, telling the truth. We will not insult our readers, however, so much as to allow him to testify even against himself, without corroborating proof. The saints, doubtless, will believe him; but nobody else can, even when he speaks the truth.

We refer the reader, therefore, to the testimony of the citizens of Palmyra, given on page 152, who were well acquainted with all these eleven witnesses, as well as the three before us.

G. W. Stodard and Richard Ford also testify to the same facts with the other citizens, and add, that “Harris was quarrelsome, not only in the neighborhood, but in his family. He was known frequently to abuse his wife by whipping her, kicking her out of bed, and turning her out of doors, &c. He was first a Quaker, then a Universalist, then a Restorationer, then a Baptist, then [166] a Presbyterian, and then a Mormon; but never commanded the respect of his neighbors.”

His abused wife has also given her testimony. We will hear it at length. . . . [167/168] . . .

. . . In addition to the above, it may be stated, that Harris visited this same forsaken and broken-hearted wife during her last illness; and when near her end, as he was sitting and carelessly writing by her side, she anxiously asked him what he was writing? Reader, can you imagine the prompt reply? He said, “I am writing a letter to the girl I intend to marry after you are dead!” And he actually married in about two weeks!! This is Mormonism! and here is the scribe and chief [169] witness! We can now believe the prophet, when he accuses Harris, his compeer, of all sorts of debaucheries.

As regards the character of the two remaining witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, we would also refer to an inspired article, published in the “Times and Seasons,” at Nauvoo, Illinois, (Vol. I., pages 81, 83, and 84,) over the name of the prophet himself.

The prophet there informs us, that certain persons, among whom are the names of Cowdery and Whitmer, “were busy in stirring up strife and turmoil among the brethren” in Mo., in 1838, and “that they were studiously engaged in circulating false and slanderous reports against the saints.” On page 83, speaking of Whitmer, this inspired “Prophet of the Lord” himself exclaims, “Poor ass! whoever lives, will see him and his rider ( W. W. Phelps, another Mormon leader) perish like those who perished in the gainsaying of Core, unless they repent.” On page 84, speaking of the same witnesses, the prophet again exclaims, “Are they not murderers at heart? Are not their consciences seared with a hot iron?”

Query. Was this the first time these saints were engaged in circulating falsehood? Was this their first folly? No. The world saw both their knavery and their “long ears” long before the inspired prophet revealed them. But, whether they are really “asses” and “murderers,” as the prophet pretends, or not, there can be no doubt that “their consciences long ago were seared as with a hot iron.”

The prophet and his friends improve every year in the quality of their revelations to the world; they are becoming hourly more explicit and rational. If [170] the ungodly “gentiles” will only let them alone, they will not only tell the truth, by and by, but the WHOLE TRUTH.

But Smith has not yet acquired sufficient credit to be believed, even when he testifies against himself and his cause. If he should affirm that he himself is a knave, that declaration alone would create the only rational doubt we can entertain that he is one. We cannot believe that his witnesses are as bad as he represents them to be, merely because he affirms it; although, before he affirmed it, there could be no doubt of it. We quote him, therefore, only for the edification of the “saints,” and endeavor to remove the doubts which his testimony ought to create in other minds by proof from other sources.

David Stafford, of Manchester, N. Y., closes his testimony before Judge Smith in the following words: . . .

As regards Whitmer, we leave him to his subsequent apostacy and the tender mercies of his prophet.

In respect to these three witnesses, then, the only difficulty seems to be this: We cannot clearly see how “profane swearers, cheats, liars, swindlers, slanderers, murderers, debauchees, and asses,” by inspired testi-[171] mony in 1838, should have been “men of most unimpeachable veracity, as the Mormons tell us they were, when they endorsed Smith’s revelations in 1830.

We need the stone spectacles here. True, Judas fell from among the disciples, but we apprehend that, if the credibility of the Gospel rested either solely or mainly on the testimony of Judas, few, except the Mormons and others gifted with extraordinary powers of faith, could believe it. We believe Christ and his apostles partly on the ground of their intrinsic moral excellence, admitted even by their enemies. We reject Joe Smith and his comrades on the ground of their inherent infamy, admitted both by themselves and their dearest friends. This is the precise analogy between Mormonism and the Gospel of which the saints talk so much. So much for the character of the three witnesses, taking the testimony of the prophet and that of the abused and broken-hearted wife of the infamous Harris to corroborate him.

2. As regards the capacity of the witnesses, the reader is referred to a revelation given, June, 1829, through Joseph Smith, to these three identical witnesses the year before they appended their names to the Book of Mormon, which we will transcribe.

“Revelation to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, given through Joseph Smith, June, 1829, previous to their viewing the plates containing the Book of Mormon.”

1. “Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word; which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breast-plate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared, upon [172] the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors, which were given to Lehi in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea; and it is by your faith you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.”

2. “And after you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them by the power of God; and this you shall do, that my servant Joseph Smith, jun., may not be destroyed, that I may bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men in this work. And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, jun., has seen them; for it is by my power he hath seen them, and it is because he had faith. And HE HAS TRANSLATED THE BOOK, even that part which I have commanded him, and AS YOUR LORD AND YOUR GOD LIVETH, IT IS TRUE.”

3. “Wherefore you HAVE received the same power, and the same faith, and the same gift, like unto him. And if you do these last commandments of mine, which I have given you, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; for my grace is sufficient for you; and you shall be lifted up in the last day. And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it unto you, that I might bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men. Amen.”

A revelation given to Martin Harris, by Smith,* March, 1829, also contains the identical words paraded forth to the world in the testimony of the three witnesses.

Verse 5. “And then shall he (Harris) say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the [173] things which the Lord hath shown to Joseph Smith, jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God, and not of man, and these are the words he shall say,” &c. The voice of the Lord then, it seems, which informed the witnesses that Smith had translated the plates, and caused them to know of a surety that they are true, and commanded them to bear record of it, in 1830, in the Book of Mormon—this same voice came to them through the mouth of the Lord’s prophet, Smith, in March and June preceding, that is, in 1829.

They are told in this revelation that they should obtain a view of the plates, or see them, not with their natural eyes, but with those spiritual eyes of faith with which the Mormons see so many marvels, viz, by the “eye of faith, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.”

This accords with the admissions of Martin Harris, who expressly stated that he did not see the plates with his natural eyes, but with “the eye of faith.”

Here, then, is the “mighty power of God, the angel, and voice of the Lord,” which revealed such marvels in 1830, all concentrated in the person, and pouring from the mouth of the Lord’s prophet in 1829.

Was there ever impudence and stupidity like this? Why did the dunce publish that revelation to the world, especially since he has retained in his own hands, to this day, hundreds of others equally inspired? Was it for the express purpose of disclosing his own impudence and knavery? Or was it (as he himself once remarked to Peter Ingersoll) to see what the “d——d fools would believe.”* [174]

But after all, these witnesses of inspiration did not testify to one half that Smith’s divinity commanded them to declare. They were so absorbed in their visions and golden dreams about the plates, that they forgot to testify, as commanded, of the “breast-plate,” the “sword of Laban,” the “Urim and Thummim,” the miraculous “directors,” &c. &c. Perhaps this negligence was the reason that the said divinity gave them all over to subsequent unbelief and hardness of heart, to work all kind of abominations, and be “guilty of all manner of debaucheries,” as the prophet assures us is the fact.

Their CAPACITY as witnesses, then, to say nothing of their honesty, amounts simply to this—Joe Smith puts the words of the Lord into their mouths, in 1829, and they repeat a part of the same to the world in 1830. Surely, if the prophet, in his pious rebuke of his witnesses, had only thought to have referred to this transaction, he might not only have called them “knaves and asses,” but proved them such. Doubtless he thought the world would take his inspired testimony to the fact, without logical proof; we only supply the proof, without questioning the fact.

3. The DISINTERESTEDNESS of these witnesses is apparent from the fact that Harris expended the fortune which he had before possessed in transcribing and publishing the book,* in hope of a greater fortune, as his wife testified afterward. But, as the prophet did not see fit to redeem his pledge in this respect, Harris left the church in disgust and despair; that is, so far forth as such a creature could be either disgusted or despondent. We do not intend by this to deny that


Page 160, B. C.


See affidavit of Ingersoll before Judge Baldwin, of Wayne co., N. Y.


See B. C. 176. the usual [175] anathemas against dissenters followed him, so as to make his apostacy seem to the world a matter of discipline.

