John A. Clark
Gleanings by the Way (1)
(Phila.: W. J. & J. K. Simmon, 1842)
G L E A N I N G S
B Y T H E W A Y;
BY REV. JOHN A. CLARK, D. D.
Rector of St. Andrew's Church, Philadelphia,
AUTHOR OF "PASTOR'S TESTIMONY," GLIMPSES OF THE OLD WORLD,"
"Let me now go to the field and glean ears of corn."
RUTH, ii. 2.
P H I L A D E L P H I A:
W. J. & J. K. S I M O N.
N E W Y O R K:
R O B E R T C A R T E R.
We are certainly attached to the good old custom of having a preface, although we are aware that many authors who omit this appendage, assign as a reason, that the preface is the only part of a book that is never read. This we think, in many instances, is not exactly true. There are those in the present day, who like to know why a book was written, and what it contains, before they begin
iv P R E F A C E.
to read it. By such knowledge -- and this is precisely the information a preface ought to convey -- they avoid the trouble of reading many a volume, which had the author been of the same mind, he might have escaped the trouble of writing. To this class of readers the preface is an important part of the book: while to those who eschew every thing of this sort, it will give but little trouble, to turn over a leaf or two to the communications of the first chapter.
We did not mean, when we began, to write a defence of prefaces -- but to write a preface to our own work.
The name of this volume, GLEANINGS BY THE WAY indicates the character of the work. It consists principally of thoughts gathered up -- and sketches of scenery, and incidents, that came before the author during excursions made into the country at different periods, within the last four years. For several years the editor has been labouring under infirm health, and has found it necessary after encountering the heavy pastoral duties and labours connected with a large city congregation for nine or ten months in succession, to retire from the scene of his ministerial duties, and seek to recruit his wasted strength and enfeebled health amid the retirement of rural life, or the diversified scenes of travel and journeying. During these seasons of relaxation, the auditor desired still to be engaged in something that might at least indirectly promote the interests of religion. This volume contains some of the things which he at such seasons made a record.
P R E F A C E. v
In a tour of the Far West, made during the summer of 1837 -- and the sketch that depicts the outline of the Mormon Delusion, the author cherishes the hope that facts are brought to light that will interest a large class of readers. And he also cherishes the hope that while these pages may interest the general reader, may beguile the lonely hour -- and attract the attention of some who would not be likely to take up a more serious book -- the tendency of the whole volume will be to advance, at least indirectly, that cause which lies so near to his heart. With this hope -- and not with any expectation of earning increased literary reputation, he sends forth these GLEANINGS BY THE WAY.
[ 7 ]
13 CHAPTER I.
8 C O N T E N T S.
75 CHAPTER VII.
C O N T E N T S. 9
161 CHAPTER XIV.
10 C O N T E N T S.
216 CHAPTER XXII.
C O N T E N T S. 11
323 CHAPTER XXX.
THE sketch that follows, detailing some facts connected with the rise and origin of Mormonism, is made up partly of a series of letters written by the author in 1840 for the columns of the EPISCOPAL RECORDER, a religious periodical published in Philadelphia, of which he is one of the editors, and partly of facts and documents that have since come into his hands.
The present chapter contains the substance of the first letter of the series referred to.
Palmyra, Aug. 24th.I proceed to give some account of the rise and origin of the Mormon delusion, as I am now in the region where the imposture first sprung up. In the town of Manchester, about six miles from this place, may still be
seen an excavation in the side of a hill, from whence, according to the assertion of the Mormon prophet, the metallic plates, sometimes called The Golden Bible, were disinterred, a writer in the New York Evening Express, who has been recently traveling in the West, remarks that "the Mormons have assumed a moral and political importance which is but very imperfectly understood." He then proceeds to add in relation to them that, "associated on the religious principle, under a prophet and leader, whose mysterious and awful claims to divine inspiration make his voice to believers like the voice of God; trained to sacrifice their individuality; to utter one cry; to think and act in crowds; with minds that seem to have been struck front the sphere of reason on one subject; and left to wander like lost stars, amid the dark mazes and winding ways of religious error; these remarkable sectaries must necessarily hold in their hands a fearful balance of political power. In the midst of contending parties, a single hand might turn their influence, with tremendous effect, to which ever side presented the most potent attraction, and should they ever become disposed to exert their influence for evil, which may Heaven prevent, they would surround our institutions with an element of danger, more to be dreaded than an armed and hundred-eyed police." It is not, however, in reference to their political, but to their religious influence that we entertain a degree of apprehension. This sect has been organized only about ten years, and yet they profess to number, in their society, one hundred thousand souls. This undoubtedly is an exaggeration, but it has been stated from a source upon which reliance can be placed, that there are probably not less than sixty thousand persons now professing the Mormon faith. It
is said also that they are putting forth the most indefatigable efforts by itinerant missionaries, both in this country and in Europe, to make proselytes to their creed. These facts show the importance of spreading upon the columns of our religious journals from time to time statements that tend to unveil the trickery and artifice by which this system of imposture was got up and continues to be perpetuated.
There are two or three reasons why the Mormon delusion has spread so rapidly, and which will probably continue to give it more or less currency.
One cause is, that it fully and cordially admits the truth of the sacred Scriptures. Did it discard all previous revelation, -- pour contempt upon the Saviour of the world, and set up an independent claim for a revelation wholly new, it would have gained comparatively few adherents. But recognizing the truth and credibility of the sacred Scriptures, and retaining as it does, many doctrines which are held in common by different denominations of Christians, and conveying its own absurdities with imposing forms and lofty pretensions, it opens a winning asylum for all the disaffected and dissatisfied of other persuasions, and contains much that is congenial to almost every shade of radicalism, or erratic religious character.