Cowdery was also Smith’s scribe, after the devil stole a part of the transcript, through the negligence of Martin; and inspired with the same hopes, he ran the same rig, and came to the same end, with Harris. As to Whitmer, we commend him again to the tender mercy of his prophet and friends at Nauvoo. Their inspired testimony proves much more in regard to each of these witnesses than our cause demands; the surplus we leave for the edification of the saints.

The explicitness of their testimony is equally apparent. They give neither dates, place, time, nor circumstances of any kind whatever. Whether the angel appeared to them by night or by day, while asleep or awake, in this century or the last; (for all Mormons claim to have existed from eternity;) whether in the fields or in a temple, in a pig-sty or a brothel, does not appear; though from Harris’ known character, we might presume the latter. At all events, it was where Joe Smith was in 1829, when he received the revelations given above. By looking at the pretended revelations, given while the work was preparing for the press, it will amuse the reader to notice by what artifices Smith’s divinity courted up his witnesses, from time to time, to induce them to hold on and complete the work. Probably the next time he attempts to select aids and witnesses he will endeavor to make a better choice.

True, if Peter, Paul, and John, had all apostatized, it would not necessarily have ruined, though it might have seriously impaired the credibility of the New Testament; for it does not rest, either in whole or in part, on their naked testimony. Smith’s book, on the contrary, [176] is avowedly based on this rotten foundation, and necessarily falls with it; or rather, it fell in the very act of attempting to rear and plant it on such a foundation.

The sublime testimony of the second phalanx of eight witnesses is as follows: . . .

By turning to the same revelation, quoted above, the reader will again see how this second platoon of wit-[177 ] nesses “hefted,” and “knew of a surety,” that the said Smith had the plates “of which hath been spoken.” It is Joe Smith, thought, style, and all, from a to izzard. And what does it all prove? First, that Joe Smith is author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon, as all the world knows. Second, that they saw and “hefted” some plates shown them by Smith.

What if they did? How did they know what or how many plates Smith had translated, when by their own confession, they could not read a word on any of them? JOE SMITH TOLD THEM SO. And this is all their testimony amounts to, on the face of it, by their own showing. We are not only willing, but anxious to admit that Smith did show some plates, of some sort; and that they actually testify to the truth, so far as they were capable of knowing it, we are not only willing, but anxious to admit, in order to keep up a just and charitable equilibrium between the knaves and fools, in Mormonism and the world at large. Three to eight is at once a happy and reasonable proportion. We will not disturb it. It is gratifying to human philanthropy to be able to account for all the facts in the case by this charitable solution.

Three of these witnesses, we are boastingly told, died in the faith; and we should naturally have expected that any man who could have been induced to set his name to such a silly paper as that is, would have died in almost any faith. The only thing that looks strange about it is, that all the rest, except the brothers of the prophet, have had sense enough to apostatize and leave the church, (with proper discipline, of course.) Perhaps it is well for the world, and well for these three, that they did not live to go the same way with all the rest, and fall with Harris into “all manner of abominations.” [178]

The whole, then, of this mighty array of bombast, nonsense, and blasphemy, resolves itself into this:

Joe Smith is not only AUTHOR and PROPRIETOR of the Book of Mormon, as both he and his witnesses declare, but he is also “power of god,” “angel,” “voice,” “faith,” “eyes,” ears and hands for the witnesses themselves; that is, all the evidence the world has for the Book of Mormon, after all this bluster, is “Joe Smith’s say so.” He says that God instructs him, he instructs the witnesses, and the witnesses instruct the world. Quod erat demonstrandum. David Whitmer reported that the angel, which appeared unto him, “was like a man in gray clothes, having his throat cut.” This was probably a prophetic vision, indicating the true desert of the real author.*

Since, then, we are obliged, after all, to take Joe’s word, simply, for his new bible, it may be interesting to the world to know how he was enabled to translate it, out of the Reformed Egyptian, into “patent English.” He has told us that he looked into his stone spectacles, and saw the words pass before his mind. But he informs us more explicitly still, in the famous book of Revelations and Covenants, in which, after all, it must be candidly admitted, that the Lord has clearly revealed some things—at least one, and that is the KNAVERY OF JOE SMITH.

If the reader will turn to the revelation given by Smith to O. Cowdery, in Harmony, Penn., April, 1829, [179] while translating the Gold Bible, (see B. C., 110,) he will perceive that Oliver’s faith had begun to fail. He had got tired of writing the gibberish of Smith, and needed a word of exhortation and encouragement. Smith’s divinity gives him both, of course, and also, to pacify him, grants him the gift to translate, “even as my servant Joseph,” (ver. 11.) At this, it appears that Oliver took courage, put on the spectacles, planted himself, in due order, before the mystic plates, and looked with all his might, but saw nothing. Oliver, of course, becomes more uneasy and intractable than ever. He complains more than before, and with more reason, too.

And now, for a new revelation, of the same date, pat upon the other, which contained the grant of the gift to Oliver to translate.*

We will quote a verse or two of this revelation from Smith’s “unchanging Deity.”† Verse 2, page 162: “Be patient, my son Oliver, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time. Behold, the work you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph. And behold, it is because you did not continue, as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you. Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.” (Undoubtedly!!) Verse 3: “Behold, you have not understood. You have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought, save it was to ask me. But behold, I say unto you, YOU MUST STUDY IT OUT IN YOUR OWN MIND. (!) Then you must ask me if it be right; and [180] if it is right, I will cause that YOUR BOSOM SHALL BURN within you. THEREFORE (!!) you shall FEEL that it is RIGHT. But if it is not right, you shall have no such feelings; but you shall have a STUPOR of thought, that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong. THEREFORE (!!) you cannot write that which is sacred, save it be given you from me.” 2d ed.

Here, in the first place, we see that Smith’s divinity found it expedient “to deviate a little,” and retract the divinity-given gift conferred the same day.


In further elucidation of what Mormons mean by the “power of God,” the reader is referred to B. M. 420, 421; B. C. 102, v. 12–173, v. 5. It will there be seen that this voice and power of God is a small affair, which every enthusiast can have, and see at any time he pleases, especially if Smith is at hand.


B. C., 162.

†See also B. C., 150.

In the second, we have his patent divine prescription for writing things sacred, in detail; and, of course, the method which Smith has followed in translating his bible, and giving his other revelations to the world. He “STUDIED IT OUT IN HIS OWN MIND,” and when he got it right, “his bosom burned,” of course. With this patent recipe before him, we see not why any man might not translate, or give revelations, as well as Smith, unless he was afflicted with that unaccountable stupor of thought, which seems to unfit all other Mormons for the work, except Smith. Perhaps, if brother Cowdery should try his hand at it now, since he has had wit enough to leave the Mormons, he would succeed in raising the needful heat better than before.

Those in other churches, who are in the habit of practising upon the same principle, would do well to commit Smith’s rule to memory, since it accurately describes the process of securing miraculous confirmations of any known or imagined truth. [181]

. . . The next claim which the Mormons set up is, that they can prove the truth of their book from the prophecies of the sacred Scriptures.

We confess we enter with reluctance upon a field which has, in all ages, been the favorite resort of enthusiasts and dreamers; the prolific fountain from which fanaticisms of all shapes have leaped forth, like John’s frogs, out of the mouth of the dragon, to swell and prance for a time, and then retire, and leave the world to gaze at other wonders, equally sublime, equally demonstrable, and equally absurd.

These self-complacent conjurers can all handle the mystic symbols of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and St. John, with the same ease and grace that a well-bred lady does her teapot; and each can divine the coming destiny of the world, from the resplendent bubbles in his own chosen urn of prophecy, with the same facility and certainty as an old woman can predict the next visiter, from the grounds in her cup. [182]

Alternate famines, plagues, wars, and milleniums start up on all sides; the world comes quite up to the day of final retribution, misses it, and starts off again, in quest of new waters of life, and visions of glory, in the mirage ahead. But visions, dates, wonders, and expositors, all retreat as it advances, to make room for a new corps of conjurers.

Doubtless we are now on the eve of great events. All say so, even the inspired General at Nauvoo; and many things, indeed, seem like it. But be this as it may, we are surely under the eaves, and amid the continual droppings of new schemes of theological nonsense. Our credulity is drenched through and through, and what little common sense there ever was in any of us has become so plastic and pliant, that it fits all surfaces equally well. We doubt not that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures will all be both fulfilled and understood, in their own due time.

But, with the immortal Newton, we also believe that God, in giving them, did not design to make men prophets. On this point we differ from Joe Smith and all his coadjutors, however pious or impious, learned or unlearned. But as the General has taken his stand, not only among the humble interpreters of prophecies already fulfilled, but also in the ranks of those who look deep and far ahead in things divine, we must hear him.

The fundamental propositions upon which we are to proceed, as the “saints” assure us, are these.

1. All prophecies which have been heretofore fulfilled have been literally fulfilled; therefore,

2. All which are to come must be literally fulfilled also.• [183]

See Pratt’s Voice of Warning, p. 18.

We will not contest this ground. We will admit, if the Mormons choose, the literal return of the Jews, the literal rebuilding of their temple and city, and the literal reign of the Messiah.

But, after all, we fear there may be some difficulty in deciding what is, and what is not, the literal interpretation of prophecy. Since, for example, according to the “saints’” own showing, trees, and golden heads, iron legs, lions, bears, and brutes with iron teeth, in the prophetic visions which are explained, mean kingdoms and nations, according to the interpretation both of Daniel and the “saints,” we would ask how, in the name of common sense, it happens that the same or similar things may not mean the same or similar things in those prophetic visions which are unexplained. Or are we literally, hereafter, to hear trumpets blowing, see angels flying, vials pouring, dragons crawling, horses prancing, devils fighting, scorpions stinging, pits smoking, frogs leaping, and harlots riding? Are these things to constitute the millenium glory of the “Church of Latter Day Saints?” We confess they look somewhat like it. Or have these things been already literally fulfilled? We know of but one event, in the past history of the world, which much resembles it, and that was in the conflict between Joe Smith and Gov. Boggs, of Missouri.

But perhaps these, and similar wonderful literal displays of prophecy, are reserved for Mount Zion, in Jackson county, Mo. If so, we pardon the announcement, and dismiss our fears for the present.

In this business of interpreting prophecy, the author confesses that he is by no means an equal and suitable champion for his Mormon friends. He will not therefore enter profoundly into the subject, lest he should be [184] worsted in a good cause. The spiritual Goliath, which the sublime sanctity of their faith calls for, should be able to throw himself boldly, and at once, upon the teachings of the Spirit, without at all relying even upon the capacity to read intelligibly the English text, and trust to the Mormon deity, or at least to Joe, and Sidney, and Parley Pratt, to help him out. I confess I have not faith. On their own principles they ought not, therefore, to expect much from me; and the public surely will not want much.

The first point to be made out by the Mormons from Scripture is, that the North American Indians are the descendants of Joseph, as the Book of Mormon asserts.

To this end, they refer to Jacob’s blessing on the seed of Joseph, Genesis xlix. ver. 22—

26. In order to interpret and apply this passage literally, they make Joseph’s bough, “running over the wall,” (verse 22) to mean the progenitors of the American Indians crossing the Atlantic ocean to this country. The Atlantic ocean is therefore the literal wall. Whether it is a plastered wall, or a brick wall, or a stone wall, we are not informed; at all events it is a literal wall. We would respectfully suggest to these interpreters whether it would not do to consider it a mud wall; for the prophet Shakspeare speaks of the “slimy deep;” and when we interpret literally, we must compare all prophets, of the Mormon school, together, and proceed according to the analogy of the faith. This is clear enough then.*

Verse 23. “The archers have sorely grieved him, shot at him, and hated him.” This, they say, was fulfilled when our forefathers fought with the Indians;—with [185] bows and arrows of course, for we must take it literally, and all know that the people of the United States usually fight with bows and arrows. Besides, it is in the past tense; of course our forefathers had already fought the Indians before Jacob pronounced the blessing upon their progenitor, Joseph.*

Verse 24. “But his bow abode in strength, and his hands were made strong by the mighty God of Jacob,” &c. This verse has been literally fulfilling upon the Indians ever since the


See Joshua, xvii, 14, 15.


Compare Genesis, chap. 37, for hatred of his brethren. discovery of the continent, as their immense increase and prosperity shows. Ask Cotton Mather and the U.S. congress whether it is not so.

In the literal interpretation of the 25th verse, the prophet and the Book of Mormon are to come in and play a conspicuous part in the restoration and blessing of the Indians. But, not having the stone spectacles at hand, we are unable to give the exact literal interpretation. We have heard the Mormons do it to admiration; but it requires a man under the immediate guidance of the spirit, that is, the spirit of Smith; but here again our faith fails us. We can assure our readers, however, that the verse is regarded as having undoubtedly a special reference to Joe Smith and the Book of Mormon. We have heard the most gifted Mormon interpreters so expound it.

Verse 26. “The blessing of thy fathers hath prevailed to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills.” “Now, reader,” says Parley Pratt, “stand in Egypt where Jacob stood, and measure to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills, and you will land somewhere in the central part of America.” Bravo! Precisely so. The exact spot, however, in order to be particularly literal, [186] would, no doubt, be found to be Mt. Zion, Jackson county, Mo. But we would respectfully advise the reader, as he brings the sweep of his spiritual compass round near Missouri, to keep a good look out for Gov. Boggs, lest he should jog the moving foot a little, and cause an error in the data. With this precaution the measure will be found accurate.

This inspired exposition also throws light upon several other and kindred passages of Scripture which have perplexed commentators not a little, as Matt. xii. 42, where it is said, the queen of Sheba came from the uttermost parts of the earth; and, Acts i. 8, where the apostles are commanded to be witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth. For, by parallel reasoning, the said queen came from the central parts of America, and the apostles were to preach there too.

This too accounts for the fact, that the North American Indians knew so much about the gospel, before Christ was born, as the book of Smith shows that they did.

Again, Gen. xlviii. 16, “Let the sons of Joseph grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth,” and “Ephraim’s seed shall become a multitude of nations.” Again, says Pratt, “One of the prophets says, in speaking of Ephraim, ‘when the Lord shall roar, the children of Ephraim shall tremble from the west.’” And this prophecy, like all others, is to be fulfilled literally. When it is, what a trembling there must be in Missouri, and in all the west! “Now,” says, Pratt, “put these three things together; first, ‘Ephraim shall grow into a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth;’ second, “Joseph was to be greatly blessed in a large inheritance as far off as America; third, this was to be west from Egypt, or Jerusalem. Therefore, these scriptures must apply to[187] America, because they can apply nowhere else.” This inspired logic reminds one of the boy who said that oranges grew on pine trees; for, if not, where did they grow?

Having thus got the seed of Joseph safely over the “wall,” we are next referred to the 37th chapter, 16th verse, of Ezekiel, where we are told that the stick of Ephraim, or Joseph, means the Book of Mormon,* and the stick of Judah the Bible. Joe Smith is of course the literal Ezekiel, in whose hands they are to be joined. I suppose the Book of Mormon is here literally called a stick because it is the instrument with which Joe Smith belabors the backs of his dupes. But why the Bible should be literally called a stick, or why Joe Smith should be the literal Ezekiel, it is not so easy to divine. Moreover, this said stick of Joseph, the Book of Mormon, was to be found in the hands of Ephraim, that is, in the hands of the North American Indians, from whom Smith professed to have inherited it. But by comparing the first part of chapter 7, of the Book of


B. C., 180. 2.

†B. M., 248 of first and 264 of the second edition.

Alma,† with the title-page, the first page, and the testimony of the witnesses, on the last page of the Book of Mormon, the reader will see that, according to the Book of Mormon itself, there never was a literal descendant of Ephraim on this continent, but that the several tribes were all from Manasseh. Still, we must take it literally. Where, then, are the Ephraimites, or the ten tribes, who are to hold this stick? The Book of Mormon says not a word about the tribe of Ephraim, or any of the ten tribes except that of Manasseh. This was a sad mistake in the prophet: probably the type will need correcting, as regards this genealogy of the Indians, in the next inspired edition of Smith’s book.

Again, this union of sticks, whether we interpret literally, or metaphysically, or grandiloquently, or spiritually, must still refer to a union, not of two sticks, but of two people, viz—the ten tribes, or children of Israel, and the children of Judah, as the 21st and 22d verses plainly show. Where are these ten lost tribes? Does the Book of Mormon tell? Can Smith tell?

Pratt, on this point, exultingly exclaims—Can any one tell whether the Indians of America are of Israel, unless the Lord should reveal it?* Answer—No. Therefore Joe Smith cannot tell, any more than Cock Robin can. But as we are informed, on the same page, that “our very existence depends on an immediate understanding of the important prophecies of the Book of Mormon,” we would beg to have some of these difficulties solved.