Another cause which has contributed to the rapid spread of this imposture, is that it appeals strongly to the love of the marvellous, -- to that thirst and anxiety, so rife with a certain class of mind, to know more than God would have us know, -- to find some discovery that will carry us farther than revelation, -- to get some one to come back from the grave, and tell us what is in eternity, -- to see with our own eyes a miracle, and obtain some new glimpse of the
invisible world. There is manifestly existing in a certain order of men, in every part of the world, and in every period of time, a strong propensity of this sort. What but this propensity would have given such potent and almost irresistible influence to Joan d' Arc, who, from an ostler maid in an obscure country inn in France, by claiming heavenly inspirations, and pretending to see visions, and to hear divine voices calling her to re-establish the throne of France, and to expel the foreign invaders, rose to such surprising eminence and power, as to be the very pivot upon which the destinies of the whole nation turned! -- as to be invested with the military conduct of the French army, -- directing and raising sieges, -- inspiring the troops with invincible courage, and spreading disaster and defeat through all the ranks of the British army, so that the Duke of Bedford, after all the previous success and triumph of the English arms at Verneuil and Orleans, and with all his tact and ability, could scarcely keep any footing in France? What but this deep-rooted propensity could have prepared men to have received the dreams, and reveries, and pretended revelation of Emanuel Swedenborg, or of Ann Lee; or to have yielded up their reason to a belief in the clairvoyance of animal magnetism? And not to multiply instances abroad, what but such a propensity as the one to which we have now referred, attracted the New Jerusalemites around Jemima Wilkinson, and gave her so much power over a large community of men and women? What but this, opened the way for the monstrous claims set up by the execrable Mathias, who drew after him, as by the power of enchantment, and subjected to his dictum, whole families, -- persons of education and refinement, and among the number, several men of intelligence, respectability
and fortune? It is to this same principle, this anxious desire to look deeper into the hidden mysteries of the invisible world, than any mortal has hitherto been privileged to do, that the originators of this "cunningly devised fable" of Mormonism have appealed. While they admit to the truth and credibility of the sacred Scriptures, they profess to have obtained an additional revelation, by which new illumination is shed over every page of the sacred word, -- all controversies settled, and the obscurity that hitherto hung over many religious subjects dispelled. They profess to bring to light a historical and religious record, written in ancient times, by a branch of the house of Israel that peopled America, from whom the Indians are descended. This record, which engraven upon metallic plates, lay deposited in the earth for many centuries, not only corroborates and confirms the truth of holy writ, but also opens the events of Ancient America, as far back at least as the flood. They pretend that this record "pours the light of noon-day upon the history of a nation whose mounds and cities, and fortifications, still repose in grand but melancholy ruins, upon the bosom of the western prairies." The Mormons not only claim this new revelation, but profess to have still among them the gift of prophecy and miracles. They contend that miracles and revelations from heaven, are as necessary now, and as important to the salvation of the present generation, as they were in any former period, and that they alone possess this privilege of immediate and constant intercourse with heaven.
But that which has given vastly the greatest strength to Mormonism is the violent persecution which its disciples have suffered in the West, and especially in Missouri.
Nothing can be more impolitic, or unjust, or farther removed from the spirit of the gospel, than to oppress and persecute any set of men on account of their religious tenets; and certainly nothing can give them more strength or rapid growth than such a procedure.
The Mormons first located themselves, as a body, in Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Some difference arose among their leaders on account of certain banking operations which they attempted, and they separated, and a portion of them went to Independence, Jackson Co., Mo. The people in the neighbourhood of that location became unfriendly to them, and drove them away by force, subjecting them to great sufferings and loss of property. They were at last entirely and forcibly expelled from the state of Missouri. They afterward purchased the town of Commerce, said to be a situation of surpassing beauty, at the head of the lower rapids on the Illinois shore of the Mississippi river. The writer to whom I have already referred, and who has revisited these western Mormons this present summer, remarks: -- "The name of the place where they now reside, they have recently changed to Nauvoo, the Hebrew term for fair or beautiful. Around this place, as their centre, they are daily gathering from almost every quarter: and several hundred new houses, created within the last few months, attest to the passing traveller the energy, industry, and self-denial with which the community is imbued. They have also obtained possession of extensive lands on the opposite side of the river, in that charming portion of Iowa Territory, known as the 'Half Breed Reservation;' and there upon the rolling and fertile prairies they are rapidly selecting their homes and opening their farms. As the traveller now passes through
those natural parks and fields of flowers, which the hand of the Creator seems to have originally planted there for the inspection of his own eye, he beholds their cabins dotted down in the most enchanting perspective, either on the borders of the timber, or beside the springs and streams of living water, which are interspersed on every hand."
The other portion that remain in Ohio, have erected a stone temple in Kirtland, of splendid appearance and singular construction. The first floor is a place of worship, with four pulpits at each end; each pulpit calculated to hold three persons. These pulpits rise behind and above one another, and are designed for different grades of ministers according to their rank in office. These are the two principal settlements of these people, although there are small societies of them found in almost every part of the United States. In some instances not only members but ministers of orthodox churches have been led to leave their own churches, and identify themselves with the Mormons.
It is time that I should acquaint you with some facts that came to my personal knowledge full thirteen years ago, connected with the rise of this imposture.
It was early in the autumn of 1827 that Martin Harris called at my house in Palmyra, one morning about sunrise. His whole appearance indicted more than usual excitement, and he had scarcely passed the threshold of my dwelling, before he inquired whether he could see me alone, remarking that he had a matter to communicate that he wished to be strictly confidential. Previous to this, I had but very slight acquaintance with Mr. Harris. He had occasionally attended divine service in our church. I
had heard him spoken of as a farmer in comfortable circumstances, residing in the country a short distance from the village, and distinguished by certain peculiarities of character. He had been, if I mistake not, at one period, a member of the Methodist Church, and subsequently had identified himself with the Universalists. At this time, however, in his religious views he seemed to be floating upon the sea of uncertainty. He had evidently quite an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, and possessed a manifest disputatious turn of mind. As I subsequently learned, Mr. Harris had always been a firm believer in dreams, and visions, and supernatural appearances, such as apparitions and ghosts, and therefore was a fit subject for such men as Smith and his colleagues to operate upon. On the occasion just referred to, I invited him to accompany me to my study, where, after having closed the door, he began to draw a package out of his pocket with great and manifest caution. Suddenly, however, he stopped, and wished to know if there was any possibility of our being interrupted or overheard? When answered in the negative, he proceeded to remark, that he reposed great confidence in me as a minister of Jesus Christ, and that what he had now to communicate he wished me to regard as strictly confidential. He said he verily believed that an important epoch had arrived -- that a great flood of light was about to burst upon the world, and that the scene of divine manifestation was to be immediately around us. In explanation of what he meant, he then proceeded to remark that a GOLDEN BIBLE had recently been dug from the earth, where it had been deposited for thousands of years, and that this would be found to contain such disclosures as would settle all religious controversies and speedily
bring on the glorious millennium. That this mysterious book, which no human eye of the present generation has yet seen, was in the possession of Joseph Smith, jr., ordinarily known in the neighbourhood under the more familiar designation of Jo Smith; that there had been a revelation made to him by which he had discovered this sacred deposit, and two transparent stones, through which, as a sort of spectacles, he could read the Bible, although the box or ark that contained it, had not yet been opened; and that by looking through those mysterious stones he had transcribed from one of the leaves of this book, the characters which Harris had so carefully wrapped in the package which he was drawing from his pocket. The whole thing appeared to me so ludicrous and puerile, that I could not refrain from telling Mr. Harris, that I believed it a mere hoax got up to practice upon his credulity, or an artifice to extort from him money; for I had already, in the course of the conversation, learned that he had advanced some twenty-five dollars to Jo Smith as a sort of premium for sharing with him in the glories and profits of this new revelation. For at this time, his mind seemed to be quite as intent upon the pecuniary advantage that would arise from the possession of the plates of solid gold of which this book was composed, as upon the spiritual light it would diffuse over the world. My intimations to him, in reference to the possible imposition that was being practiced upon him, however, were indignantly repelled. He then went on to relate the particulars in regard to the discovery and possession of this marvelous book. As far as I can now recollect, the following was an outline of the narrative which he then communicated to me, and subsequently to scores of people in the village, from some of
whom in my late visit to Palmyra, I have been able to recall several particulars that had quite glided from my memory.
Before I proceed to Martin's narrative, however, I would remark in passing, that Jo Smith, who has since been the chief prophet of the Mormons, and was one of the most prominent ostensible actors in the first scenes of this drama, belonged to a very shiftless family near Palmyra. They lived a sort of vagrant life, and were principally known as money-diggers. Jo from a boy appeared dull and utterly destitute of genius; but his father claimed for him a sort of second sight, a power to look into the depths of the earth, and discover where its precious treasures were hid. Consequently long before the idea of a GOLDEN BIBLE entered their minds, in their excursions for money-digging, which I believe usually occurred in the night, that they might conceal from others the knowledge of the place where they struck upon treasures, Jo used to be usually their guide, putting into a hat a peculiar stone he had through which he looked to decide where they should begin to dig.
According to Martin Harris, it was after one of these night excursions, that Jo, while he lay upon his bed, had a remarkable dream. An angel of God seemed to approach him, clad in celestial splendor. This divine messenger assured him that he, Joseph Smith, was chosen of the Lord to be a prophet of the Most High God, and to bring to light hidden things, that would prove of unspeakable benefit to the world. He then disclosed to him the existence of this golden Bible, and the place where it was deposited -- but at the same time told him that he must follow implicitly the divine direction, or he would draw
down upon him the wrath of heaven. This book, which was contained in a chest, or ark, and which consisted of metallic plates covered with characters embossed in gold, he must not presume to look into, under three years. He must first go on a journey into Pennsylvania -- and there among the mountains, he would meet with a very lovely woman, belonging to a highly respectable and pious family, whom he was to take for his wife. As proof that he was sent on this mission by Jehovah, as soon as he saw this designated person, he would be smitten with her beauty, and though he was a stranger to her, and she was far above him in the walks of life, she would at once be willing to marry him and go with him to the ends of the earth. After their marriage he was to return to his former home, and remain quietly there until the birth of his first child. When this child had completed his second year, he might then proceed to the hill beneath which the mysterious chest was deposited, and draw it thence, and publish the truths it contained to the world. Smith awoke from his dream, and according to Harris, started off towards Pennsylvania, not knowing to what point he should go. But the Lord directed him, and gained him favour in the eyes of just such a person as was described to him. He was married and had returned. His first child had been born and was now about six months old. But Jo had not been altogether obedient to the heavenly vision. After his marriage and return from Pennsylvania, he became so awfully impressed with the high destiny that awaited him, that he communicated the secret to his father and family. The money-digging propensity of the old man operated so powerfully, that he insisted upon it that they should go and see if the chest was there --
not with any view to remove it till the appointed time, but merely to satisfy themselves. Accordingly they went forth in the stillness of night with their spades and mattocks to the spot where slumbered this sacred deposit. They had proceeded but a little while in the work of excavation, before the mysterious chest appeared; but lo! instantly it moved and glided along out of their sight. Directed, however, by the clairvoyance of Jo, they again penetrated to the spot where it stood and succeeded in gaining a partial view of its dimensions. But while they were pressing forward to gaze at it, the thunder of the Almighty shook the spot and made the earth to tremble -- a sheet of vivid lightning swept along over the side of the hill, and burnt terribly around the spot where the excavation was going on, and again with a rumbling noise the chest moved off out of their sight. They were all terrified, and fled towards their home. Jo took his course silently along by himself. On his way homeward, being alone, in the woods, the angel of the Lord met him clad in terror and wrath. He spoke in a voice of thunder, and forked lightnings shot through the trees and ran along the ground. The terror which the appearance of the divine messenger awakened, instantly struck Smith to the earth, and he felt his whole frame convulsed with agony, as though he were stamped upon by the iron hoofs of death himself. In language most terrific did the angel upbraid him for his disobedience, and then disappeared. Smith went home trembling and full of terror. Soon, however, his mind became more composed. Another divine communication was made to him, authorizing him to go along by himself and bring the chest and deposit it secretly under the hearth of his dwelling, but by no means to attempt
to look into it. The reason assigned by the angel for this removal, was that some report in relation to the place where this sacred book was deposited had gone forth, and there was danger of its being disturbed. According to Harris, Smith now scrupulously followed the divine directions. He was already in possession of the two transparent stones laid up with the GOLDEN BIBLE, by looking through which he was enabled to read the golden letters on the plates in the box. How he obtained these spectacles without opening the chest, Harris could not tell. But still he had them; and by means of them he could read all the book contained. The book itself was not to be disclosed until Smith's child had reached a certain age. Then it might be published to the world. In the interim, Smith was to prepare the way for the conversion of the world to a new system of faith, by transcribing the characters from the plates and giving translations of the same. This was the substance of Martin Harris' communication to me upon our first interview. He then carefully unfolded a slip of paper, which contained three or four lines of characters, as unlike letters or hieroglyphics of any sort, as well could be produced were one to shut up his eyes and play off the most antic movements with his pen upon paper. The only thing that bore the slightest resemblance to the letter of any language that I had ever seen, was two uprights marked joined by a horizontal line, that might have been taken for the Hebrew character |-|. My ignorance of the characters in which the pretended ancient record was written, was to Martin Harris new proof that Smith's whole account of the divine revelation made to him was entirely to be relied on.