Again, we are told that the verse in the 85th Psalm—“Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven”—refers to Smith’s digging the Book of Mormon out of the hill Camorah! On that memorable night, say the “saints,” truth sprung out of the earth. We are disposed to admit, that, on that woful night, so far as Smith and his followers are concerned, truth, and common sense too, sprung away from the earth, and righteousness has looked down, everywhere, and with good reason too. We would gladly encourage her to look upon again.

We have now not only got Israel over the “wall,” but also beyond the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills; and we are content to leave them there, books, sticks, and all, without tracing further either the literal [189] Mormon interpretation of the 29th of Isaiah, or of the other prophecies of the Old Testament.

We will, however, stop one moment to look at the angel spoken of in vi. 7, of Revelation, as flying in the midst of heaven, &c. and who, gentle reader, do you think this angel is, according to the “saints”? Why, we are told that it is the angel who delivered the plates to Joe Smith, on the hill Camorah, New York!* We must remember to take it literally. Smith pretends that the gospel, which the angel had when John saw him, was the Book of Mormon. When Smith saw this angel, he says, he was standing on the hill Camorah, and the book, or gospel, was lying in a stone box, where it had been lying for fourteen hundred years. John, of course, therefore, saw him in his vision, after Smith saw him personally, and after he had got the book, and was flying away with it; and neither John nor Smith pretends that he ever brought it back again. The angel, it seems, flew away with the book, and left Smith to patch up his lying marvels, as best he could, out of whatever old manuscripts he might chance to find, whether Spaulding’s or those of others.

Probably he made the best of his way towards the ten lost tribes, near Symmes’ Hole, where Smith at first told his dupes these tribes had been for centuries, hedged in by mountains of ice, which the fervor of his inspiration was soon to melt, and let them flow down, on rivers of gold, to Mount Zion, in Jackson county, Mo.


Voice of Warning, p. 135.


See B. C., 248.

In one respect, however, it must be confessed that this divine prophecy applies literally to Smith. The angel said that the hour of God’s judgment had come, as, indeed, it has, upon all the dupes of Joe Smith. [190]

If these specimens of inspired literal interpretation of prophecy do not satisfy both the “saints” and the reader, we will give more when we write again on this subject.

4. We will next consider, in brief, the claims of the Book of Mormon on the ground of its own internal excellence.

The “saints” contend that there has been no true church on earth, before their own, for several hundred years. In this we think they are too fast; for we read in the Book of Mormon, page 192, that one Alma went into the fountain of Mormon and baptized both himself and his companions.

Now the “saints” do not positively know, that, in the general darkness of the church, some other pious individual may not have been taught of the Mormon Spirit to do the same thing, and thus to institute a pure church even amidst heathenish darkness. Who baptized Joe Smith before he baptized the rest, in Fayette, N.Y.? Did he also first baptize himself? Or did a good or a bad angel do it for him? For, according to his own showing, there was no man on earth fit to do it.

We read in II. Kings, xvii. 20, “That the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, (the ten tribes,) and delivered them into the hands of the spoiler, until he had cast them out of his sight.”

Verse 18: “There was none left, but the house of Judah only. I. Kings, xii. 20: “There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.”

How, then, came Joe Smith to find out that one of the families of Manasseh were not only spared, but [191] followed, with the peculiar and miraculous care of God, for hundreds of years after?

In Numbers, iii. 10, Deut., xxi. 5, Num., xvi. 19, and chap. xviii., it will be seen that the Lord irrevocably conferred the priesthood on the house of Aaron, slew 250 officiates and above 14,000 of the people, as a memorial that no other tribe should intermiddle therewith. Paul also informs us, Heb., vii. 13, that even Christ could not be a Jewish priest, because he was not of the house of Aaron.

Yet Smith finds the North American Indians, who were, by his own showing, every soul of them of the tribe of Manasseh, not only building temples 5000 miles from Jerusalem, where alone the Jews were to worship, but offering sacrifice, and performing all the functions of the priesthood, acceptably to the Lord, and still exhorting each other to keep the law of Moses.*

Moreover, even God himself is represented as inspiring this Manassite, whom the Bible informs us he had cursed “out of his sight,” guiding him across unknown wastes and trackless floods, and finally miraculously establishing and ratifying his sacrilegious worship in these western wilds.

Here they baptize, found churches, and discuss and decide all the petty theological controversies, which have happened to rage, in the state of New-York, since Joe Smith was born. For obvious reasons, these inspired visions seem to have concentrated solely upon a single age and a single state. They make, also, some very judicious suggestions as regards republican freedom, freemasonry, navigation, shipbuilding, mariners’ compasses, manu- [192] facturing glass, &c.,

&c., and all this, in part before the birth of Christ, and in whole before the close of the fifth


B. M., 146, 208–9. century; while still they did not know either where Christ was born,* or that the Jews were not Christians before his birth.

The prophet may either class the above among the internal evidences of his book, or set them down as proofs of its inspiration, derived from the Scriptures, as he chooses; and when he has satisfactorily settled their location, it will be easy to furnish him with many more proofs of the same kind.

That there is not much important truth in Smith’s book, no one will affirm. The Bible, and the abundant quotations from it, garbled and perverted though they are, have shed a moral light upon its pages, which not even the stupidity, the vulgarity, and sacrilegious profanation of Smith could wholly extinguish.

This often deceives the stupid, the credulous, and the unwary. They pronounce it a very good book, and so, indeed, it would be, so far as its moral teaching is concerned, did it only profess to be what it really is, “a vulgar romance of the lowest order.” But, in that case, it would soon rot on the shelves of the antiquary. Many, on reading it now, say, “It is not so bad as we thought it was;” “it reads much like the Bible!” “How people have misrepresented it!” they do not consider that there is not a single idea in it, excepting such as have been stolen from the Scriptures, which is not either useless, or ridiculous, or absurd.

We will give but one specimen of its originality, and that is the description of Jared’s barges, in the book of Ether, page 542 of the first edition. It must be re- [193] membered, that our prophet had been raised in the interior of New-York, and probably never saw even a correct picture of a ship in his life. When he entered upon the task of describing one, therefore, the attempt was more hazardous than either repeating the substance of Spaulding’s old manuscript, or stealing extracts from the Bible. The reader will judge of his success.

“And it came to pass, that the brother of Jared built barges according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water; and they were built after a manner that they were exceeding tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish. And the bottom thereof was tight, like unto a dish, and the sides thereof was tight, like unto a dish: and the ends thereof were peaked, and the top thereof was tight, like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof was tight, like unto a dish.

“And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: Oh Lord, I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me. And behold, O Lord, there is no light in them, whither we shall steer. And also we shall perish; for in them we cannot breathe save the air which is in them: therefore we shall perish. And the Lord said unto Jared, Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top thereof, and also in the BOTTOM thereof; and when thou shalt suffer for air, thou shalt unstop the hole thereof and receive air. And if it be that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall STOP the hole thereof, that ye may not perish in the flood. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did so, as the Lord had commanded. [194] And he cried again unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have done as thou hast commanded, I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold, there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we should cross this great water in darkness? And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared, What will ye that I should do, that ye may have light in your vessels? for behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces. Neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire; for behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea, for the mountain waves shall dash


B. M., 240. upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth. And behold, I prepare you (?) against these things: for howbeit ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds that have gone forth, and the floods that shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you, that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

“And it came to pass that the brethren of Jared went forth unto a mountain, and did moulten out of a rock sixteen small stones, and they were white and clear, even as transparent as glass. And he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying—‘Oh Lord, touch these stones with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness, that we may have light when we shall cross the sea.’ And it came to pass that the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones, one by one, with his finger, and the brethren of Jared [195] saw the finger of the Lord, and it was the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood”!

It will be observed that these barges or boats were built “according to the instructions of the Lord;” that they were made tight as a dish, bottom, sides, top, door, and all; thought it is as difficult to say how tight the top of a dish is, as it is to say, definitely, how long a tree is, or how peaked the ends were, or what sort of fowl is intended. But, as they were built from definite instructions, we may presume that they were as tight as a teapot, about as long as a “piece of chalk,” as light as a turkey-buzzard, and as peaked as a hay-stack, or thereabouts. This is as near as we can approximate to the exact idea, without the inflatus of direct Mormon inspiration.

It will be seen at once, that in barges intended to traverse the Atlantic ocean, a hole in the bottom would be indispensable, in order to furnish the crew with seawater to drink; and a hole in the top would be equally necessary for fresh air, especially when these sea-fowl barges should choose to dive, and sail under water for a while. Hence, the plugs for the holes would be equally necessary after they had “squenched” their thirst, as the prophet would say.

The only wonder is, that the Mormon deity did not think of these things, and of the ten stones “moulten” out of a rock, before Jared’s brother suggested them; but, in building so many great barges, how could he think of every thing? Perhaps, too, the devil had just been plaguing him about the hundred a sixteen pages. And here we will give the story of these pages at length, as one of the internal evidences of the divine authority of the book. [196]

In the summer of 1828, while Harris was writing Smith’s translation for him, he took one hundred and sixteen pages, which he had finished, put them in a drawer, and locked it, but forgot to lock the drawer above. Mrs. Harris, his wife, taking advantage of the oversight, slipped out the top drawer, and took away the manuscript. Harris demanded it. She refused to give it up. He beat her, as we have seen in her affidavit, but she still persisted. She properly told him that, if God had translated it once, he could do it again; and her friends encouraged her to keep the first copy to compare with the second. Here was a dilemma. Seemingly, either to write or not to write again, was ruin, for they had already announced that they had written the history of the origin of the Nephites, or American aborigines. The guiding divinity of Smith, whom he calls the Lord, wanted, it seems, some time to think of it. Accordingly, in July, 1828, he gives Smith a revelation,* in which, after rebuking him for his negligence, and intimating that his work was ended for the present he kindly informs him that after due repentance he shall be called again to the work. From July, 1828, to May, 1829, it seems that this Lord had sufficient time to consider,


B. C. 156.

†B. C. 163. and Smith to repent, and, accordingly, at that time Smith had another revelation,† in which his divinity attempted to conceal, as well as he could, the awkwardness of Smith’s position; and after uttering now a word of consolation, now a threat, and now a bluster, he at last, with much swaggering, comes to the point, grapples in with Satan, and explicitly charges him with stealing the hundred and sixteen [197] pages. But, as Satan was not there to deny it, nor Mrs. Harris to own it, he most manfully addresses himself at once to the task of outwitting the devil; since, after ten months’ trial, he could neither flatter nor force him to give up the record which he had preserved, with such miraculous care, through fourteen hundred years, and, on which, we are assured, the salvation of the world depended. But these ten months’ reflection not only prepared him for the valorous enterprise before him, but most fortunately, in the mean time, he discovered that he had also another set of plates, called plates of Nephi, which though different, were just as good, and even better than the plates of Lehi. “Now,” says he, “the devil has got a part of the record from the plates of Lehi, and we can’t get it again; but we will outwit him, Jose, for I have got some more just as good, and better too.”

I have heard many Mormons say that there were wonderful things in the Book of Mormon. I agree with them. I think this the most wonderful instance of a deity’s outwitting the devil anywhere on record. The Mormons surely ought to return their sincere thanks to his satanic majesty, for, by Smith’s own showing, they have got a much better revelation, one which “throws much greater views upon the gospel,”* than they would have had if he had not kindly, though mischievously, interposed; for Smith’s divinity himself acknowledges, in the last revelation, after taking ten months to reflect upon it, that it is indeed wisdom to translate the other plates. I wonder if the devil borrowed the Lord’s barges to carry off the record with? It seems both [198] rational and probable, for, in that case, their wonderful power of diving would render the recovery of the record quite impossible. And yet, (if the reader will believe it,) Smith not only had the impudence to publish these revelations at length to the world in the Book of Covenants, but he also attached an abstract of them, as a preface, to the first edition of the Book of Mormon! He threw out this absurd nonsense on the very first page of his book! Surely he must have desired, as he is once reported to have said, “to see what the d——d fools would believe.”

This, however, was a little too much even for Mormons; and, in the second inspired edition of the Book of Mormon, Smith’s divinity deemed it prudent to reckon this whole preface among the “typographical errors of the first edition,” and accordingly threw it out altogether. But it is retained, with some few modifications, in the second edition of the Book of Commandments, for the edification of the “saints.” With this plain, matter-of-fact exposition, I should hope, were not hope in such a case utterly in vain, that they too may be illuminated by its truth.

After all, Smith, according to his own showing, disobeyed the express command of God, and gave his whole history to the world from the plates of Nephi, instead of only that part which had been stolen, as the Lord commanded him. This may be seen by comparing the preface of the first edition, or B. C. 163, with the testimony of the eight and title-page of the book of Mormon.*

In a revelation, given March, 1829,† Smith is com- [199] manded to bring forth his book, under the testimony of three witnesses, and no more.

But when these three chosen witnesses had become so notoriously infamous, that it was rendered expedient to seek for eight more, it seems that the passages on pages 86, 110, &c., in the Book of Mormon, were interpolated to make room for the valorous eight, while the above


B. C. 165.


See also B. M. 464, 532, 151, &c. †B. C. 159: also B. M. 548. passages were overlooked. It will, however, probably all come right in future corrections of “the errors of the press.”

We must remember that, according to Smith’s story, the Lord is responsible not only for the thought, but also for the language, of this new translation. The words of the translation were read off through the stone spectacles.

On page 548, B. M., it is pronounced “a work in the which shall be shown forth the power of God.”

We will give a few specimens of this patent English, showing forth the linguistic power of Smith’s divinity.

“Plates of which hath been spoken” (see testimony, preface, pages 335, ’6, &c.) When the “law had ought to be done away” (p. 106); “knowledge of they which are at Jerusalem;” “concerning they which shall be scattered” (56); “unto they which are of the house of Israel”

(57); “unto all they that believe” (107); “unto all they that are filled with the Spirit; “for because they yieldeth unto the devil” (107); “I had spake many things unto them;” “for a more history part are written upon mine other plates” (69); “I who ye call your king;” “they saith unto the king” (182).

But it is in vain; these things are found on every page of the first edition. No accurate idea can be given of this patent inspired English without reprint- [200] ing the whole book. On page 533, we are told that “if there be faults, they be the faults of man:” this we never doubted.

But, since we are informed that this translation was made through certain stone spectacles, which the Lord has kept from the beginning, for the special purpose of translating and revealing words to mortal eyes,* the profane may wonder at the awkward result.

Not so the devout “saint” of the Mormon school. He knows how the devil pestered and perplexed, Smith’s divinity, through the whole process of translation; and it is reasonable to suppose, that due watchfulness over this mischievous imp had confined this said divinity for several years exclusively to the vicinity of Western New-York. The philosophic mind will readily see that such confinement would necessarily tend to fasten upon his style all the peculiar vulgarisms of Western New-York, to the exclusion of all others.

We are more inclined to this view of the case, because we notice, that after he got the matter finally arranged with the devil, the language, in the second inspired edition, is much improved. After this remarkable divinity had availed himself of some rest, and much leisure to travel with Smith, we not only find the general style of his subsequent revelations much improved, but even New-York vulgarisms give place to those of a more Western origin.

Some have attributed these gradual improvements, in more recent editions and revelations, to extensive practice on the part of Smith, and the correcting hand of Rigdon.

We discard the profane suggestion. Others com-[201] plain that the entire style of some twenty different writers, of as many different ages, is one and the same thing form beginning to end—testimony of the witnesses, preface, title-page, and all—while the styles of no other two writers on earth, sacred or profane, are alike, but exhibit totally different characteristics.

This, however, is readily accounted for upon the doctrine of the three unities, as every scholar knows. We are told that this is a “perfect gospel,” and we know that every perfect composition should possess perfect unity of thought and style. The prophet’s book adds but one excellence more, and that is a perfect vacuity of both.


B. M., 216.

Here, then, are the three unities—unity of thought, unity of style, and unity of vacuums.

Uniformity of style is indeed an excellence, which it possesses in the highest degree. It is all Joe Smith, from preface to finis, testimonies and all. Joe Smith is sole author and proprietor, as he himself claimed on the title-page of the first edition; and why he should have abandoned that claim, and called himself a mere translator, in the second edition, we cannot divine. Perhaps he had that revelation in mind, which commanded him “to aspire to no other gift, save to translate;” but from which restriction he has been released by the interpolated clauses of the second inspired edition.

From this brief view of the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon, we are happy to inform the public that, in one point at least, we fully agree with the prophet—viz, that Joseph Smith, jr., “President, seer, translator, prophet, apostle, and elder of the church of Latter Day Saints throughout the earth;” “Dealer in town lots, temples, merchandise, bank stock, and prairie[202] lands, retailer of books, stationery, cap, letter, fool, and wrapping paper, and GENERAL OF NAUVOO MILITIA,” is the real, sole author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon, in its present form, as he himself claims, in spite of the injunction to aspire to no other gift, save to translate.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

The reader will find that all these titles are really claimed by the prophet, by consulting the “Book of Covenants,” and the “Times and Seasons.”