One thing is here to be noticed, that the statements of
the originators of this imposture varied, and were modified from time to time according as their plans became more matured. At first it was a gold Bible -- then golden plates engraved -- then metallic plates stereotyped or embossed with golden letters. At one time Harris was to be enriched by the solid gold of these plates, at another they were to be religiously kept to convince the world of the truth of the revelation -- and, then these plates could not be seen by any but three witnesses whom the Lord should choose. How easy it would be, were there any such plates in existence, to produce them, and to show that Mormonism is not a "cunningly devised fable." How far Harris was duped by this imposture, or how far he entered into it as a matter of speculation, I am unable to say. Several gentlemen in Palmyra, who saw and conversed with him frequently, think he was labouring under a sort of monomania, and that he thoroughly believed all that Jo Smith chose to tell him on this subject. He was so much in earnest on the subject, that he immediately started off with some of the manuscripts that Smith furnished him on a journey to New York and Washington to consult some learned men to ascertain the nature of the language in which this record was engraven. After his return, he came to see me again, and told me that among others he had consulted Professor Anthon,* who thought the characters in which the book was written very remarkable, but he could not decide exactly what language they belonged to. Martin had now become a perfect believer. He said he had no more doubt of Smith's divine commission, than of the divine
* In the following chapter the reader will find an account of this interview.
commission of the apostles. The very fact that Smith was an obscure and illiterate man, showed that he must be acting under divine impulses: -- "God had chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised -- yea, and things that are not to bring to nought -- things that are -- that no flesh should glory in his presence." That he was willing to "take of the spoiling of his goods" to sustain Smith in carrying on this work of the Lord; and that he was determined that the book should be published, though it consumed all his worldly substance. It was in vain I endeavoured to expostulate. I was an unbeliever, and could not see afar off. As for him, he must follow the light which the Lord had given him. Whether at this time Smith had those colleagues that certainly afterwards moved, unseen, the wheels of this machinery, I am unable to say. Even after Cowdery and Rigdon were lending the whole force of their minds to the carrying out of this imposture, Jo Smith continued to be the ostensible prominent actor in the drama. The way that Smith made his transcripts and translations for Harris was the following: Although in the same room, a thick curtain or blanket was suspended between them, and Smith concealed behind the blanket, pretended to look through his spectacles, or transparent stones, and would then write down or repeat what he saw, which, when repeated aloud, was written down by Harris, who sat on the other side of the suspended blanket. Harris was told that it would arouse the most terrible divine displeasure, if he should attempt to draw near the sacred chest, or look at Smith while engaged in the work of decyphering the mysterious characters. This was Harris's
own account of the matter to me. What other measures they afterwards took to transcribe or translate from these metallic plates, I cannot say, as I very soon after this removed to another field of labour where I heard no more of this matter till I learned the BOOK OF MORMON was about being published. It was not till after the discovery of the manuscript of Spaulding, of which I shall subsequently give some account, that the actors in this imposture thought of calling the pretended revelation the BOOK OF MORMON. This book, which professed to be a translation of the golden Bible brought to light by Joseph Smith was published in 1830 -- to accomplish which Martin Harris actually mortgaged his farm.
In addition to the facts with which I myself was conversant in 1827 and 1828, connected with the rise of Mormonism, I have been able to lay hold of one or two valuable documents, and obtain several items of intelligence, by which I shall be enabled to continue this sketch of the rise and origin of this singular imposture. To my mind there never was a grosser piece of deception undertaken to be practiced than this.
A FEW months subsequent to the publishing of the foregoing letter, the author saw in the columns of the Church Record a letter from Professor Anthon which singularly corroborated the statement that Martin Harris made to him in relation to his having had an interview with that gentleman, when on his first mission to New York in quest of some interpreter who should be able to decipher the mysterious characters of the golden Bible. The cause which drew forth the letter from the learned professor is thus stated. The Rev. Dr. Coit, Rector of Trinity Church, New Rochelle, West Chester county, N. Y., hearing that the Mormons in that place -- for there is scarcely a town or village where some of them are not found, "were claiming the patronage of Professor Anthon's name, in behalf of their notions, took the liberty to state the fact to him, and ask in what possible way they had contrived to associate him with themselves." In reply to this inquiry, Professor Anthon wrote the letter above referred to -- which we here insert:
New York, April 3d, 1841.Rev. and Dear Sir:
I have often heard that the Mormons claimed me for an auxiliary, but, as no one, until the present time, has ever requested from me a statement in writing, I have not deemed it worth while to say anything publicly on the subject. What I do know of the sect relates to some of the early movements; and as the facts may amuse you, while they will furnish a satisfactory answer to the charge of my being a Mormon proselyte, I proceed to lay them before you in detail.