But although we admit that Smith is the author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon as it now is, still we feel bound to advert to the original sources of the ideas which are found in that book. And in the first place, in utter mockery and defiance of all chronology, all history, sacred or profane, all order of time, place, or style, and of all common sense too, this book is bespangled from beginning to end not only with thoughts of sacred writers, but with copious verbal extracts from King James’ translation, as well as with an appropriate adjudication of all the New York controversies of the day. The controversies of Europe, and of different portions of the Union, apart from the state of New York, Smith’s guardian genius seems, in a great measure, to have overlooked, either as unworthy of notice, or because his attention for the time was confined to the golden plates, of “which hath been spoken.”

It is also observable that Smith’s inspiring spirit uses very decent language when he confines himself strictly to King James’ translation. In this lies the crowning excellency of the book. In spite of their monstrous perversions, these extracts from sacred writ shine like jewels in a dung hill. Isaiah, the prophets, and apostles, and Joe Smith, side by side, are like a team of alternate [203] lions and polecats. Still this is not a full account of the matter. Although any blunderhead, with the Bible at his side, might have written the book, and the greater the blunderhead the better, still there are some reasons to believe that Smith is not the original author even of the gibberish that constitutes the plot of the comedy. A word therefore upon this point will not be amiss. And first, as regards the origin of the stone spectacles which Smith tells us the Lord keeps for translating revelations, and which he lent to Smith for that purpose, Smith has told us part of the truth; we will tell the whole of it.

In the affidavits already referred to, as given before Frederick King, justice of the peace, Wayne county, N. Y., the following facts are developed: . . . [204] . . .

Such, then, was the origin of these stones, and of Smith’s wonderful gift clairvoyance, translating, and foreseeing the future, &c. &c.

In September, 1823, Smith says the angel first appeared to him, and soon after he went to work for a man by the name of Stowell, in Chenango county, N. Y., who employed him to dig for money near Harmony, Penn. In November, 1825, Mr. Hale, his father-in-law, states that he first appeared at his house. Of course he had already been in and about that region two years, or thereabouts. In the fall of 1826, we find him again at home, without funds, and devising stories about silver mines in order to get a passage to Harmony, Penn. Of course he had already been in and about that region two years, or thereabouts. In the fall of 1826, we find him again at home, without funds, and devising stories about silver mines in order to get a passage to Harmony; he succeeds, arrives, and marries, as we have seen, and then persuades, his old employer, Stowell, to take a tramp to N. York, and carry Smith and his new bride in quest of bars of gold, where they safely arrive, and leave the old Dutchman to return and hunt his gold at his leisure; and, finally, in the fall of 1827, he goes again to Harmony; Harris makes his appearance there, and the work of translating the new bible goes [205] on. This is the first time his father-in-law ever heard of the golden plates; and it seems to be Smith’s first effort at translating them.

The point to be noticed here is, that, from 1823 to 1827, the precise four years in which Smith and his friends, in all the Mormon journals, either by accident or design, omit all accounts of him, he is passing to and fro from his native place to Chenango county, N. Y., and then to Harmony, Penn., which is near by; he is seemingly out of employ, and resources, and friends; and, by his own confession, employed a part of his time in digging for a cave of silver, by Stowell. He was, therefore, in the society of men not only ready to believe, but on the look-out for wonders and sudden speculations.

Why have neither Smith nor his friends given any history of these four years, between the two miraculous visits of the angel, viz, from Sept. 22, 1823, to Sept. 22, 1827, when he first obtained the plates? Why does Smith pass over this most interesting portion of his life in silence, or speak of it only in vague generalities? The only possible answer is, he dares not give a minute and detailed history of that period, giving places and dates; for if he should, he fears it would lead to his detection. No other reason can be given, though he may patch up something after these suggestions.

We will now advert to the history of the famous Spaulding manuscript, of which so much has been said, and which many suppose forms the plot of this contemptible religious comedy, expanded, revised, and mutilated no doubt as the genius of Smith directed. . . . [206/7/8/9] . . .

. . . These testimonies are confirmed by Messrs. Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, Nahum Howard, of Ohio, Artemas Cunningham, of Geauga county, John N. Millar, of Pennsylvania, former acquaintance of Mr. Spaulding; and by other gentlemen, whose testimony it is not important to quote at length, as well as by the widow and daughter of Mr. Spaulding. The widow is now quite aged, and her daughter was but a mere child during her father’s life, which has tended to render their testimony somewhat indefinite, and the Mormons say, discordant, as perhaps it is natural that it should be, in some of the details, considering the extreme age of the one and youth of the other. This the Mormons have not failed to trumpet abroad, while they have never made a single successful effort to refute the testimony of the witnesses here adduced, and numerous others of equal credibility; indeed they seem reluctant to notice them at all. But from these sources, the following facts can be fully substantiated, viz: Mr. Spaulding wrote a manuscript, while living in Ohio, in the years 1810, ’11, and ’12, which he called the “Manuscript Found.” It was an historical romance of the first settlers of America, endeavoring to show that the American Indians are the lost tribes, the descendants of the Jews, giving an account of their journey from Jerusalem, by land and by sea, until they [210] arrived in America, under the command of Nephi and Lehi; in short, the leading features of the work were so similar to the historical parts of Smith’s book, that numbers recognised it, as soon as they heard it, as being the same story.

In1812, Spaulding left Ohio and went to Pittsburg, where he resided about two years; during which time it has been supposed that he left his manuscript at the printing office of Patterson & Lambdier, and that Sidney Rigdon found it there when he went to Pittsburg to live, in 1822. Of this, however, there is no proof; and I cannot imagine that a man of Rigdon’s talent, power of language, and knowledge of the Bible, ever could have jumbled together such a bundle of absurdities as the Book of Mormon is. No. Whoever got the Spaulding manuscript, Joe Smith, and Joe alone, is sole “author and proprietor” of its offspring, the Book of Mormon. There is not, probably, another man on the globe that could write such a book, except Joe Smith; and he would not have done it, had not some materials been furnished to his hand to suggest the outline of his story.

Whether Rigdon helped him to the manuscript, or aided him in the work, we cannot tell.

It is certain that, from 1822, he was out of business, and professed to be in Pittsburg studying the Scriptures for three years, while Smith was away from home, no one knows precisely where, except that a part of the time he was in Harmony, East Pennsylvania.

During the three years in which Smith was translating his bible, it is also certain that Rigdon was as actively engaged as he could be in building up a church [211] for him in Ohio; whether by intrigue or accident, we will not pretend to say.

But, to resume our narrative of facts: Mr. Spaulding left Pittsburg in 1814, and removed to Amity, Washington co., Penn., where he lived two years, and died in 1816. Whether Mr. Spaulding took his manuscript with him, or whether he left it behind at Lambdier’s office, in Pittsburg, his widow, now Mrs. Davidson, of Monson, Mass., is not positively certain; and the Mormons have asserted that she has told different stories about the matter, which, considering her age and infirmity of memory, is not improbable. After the death of Mr. Spaulding, she, however, removed to Onondaga co., N. Y., in 1817 or ‘18 where she resided about one year. This place is in the vicinity of the Smiths.

At this time she had in her possession a small trunk, containing the writings of her deceased husband, Rev. Mr. Spaulding; but of the number and character of these writings she cannot positively affirm. From this place she went to Hartwick, Otsego co., and other places in that vicinity, on a visiting tour. She married again in Hartwick, in 1820, where she resided until 1832. She then again removed to Massachusetts. During a part of the time, from 1817 to 1820, she left the said trunk at her brother’s house, Mr. Harvy Sabine, at Onondaga Hollow, not very far from the Smiths, as may be seen on the map. After her marriage, in 1820, the trunk was taken to Hartwick, where she left it, in 1823, with Mr. Jerome Clark.

Hartwick is not far from the residence of the famous Stowell, in whose employ Smith dug for money, as he says, in 1823. To this place also he was passing and repassing, for four years afterwards, as we have seen, [212] without ostensible object or business, except, as appears from the testimony of the people of Bainbridge, he was once or twice arrested as a common vagabond, and finally ran away, to escape the sentence of the law. The trunk and manuscripts were, then, in this vicinity from 1820 to 1832, and of course during the four years of Smith’s life, on which he is so silent, as it regards himself. He was, in reality, loitering about these regions, as we learn from other sources.