Many years ago, the precise date I do not now recollect, a plain looking countryman called upon me with a letter from Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell requesting me to examine, and give my opinion upon, a certain paper, marked with various characters, which the Doctor confessed he could not decypher, and which the bearer of the note was very anxious to have explained. A very brief examination of the paper convinced me that it was a mere hoax, and a very clumsy one too. The characters were arranged in columns, like the Chinese mode of writing, and presented the most singular medley that I ever beheld. Greek, Hebrew and all sorts of letters, more or less distorted, either through unskilfulness or from actual design, were intermingled with sundry delineations of half moons, stars, and other natural objects, and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac. The conclusion was irresistible, that some cunning fellow had prepared the paper in question for the purpose of imposing upon the countryman who brought it, and I told the man so without any hesitation. He then proceeded to give me the history of the whole affair, which convinced me that he had fallen
into the hands of some sharper, while it left me in great astonishment at his simplicity.
The countryman told me that a gold book had been recently dug up in the western or northern part (I forget which), of our state, and he described this book as consisting of many gold plates, like leaves, secured by a gold wire passing through the edges of each, just as the leaves of a book are sewed together, and presented in this way the appearance of a volume. Each plate, according to him, was inscribed with unknown characters, and the paper which he handed me, a transcript of one of these pages. On my asking him by whom the copy was made, he gravely stated, that along with the golden book there had been dug up a very large pair of spectacles! so large in fact that if a man were to hold them in front of his face, his two eyes would merely look through one of the glasses, and the remaining part of the spectacles would project a considerable distance sideways! These spectacles possessed, it seems a very valuable property, of enabling any one who looked through them, (or rather through one of the lenses,) not only to decypher the characters on the plates, but also to comprehend their exact meaning, and be able to translate them!! My informant assured me that this curious property of the spectacles had been actually tested, and found to be true. A young man, it seems, had been placed in the garret of a farm-house, with a curtain before him, and having fastened the spectacles to his head, had read several pages in the golden book, and communicated their contents in writing to certain persons stationed on the outside of the curtain. He had also copied off one page of the book in the original character, which he had in like manner handed over to those who were separated
from him by the curtain, and this copy was the paper which the countryman had brought with him. As the golden book was said to contain very great truths, and most important revelations of a religious nature, a strong desire had been expressed by several persons in the countryman's neighbourhood, to have the whole work translated and published. A proposition had accordingly been made to my informant, to sell his farm, and apply the proceeds to the printing of the golden book, and the golden plates were to be left with him as security until he should be reimbursed by the sale of the work. To convince him more clearly that there was no risk whatever in the matter, and that the work was actually what it claimed to be, he was told to take the paper, which purported to be a copy of one of the pages of the book, to the city of New York, and submit it to the learned in that quarter, who would soon dispel all his doubts, and satisfy him as to the perfect safety of the investment. As Dr. Mitchell was our "Magnus Apollo" in those days, the man called first upon him; but the Doctor, evidently suspecting some trick, declined giving any opinion about the matter, and sent the countryman down to the college, to see, in all probability what the "learned pundits" in that place would make of the affair. On my telling the bearer of the paper that an attempt had been made to impose on him and defraud him of his property, he requested me to give him my opinion in writing about the paper which he had shown to me. I did so without hesitation, partly for the man's sake, and partly to let the individual "behind the curtain" see that his trick was discovered. The import of what I wrote was, as far as I can now recollect, simply this, that the marks in the paper appeared to be merely an imitation
of various alphabetical characters, and had, in my opinion, no meaning at all connected with them. The countryman then took his leave, with many thanks, and with the express declaration that he would in no shape part with his farm, or embark in the speculation of printing the golden book.
The matter rested here for a considerable time, until one day, when I had ceased entirely to think of the countryman and his paper, this same individual, to my great surprise, paid me a second visit. He now brought with him a duodecimo volume, which he said was a translation into English of the "Golden Bible." He also stated, that notwithstanding his original determination not to sell his farm, he had been induced evidently to do so, and apply the money to the publication of the book, and had received the golden plates as a security for payment. He begged my acceptance of the volume, assuring me that it would be found extremely interesting, and that it was already "making great noise" in the upper part of the state. Suspecting now that some serious trick was on foot, and that my plain looking visitor might be in fact a very cunning fellow I declined his present, and merely contented myself with a slight examination of the volume while he stood by. The more I declined receiving it, however, the more urgent the man became in offering the book, until at last I told him plainly, that if he left the volume, as he said he intended to do, I should most assuredly throw it after him as he departed. I then asked him how he could be so foolish as to sell his farm and engage in this affair; and requested him to tell me if the plates were really of gold. In answer to this latter inquiry, he said, that he had never seen the plates themselves,
which were carefully locked up in a trunk, but that he had the trunk in his possession. I advised him by all means to open the trunk and examine its contents, and if the plates proved to be of gold, which I did not believe at all, to sell them immediately. His reply was, that. if he opened the trunk, the "curse of heaven would descend upon him and his children.' "However," added he, "I will agree to open it, provided you take the 'curse of Heaven' upon yourself, for having advised me to the step." I told him I was perfectly willing to do so, and begged he would hasten home and examine the trunk, for he would find that he had been cheated. He promised to do as I recommended, and left me, taking his book with him. I have never seen him since.
Such is a plain statement of all I know respecting the Mormons. My impression now is, that the plain looking countryman was none other than the prophet Smith himself, who assumed an appearance of great simplicity in order to entrap me, if possible, into some recommendation of his book. That the prophet aided me by his inspiration, in interpreting the volume, is only one of the many amusing falsehoods which the Mormonites utter relative to my participation in their doctrines. Of these doctrines I know nothing whatever, nor have I ever heard a single discourse from any of their preachers, although I have often felt a strong curiosity to become an auditor, since my friends tell me that they frequently name me in their sermons, and even go so far as to say that I am alluded to in the prophecies of Scripture!
If what I have here written shall prove of any service in opening the eyes of some of their deluded followers to the real designs of those who profess to be the apostles
of Mormonism, it will afford me satisfaction equalled, I have no doubt, only by that which you yourself will feel on this subject.
I remain, very respectfully and truly, your friend,
Rev. Dr. Coit, New Rochelle, N. Y.
It will be seen that in the main this tallies exceedingly well with what Harris told the author, in relation to the fact of his interview with Professor Anthon. He kept back in his account of the interview all allusion to the discouragements which the Professor threw upon his enterprise. There can be no doubt that the person who waited upon Professor Anthon in the manner above stated, was Martin Harris
THE communication which follows is the second in the series of letters referred to in a former chapter
Fairfield, August 31, 1840.According to the intimation given in my last, I proceed to furnish you with some further facts in relation to the origin and history of Mormonism. In developing the history of this imposture, and showing the several steps by which it has won its way to the regard, and gained the confidence of thousands, it may seem desirable to furnish some account of what is denominated THE BOOK OF MORMON -- a volume containing 588 duodecimo pages, consisting of fifteen different books, purporting to be written at different times, and by different authors, whose names they respectively bear. The period of time which these historical records profess to cover, is about a thousand years -- commencing with the time of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and terminating with the year of our Lord 420.
This volume, as I have already intimated, has exerted a most important influence in giving some plausibility to the claims set up by the originators of the Mormon imposture. I am quite confident there never would have been any permanent converts to Mormonism, had not this volume been ushered into existence. The story of the GOLDEN BIBLE, like a thousand pervious and no less marvellous tales told by Jo Smith, would have long since sunk into oblivion but for the publication of this book. The origin of this volume -- how it came into being -- is a grave question. The general impression is that neither Jo Smith nor Martin Harris had intelligence or literary qualification adequate to the production of a work of this sort. Of the correctness of this impression, however, I am not quite confident. The subsequent career of Smith has shown that he possesses great tact, and cunning. The authorship of this volume is a question of some interest. The Mormons say that it is a revelation from God. They claim for it a divine character. They say that the successive narratives spread upon the pages of this volume, are the identical records engraven upon the metallic plates to which we have already referred, and which, like the leaves of a book, were deposited in a box and hid in the earth; that the writing on these plates was in "the Reformed Egyptian language;" that Joseph Smith was directed by an angel to the spot where this sacred deposit lay; and subsequently inspired to interpret the writing, by putting two smooth flat stones, which he found in the box, into a hat, and then putting his face therein. This is the claim set up for the BOOK OF MORMON, and which has seduced many unstable souls.
Had the originator of this fabulous history, called the
BOOK OF MORMON, kept entirely behind the scenes up to the present period, and had there been no clue by which the authorship of this figment of the imagination could be traced, it would still have been abundantly evident to every intelligent person, that it was the product of some shrewd and designing mind, who calculated to find his advantage in gulling the credulous and superstitious. The people of Palmyra, at the commencement of the printing of this book, only laughed at the ridiculousness of the thing, and wondered at the credulity of Harris. As the publication progressed, and the contents of the book began to be known, the conviction became general that there was an actor behind the scene, moving the machinery, of far higher intellectual qualifications than Smith or Harris. Suspicion in some degree rested upon a man by the name of Cowdery, who had formerly been a school teacher, if I mistake not, and was now known to be in some way connected with Smith in preparing this volume for the press.
I will here insert a document which I have in my hands, and which may tend to throw some light upon the origin and authorship of the Book of Mormon, which I found in a little work, entitled "RELIGIOUS CREEDS AND STATISTICS." The author gives a brief sketch of Mormonism, and among other things inserts a letter or statement written by Isaac Hale, the father-in-law of Jo Smith, giving some account of his first acquaintance with Smith. I had, previously to meeting with this letter, felt anxious to obtain some facts in relation to Smith's marriage, in order to ascertain how these facts would agree with the statements made by him to Martin Harris, which I noticed in my last letter. While at Palmyra, I met with a respectable clergyman of the Episcopal Church, who had formerly
belonged to the Methodist connection, that was acquainted with Mr. Hale. He represented him to be a distinguished hunter, living near the Great Bend in Pennsylvania. He was professedly a religious man and a very zealous member of the Methodist Church. The letter to which I have referred, is accompanied with a statement, declaring that Mr. Hale resides in Harmony, Penn.: appended to the letter also is Mr. Hale's affirmation or affidavit of the truth of the statement there made, taken before Charles Dimon, Justice of the Peace; and there is also subjoined the certificate of William Thompson and Davis Dimock, Associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas in the County of Susquehanna, declaring that "they have for many years been personally acquainted with Isaac Hale of Harmony Township, who has attested the foregoing statement, or letter, and that he is a man of excellent moral character, and of undoubted veracity."
The letter or statement above referred to, is as follows:
"I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in Nov. 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money diggers;" and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see, by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man, not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father. Smith, and his father, with several other "money-diggers." boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the "money-diggers" great encouragement at first, but when
they had arrived in digging to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found, he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed.
After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to marry my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve. He then left the place. Not long after this, he returned; and while I was absent from home, carried off my daughter into the state of New York, where they were married without my approbation or consent. After they had arrived at Palmyra N. Y., Emma wrote to me, enquiring whether she could have her property, consisting of clothing, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In a short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersol, and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and reside upon a place near my residence.
Smith stated to me, that he [h]ad given up what he called "glass-looking," and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so. Soon after this, I was informed they had brought a wonderful book of plates down with them. I was shown a box, in which it is said they were contained, which had, to all appearances, been used as a glass box, of the common window glass. I was allowed to feel the weight of the box, and they gave me to understand, that the book of plates was then in the box; into which, however, I was not allowed to look. I inquired of Joseph Smith, Jr., who was to be the first that
would be allowed to see the book of plates? He said it was a young child.