Mrs. Davidson is not certain that the “Manuscript Found” was in said trunk; nevertheless, it was thought best to examine it; and when examined, instead of a variety of manuscripts, but one single one was found, which purported to be a short unfinished Romance, deriving the origin of the Indians from Rome, by a ship driven to the American coast, while on a voyage to Britain, before the Christian era.

This manuscript was taken and shown to several of the above-named witnesses, who say that Mr. Spaulding, at first, began his romance in this way, and wrote, as it seems, a quire or so of paper to that effect; but finally concluded to give up that plan, go further back, and derive their origin from the Jews, as in the Book of Mormon. The failure of finding this latter manuscript, I think, has been misinterpreted by both the friends and enemies of Smith.

If Mrs. Davidson had a trunk full of manuscripts in Otsego county, who took them all away but one? Why was Smith prowling about there for four years? During that time, both he and his family were telling strange stories about a book, or manuscript, that was to be found, as we shall see in the sequel. Why did he go to Harmony, Penn., to translate his book? If he [213] really succeeded in getting the manuscript from Mrs. Spaulding’s trunk, or if some one did it for him, this accounts for its disappearance, and for all other known facts in the case. That all the writings are missing, and cannot be found, with the exception of this one small romance of the later origin, is a known fact. That Mr. Spaulding wrote another and larger edition of the work, similar in all its leading features to the “more history parts” of the inspired translation of the Book of Mormon, is also certain. That it might have been taken from Pittsburg is possible; but that it was taken from the trunk in Otsego county, and finally fell into the hands of Smith, while in connection with Stowell, is far more probable. That it is gone, and that Smith had both seen and read it before his prophetic mission, is as certain as it is that the Book of Mormon exists.

If we do not admit this, we must believe that all these witnesses to its contents testify falsely, without any possible motive for so doing, while they corroborate and sustain each other in their evidence, without any possibility of collusion, and explain all known facts, even before the facts to be explained had been made public. However, be that as it may, Smith is undoubtedly the “author and proprietor” of the book, as it now stands. There are also facts to show that at first he had no idea of what would come out of the thing, and was, for a long time, beating round the bush, and trying to raise the wind in some way, he knew not precisely how. It will be recollected, that the story given at the outset of this work is the stereotyped edition, which Smith himself gave, after the appearance of the book. [214]

Our space forbids us to quote from the affidavits of the witnesses the numberless and contradictory stories he told about the book, previous to that time. When he first heard of, or saw, this manuscript, is uncertain. His plans, however, assumed something of a definite shape in 1827.

Peter Ingersol testifies that old Smith told him, some time before this, that a book had been found in a hollow tree, in Canada, giving an account of the first settlement of this country, before it was discovered by Columbus. Joe had probably made some trial of his father’s credulity previous to this time. In January, 1827, the old man told Willard Chase a somewhat improved book-story, the substance of which was, that a spirit had appeared to his son Joseph, informing him of a record on golden plates, which he could obtain by repairing to a given place, dressed in black, and riding on a black horse with a switch tail. They fitted him out as directed. He proceeded to the place; found the box containing the plates; saw, upon opening it, the book, and attempted to get it, but was hindered. A toad, in the box, assumes the form of a man, and hits Smith a lick on the head, which knocks him three or four rods, and, finally, he was told by the spirit who wrote the book to come again, one year from that time, with his oldest brother, and he should receive the plates. Before the time arrived, however, the oldest brother died, which the old man said was an “accidental providence.”

These and similar stories were evidently thrown out as bait, to try the credulity of Smith’s father and his money-digging comrades. Joe had probably either got his book, or become sure that he could obtain it, and [215] was only casting about to see what use he could make of it, or whether he could raise the wind in this way. One or two slight circumstances seem to have decided him upon the course which he ultimately pursued. But we will let him tell his own story, as he himself related it to Mr. Peter Ingersol.*

Early in the fall of this same year, 1827, says Smith, “as I was passing across some woods, I found, in a hollow, some beautiful white sand, that had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock, tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On entering the house, I found the family at dinner, and they were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment I happened to think of what I had heard of the ‘golden bible:’ so I very gravely told them it was the golden bible; and; to my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe it.” He added that no man could see it, with the naked eye, and live; still, he offered to take it out and show it to them; but they refused to see it, and left the room, it seems, in some fright. “Now,” says Joe, “I have got the d——d fools fixed, and I will carry out the fun.”

Here he first formed the idea that a golden bible would take well, and he accordingly fixed his plan.

After this, in order to keep up the humbug he applied to Willard Chase to make a box for his bible. But, as Chase would not do it, he made a box of clapboards himself, put the sand into a pillow-case, and then into the box, which he permitted all to see and handle, but not to examine.

Shortly after this, it seems, he determined to go to Pennsylvania again. As he himself told Ingersol, he went to Palmyra, and being in want [216] of money for the journey, says he, “I there met that d——d fool, Martin Harris, and told him that I had a command from God to ask fifty dollars in money of the first man I met in the street, to assist in the work of the Lord, in translating the golden bible.” “I saw,” said he, “that the thing took his notion, for he promptly gave me the money.”

However, Harris’s statement of this same transaction shows that he did not get the money without having recourse to the basest intrigue and duplicity. But he got it, as all admit.

He talked to Harris about the golden plates of immense value and of the immense wealth that would accrue from the publication of such a new and wonderful work, and finally offered him a share in this sudden influx of wealth, if he would advance a few dollars, in order to bring forth the work. At length, by skilfully working at once upon the credulity, superstition, and avarice of Harris, he got him fairly enlisted. These two incidents seem to have decided the mind of the prophet. The story of the sand enabled him to guage the credulity of his father’s family, and the others who constituted the first church of six, while the grant of the fifty dollars was a sure pledge at once of the credulity and fanaticism of Harris. He saw that, by giving the matter a religious turn, he could probably keep the Smiths and Whitmers under his thumb, pick Harris’s pocket of his ten thousand dollars, more or less, and perhaps even turn it to account after that, by the sale of books, or otherwise. At this time it was solely and avowedly a money-making matter, with all who were engaged in it, save the dupes in the play, and even some of them entertained hopes of pecuniary gain, as all the [217] affidavits show. With these prospects ahead, Smith starts off to Pennsylvania again, although it was but a few months since he moved his family from that state, and Harris soon followed. Whether Smith went down there to get the manuscript, or only to translate it more at his leisure, or both of these, it is not certain; but he goes and translates, or pretends to translate, and Harris writes for a time, until the devil begins to bother them, and then Cowdery appears on the stage, and acts as scribe. His first pretended verbal


See oath of P. Ingersol. revelation, that has been made public, was given in Harmony, July, 1828,* after Martin had lost the manuscript of one hundred and sixteen pages. From that time on, revelations seem to have been frequently necessary, both to keep up the courage of the scribes, Harris and Cowdery, and also to prepare the minds of the dupes who were to constitute the first Mormon church in New York.

In these revelations, Smith committed himself upon many points, which he has been obliged to alter in the subsequent editions, showing clearly that he had no idea whereunto the thing would grow. But after his fortunate union with Rigdon, as has been related, his scheme at once expanded, and assumed a form and reach which rendered it indispensable to alter, mutilate, and add to, the first revelations frequently, as occasion required.

It is evident that, as early as 1822, Smith began to dabble with his stone spectacles. Some time previous to June, 1827, he had probably got some idea of the Spaulding manuscript, and was practising his wits upon the old man and others, to see what he could do with [218] it. In August, Smith and his wife went to Pennsylvania, with Peter Ingersol, to bring their goods up to Manchester, to which place they soon returned. Soon after his arrival there, he found the curious sand, succeeded in duping his father’s family, (who, with one Joseph Knight, constituted his future church,) got his fifty dollars (which fixed him in his plan of calling it the “Golden Bible,”) from Harris, applied for his box, and finally made a rough one himself, returned to Pennsylvania to secure the manuscript, and addressed himself to the task of translating it.

He might have had the manuscript before, however, though he told several persons that he had none, and was only hoaxing the “d——d fools;” still, he told as many more that he had got it; and if he had not, we may reasonably conclude he knew where he could get it, on his return to Pennsylvania.