After this, I became dissatisfied, and informed him, that if there was any thing in my house of that description, which I could not be allowed to see, he must take it away; if he did not, I was determined to see it. After that, the plates were said to be hid in the woods.
About this time, Martin Harris made his appearance upon the stage; and Smith began to interpret the characters or hieroglyphics, which he said were engraven upon the plates, while Harris wrote down the interpretation.
It was said, that Harris wrote down one hundred and sixteen pages, and lost them. Soon after this happened, Martin Harris informed me that he must have a greater witness, and said that he had talked with Joseph about it; Joseph informed him that he could not or durst not show him the plates, but that he (Joseph,) would go into the woods where the book of plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his track in the snow, and find the book, and examine it for himself. Harris informed me afterwards, that he followed Smith's directions, and could not find the plates, and was still dissatisfied.
The next day after this happened, I went to the house where Joseph Smith jr., lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in their translation of the Book. Each of them had a written piece of paper which they were comparing, and some of the words were -- "My servant seeketh a greater witness, but no greater witness can be given to him." There was also something said about "three that were to see the thing;" meaning I supposed, the book of plates; and that "if the three did not go exactly according to orders, the thing would be taken from them."
I inquired whose words they were, and was informed by Joseph or Emma, (I rather think it was the former) that they were the words of Jesus Christ. I told them, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it. The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the book of plates was at the same time hid in the woods!
After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowdery came and wrote for Smith, while he interpreted, as above described. This is the same Oliver Cowdery whose name may be found in the book of Mormon. Cowdery continued a scribe for Smith until the book of Mormon was completed, as I supposed and understood.
Joseph Smith, jr. resided near me for some time after this, and I had a good opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, and somewhat acquainted with his associates; and I conscientiously believe, from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole "Book of Mormon" (so called,) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous and unwary, and in order that its fabricators may live upon the spoils of those who swallowed the deception.
I shall have occasion hereafter to refer to the loss of the one hundred and sixteen pages mentioned in the preceding letter, and to the manner in which they were lost; as this fact will not only tend to illustrate Harris' character, but to throw
some farther light upon the sinuous track which was pursued to palm off the BOOK OF MORMON as a divine revelation. Whether Smith and Cowdery were acting alone at the time referred to by Mr. Hale, or were then deriving their illumination from Rigdon, I have no means of determining. It is highly probable, however, that they then had access to a copy of the manuscript written by Mr. Spaulding, of which we shall soon speak, and this copy was undoubtedly obtained through the agency of Rigdon. The true authorship of what constitutes the basis of the BOOK OF MORMON, unquestionably belongs to Mr. Spaulding. I cannot think, however, that the Book of Mormon is an exact copy of Mr. Spaulding's "Historical Romance," as Mrs. Davison very popularly denominates it. No intelligent or well educated man would have been guilty of so many anachronisms and gross grammatical errors as characterise every part of the Book of Mormon. While Mr. Spaulding's Historical Romance is unquestionably the ground-work of this volume, the christianized character of the work -- the hortatory clauses about salvation through the blood of Christ -- and the adaption of the whole to meet the peculiar views of Martin Harris, and to tally with the pretended discovery of Jo Smith, are evidently parts of the work added to Mr. Spaulding's manuscript. In farther corroboration of this idea, I will just advert to two facts. First, in this record, some portions of which were professedly written six hundred years before the appearance of our Saviour, the various dramatis personae seem as familiar with the events of the New Testament and all the doctrines of the gospel as any preacher of the present day. Now no intelligent
and well educated man would be guilty of such a solecism as that put into the mouth of a Jew who lived four hundred years before the birth of Christ, a flippant discourse about things as though they were then familiarly known, when they did not occur till some five hundred years afterwards. Hence I infer that these parts were added to the original document of Mr. Spaulding by Jo Smith, Cowdery, Rigdon, or some of the fraternity. -- Another reason, leading me to the opinion that considerable alterations were made in the document referred to, stands in connection with the fact to which I have already adverted -- the loss of the one hundred and sixteen pages, which were never replaced. These pages were lost in the following way. Harris brought home the manuscript pages and locked them up in his house thinking them quite safe. But his wife, who was not then, nor ever afterwards became a convert to Mormonism, took the opportunity, when he was out, to seize the manuscript and put it into the hands of one of her neighbors for safer keeping. When the manuscript was discovered to be missing, suspicion immediately fastened upon Mrs. Harris. She, however, refused to give any information in relation to the matter, but simply replied: "If this be a divine communication, the same being who revealed it to you can easily replace it." Mrs. H. believed the whole thing to be a gross deception, and she had formed a plan to expose the deception in the following manner. Taking it for granted that they would attempt to reproduce the part she had concealed, and that they could not possibly do it verbatim, she intended to keep the manuscript until the book was published, and then put these one hundred and sixteen pages into the hands of some one who would publish
them. and show how they varied from those published in the Book of Mormon. But she had to deal with persons standing behind the scene, and moving the machinery that were too wiley thus to be caught. Harris was indignant at his wife beyond measure -- he raved most violently, and it is said actually beat Mrs. H. with a rod -- but she remained firm, and would not give up the manuscript. The authors of this imposture did not dare to attempt to re-publish this part of the work; but Jo Smith immediately had a revelation about it which is inserted in the preface of the Book of Mormon as follows: "As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by the evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work; I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person, or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again: and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written, and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over again they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye
come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and behold ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil."
This was the expedient to which they resorted in order to avoid replacing the lost pages. Had those pages, however, been translated verbatim from Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, they would have undoubtedly have re-produced them, and urged the fact of their being able to do so as a still further proof of their divine inspiration. But on the supposition that there was considerable new matter mingled up with Mr. Spaulding's sketches, it would be impossible for them to produce the one hundred and sixteen pages just as they were before, and they would therefore naturally devise some expedient to relieve themselves from the necessity of re-producing those pages. In all probability Cowdery, and Smith, and Rigdon, had all more or less to do in combining these additional parts with Mr. Spaulding's work.