I will here adopt the Mormon mode of arguing on the prophecies, and inquire, If this is not a true account of the whole matter, what is? Let Smith or his friends give us the full and accurate history of his life, during these four years, with names of places, persons, and dates, where, with whom, and in what manner Smith was employed during that whole period, and then, if the public are not satisfied, it will at least remove the suspicion which must necessarily attach to such obvious and ominous silence. Let him show that the story which he now tells was not one made up, piecemeal, after the publication of the book, and that, too, in utter contrariety to scores of stories before told by Smith himself. It might not be amiss, also, for Rigdon to give a more accurate account of his whereabouts, from 1823 to 1830, that the public might the [219] better understand the philosophy of his new theology in Ohio, while Smith was receiving new revelations in New-York. It is certainly curious, that after a three years’ tug in Ohio, at reformation in the church, Pratt stumbles at once upon Smith’s book in New-York. The “four elders” sent on a mission to the Indians stumble, in like manner, upon Rigdon in Ohio, and there they all stumble together upon a whole society—some 1000 persons—all prepared for the new gospel; and so the whole posse, Rigdon and all, at once set to crying, and snivelling, and baptizing into this new, and wonderful, and unheard-of faith of Joe Smith!

These things look curious, certainly; and if they were merely a series of accidents, as perhaps they may have been, surely they were a succession of “accidental providences,” almost as singular as the untimely death of the oldest brother of Joe, whom the Lord first appointed to aid Joe in the procuring the plates, but whom he took, by accident, as the old man said, before the time arrived. Perhaps, however, the devil stole him, as he did the 116 pages of manuscript.


See Book of Cov., 156.

And it may be that all these particular providences, which resulted in the union of Rigdon and Pratt, and the consequent elevation of Joe, with his faith and book, from merited contempt, were, in fact, the devil’s providences; for since, according to Smith’s own showing, he was the means of securing to the Mormons a better revelation than they otherwise would have had, he may have had a hand in fostering the infant church which was its offspring.

The world would like to understand all this a little better than either Rigdon or Pratt have enabled them, as yet, to comprehend it. It may be hard to impeach [220] men’s motives, but it is still harder for any man to believe that men, who can write and speak with as much readiness as Rigdon and Pratt, ever did, or ever could, honestly believe one word of Smith’s stories, or of the budget of lying, nonsensical gibberish, which he has the impudence to call a revelation from God.

The origin of the book is, however, after all, a matter of mere curiosity, of little practical moment. We have the book. It speaks for itself; and whether it was concocted in a sunbeam, or in the mud, it is neither worthy of man nor Deity. It is worthy of only Joe Smith; and if he originated the whole of it, without any foreign aid, we could only say, “Like parent, like child,” and let it go at that.

If he is the author and proprietor, as he says he is, be it so; no one objects; and were it not for proof positive, as it regards its similarity to the Spaulding manuscript, there would be not the least possible necessity of looking beyond the cranium of Joe Smith for the nest in which it was brooded, hatched, and fledged. A greater genius could not have written it as it now is—a lesser one could not have written it worse. Some have intimated that Smith was aided by the devil; but surely not in the composition of the work. We must excuse his Satanic Majesty from all hand in it, save a commendable effort, by stealing away the 116 pages of manuscript, to save his minions from probable disgrace, and his cause on earth from utter contempt and ruin. I doubt not the devil stole it simply from a sense of propriety; but after he was so triumphantly outwitted by Smith’s guardian genius, he took a sudden tack, as he is wont to do, and tried to see how many folks he could make believe it. He has, by the aid of Rigdon [221] and Pratt, succeeded in this to admiration; though he seems to have become somewhat ashamed of this last move, and took again a counter track in 1838, in Missouri. What his next evolution may be, none but the prophet Smith can tell. Even the Mormons, however, have sense enough to see that Smith must, by some means, regain his Mount Zion in Missouri, or that he will prove himself an impostor even to them. Dissenters affirm that this is now the great enterprise before the secret councils of Smith.

[222] . . . [to 300]




IT is my right, it is the right of every American citizen, of every Christian, of every honest man, to arraign and resent the perfidy of your career. Others have chosen to indicate their contempt both of your character and conduct, by silent neglect. I have preferred to address you personally; not with the desire of inflating your vanity, nor in expectation of contributing to your reform. The former is needless; the latter, I fear, hopeless. No, sir; were none but yourself concerned, you might well be left to putrefy, amid the moral pestilence which you have produced. But the misguided dupes of the conjoint machinations of yourself and your comrades, in mercy, demand the pity of mankind. I submit to the ungrateful task of addressing you, only in hope that thus I may the better convey some benefit to them.

I have charitably and industriously sought from your writings, and your history, to find some rational ground for believing that you and your comrades were only a new species of religious maniacs. I have sought in vain. A man, however kindly disposed to think well [300] of you, after a thorough examination of your career, might as well attempt to believe your religion as to regard you in any other light than that of a deliberate, coldblooded, persevering deceiver. I do not pretend that, in the outset, you even anticipated the final result. On the contrary, there is abundant evidence that, at first, your aims rose no higher than those of ordinary vagrants and jugglers. You have not even the poor merit of either talent or originality. Your highest aim has ever been to crawl among the droves of reptile impostors who have preceded you; and, though your ignorance and your utter incapacity have not suffered you to turn aside from their loathsome track, your fortunate union with others of greater ability, who have entered into your secrets, and the lamentable credulity of the times, have enabled you to attain a more signal and desolating success than most of your predecessors.

You complain that others have called you an impostor and a knave. By reading the preceding pages, you will perceive that your recorded history proves you such. You complain, also, of the severity of those whom you have never injured. You mistake. There is not a man on the globe whom you have not injured. Others may have either injured or insulted individuals or nations, but you have at once outraged and disgraced human nature itself. Your creed informs us, that there are those for whom we should not even pray. Are you not, yourself, one of that wretched number? You charge your early associates and witnesses to your book with the most abominable crimes, murder not excepted. Who led them to the commission of those crimes?

Who was their first instigator? Who first corrupted and deceived them, with pretended revela-[301] tions from God? If others doubt, you cannot. Others have been guilty of theft, robbery, arson, murder, &c. We are able to convict and condemn them. Your turpitude differs from theirs, in the fact, that shielding yourself behind the pretended favor of the Deity, you are enabled, as all impostors before you have been, with singular safety and facility, to commit all crimes by a single act.

If you are, or ever have been, persecuted for your opinions, as you absurdly complain, so are they. If you have a right to rob by imposture unmolested, they have a right to do the same by force. If it is persecution to arraign them, it is persecution to do the same to you.

It is not your peculiar opinions, as you well know, but your impious pretensions, which honest and Christian men reject, with loathing and abhorrence. On the contrary, many doubt whether you really have any religious opinions at all. They doubt whether you even believe in the existence of a Supreme Being.

You and your associates are fond of smooth talk, and of what you call, and what, in fact, in other cases, would be kind and gentlemanly discussion. Such kind of language, experience proves, can neither benefit you nor your followers. It only inflates your vanity, and encourages you in your career of infamy. You can have no such language from me. You need the language of justice, of rebuke, and not of compassion; and even those who pity you most, and would labor most for your reform, should at present hold toward you no other language than that which adequately presents both your turpitude and your crimes, if, indeed, language is adequate to the task. [302]

But many of your followers are a pious, honest, industrious, and well-meaning, though awfully deluded people. It is for them I feel compassion. To treat you with even ordinary respect, is to treat them with the most wanton and unfeeling cruelty. They have, with a noble and generous enthusiasm, worthy, indeed, of a better cause, sacrificed, or rather prostituted, their all to you. Abandoning home, faith, country, and friends, they have encountered hardship, famine, pestilence, and death. Their blood has flowed like water; their wives and children have been abused, beaten, massacred, exiled, frozen, and starved, by lawless men, on your account.

You told them it was the cause of God. You knew it was not. While you and your comrades are still fattening in indolence, on the spoils of these outrages, and adding still to their number, do you dare to claim from me, or any other man who knows the facts, the honeyed words of Christian love, or the polished speech of even ordinary civility and kindness? You will not have it. “Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” I doubt not would be the language of the divine and compassionate Saviour of men himself, were he upon earth to address you in your present condition and character.

Think of your hypocrisy, your turpitude, and, if possible, repent and turn from the ruin within and around you. Your followers, many of them, may be deceived. They doubtless are.

You are not. You know better. If, then, you care not for your own salvation, care, at least, for the good of those thousands who have so generously, and still so stupidly, perilled their all for you.

Could it be believed that you are still [303] within the reach of heaven’s grace, good men might be invited to pray for that grace on your behalf. That it may at least reach, and illuminate, and save your deluded followers, is doubtless the sincere prayer of every Christian heart, awake to the ruin which you have accomplished upon them.

To such a desire you may attribute this letter, and the pages which precede it. That it may, with the blessing of God, reclaim some from their adherence to Mormonism, and prevent others from rushing into its senseless and debasing absurdities, is the earnest prayer of the AUTHOR.


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