The origin of this work of Mr. Spaulding, to which I refer, and which unquestionably forms the entire ground-work of the Book of Mormon, is thus described by Mrs. Davison, formerly the wife of Mr. Spaulding. This statement of Mrs. Davison was published some time last winter in the Boston Recorder, to the editors of which it was sent by the Rev. John Storrs, the Congregational minister in Hollistown, accompanied with a certificate from two highly respectable clergymen, the Rev. Mr. Austin and the Rev. A. Ely, D.D., residing in Monson, Mass., the present place of residence of Mrs. Davison. --
stating that Mrs. Davison, the narrator of the following history, was formerly the wife of Rev. Solomon Spaulding, and that since his decease she had been married to a second husband by the name of Davison, and that she was a woman of irreproachable character, and a humble Christian, and that her testimony was worthy of implicit confidence.
"As the 'BOOK OF MORMON' or 'GOLDEN BIBLE' has excited much attention, and has been put by a certain new sect in the place of the Sacred Scriptures, I deem it a duty which I owe to the public, to state what I know touching its origin. That its claims to a divine origin are wholly unfounded, needs no proof to a mind unperverted by the grossest delusions. That any sane person should rank it higher than any other merely human composition, is a matter of the greatest astonishment; yet it is received as divine by some who dwell in enlightened New England, and by those who have sustained the character of devoted Christians. Learning recently that Mormonism had found its way into a church in Massachusetts, and has impregnated some with its gross delusions, so that excommunication has been necessary, I am determined to delay no longer doing what I can to strip the mask from this monster of sin, and to lay open this pit of abominations.
"Rev. Solomon Spaulding, to whom I was united in marriage in early life, was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and was distinguished for a lively imagination, and a great fondness for history. At the time of our marriage, he resided in Cherry Valley, N. Y. From this place we removed to New Salem, Ashtabula county, Ohio; sometimes called Conneaut, as it is situated on Conneaut creek. Shortly after our arrival to this place his health sunk, and
he was laid aside from active labors. In the town of New Salem there are numerous mounds and forts, supposed by many to be the dilapidated dwellings and fortifications of a race now extinct. These ancient relics arrest the attention of the new settlers and become objects of research for the curious. Numerous implements were found, and other articles evincing great skill in the arts. Mr. Spaulding being an educated man and passionately fond of history, took a lively interest in these developments of antiquity; and in order to beguile the hours of retirement, and furnish employment for his lively imagination, he conceived the idea of giving a historical sketch of this long lost race. Their extreme antiquity of course would lead him to write in the most ancient style, and as the Old Testament is the most ancient book in the world, he imitated its style as nearly as possible. His sole object in writing this historical romance was to amuse himself and his neighbours. This was about the year 1812. Hull's surrender at Detroit occurred near the same time, and I recollect the date well from that circumstance. As he progressed in his narrative the neighbours would come in from time to time to hear portions read, and a great interest in the work was excited among them. It claimed to have been written by one of the lost nation, and to have been recovered from the earth, and assumed the title of "Manuscript Found." The neighbours would often enquire how Mr. Spaulding progressed in deciphering "the manuscript," and when he had sufficient portion prepared he would inform them, and they would assemble to hear it read. He was enabled, from his acquaintance with the classics and ancient history, to introduce many singular names, which were particularly noticed by the people,
and could be easily recognized by them. Mr. Solomon Spaulding had a brother, Mr. John Spaulding, residing in the place at the time, who was perfectly familiar with the work, and repeatedly heard the whole of it read.
From New Salem we removed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here Mr. Spaulding found friend and an acquaintance, in the person of Mr. Patterson, an editor of a newspaper. He exhibited his manuscript to Mr. Patterson, who was very much pleased with it, and borrowed it for perusal. He retained it for a long time, and informed Mr. Spaulding that if he would make out a title page and preface, he would publish it, and it might be a source of profit. This Mr. Spaulding refused to do, for reasons which I cannot now state. Sidney Rigdon, who has figured so largely in the history of the Mormons, was at that time connected with the printing office of Mr. Patterson, as is well known in that region, and as Rigdon himself has frequently stated. Here he had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, and copy it if he chose. It was a matter of notoriety and interest to all connected with the printing establishment. At length the manuscript was returned to its author, and soon after we removed to Amity, Washington county, Pa., where Mr. Spaulding died in 1816. The manuscript then fell into my hands and was carefully preserved. It has frequently been examined by my daughter, Mrs. McKenstry, of Monson, Mass., with whom I now reside, and by other friends. After the "Book of Mormon" came out, a copy of it was taken to New Salem, the place of Mr. Spaulding's former residence, and the very place where the "Manuscript Found" was written. A Mormon preacher appointed a meeting there, (New Salem) and in the meeting
read and repeated copious extracts from the "Book of Mormon." The historical part was immediately recognized by all the older inhabitants, as the identical work of Mr. Spaulding, in which they had been so deeply interested years before. Mr. John Spaulding was present, who is an eminently pious man, and recognized perfectly the work of his brother. He was amazed and afflicted that it should have been perverted to so wicked a purpose. His grief found vent in a flood of tears, and he arose on the spot, and expressed in the meeting his sorrow and regret that the writings of his sainted brother should be used for a purpose so vile and shocking. The excitement in New Salem became so great that the inhabitants had a meeting, and deputed Dr. Philastus Hurlburt, one of their number, to repair to this place, and to obtain from me the original manuscript of Mr. Spaulding, for the purpose of comparing it with the Mormon Bible, to satisfy their own minds, and to prevent their friends from embracing an error so delusive. This was in the year 1834. Dr. Hurlburt brought with him an introduction, and request for the manuscript, which was signed by Messrs. Henry Lake, Aaron Wright, and others, with all of whom I was acquainted, as they were my neighbours when I resided at New Salem. I am sure that nothing would grieve my husband more, were he living, than the use which has been made of his work. The air of proud antiquity which was thrown about the composition, doubtless suggested the idea of converting it to the purposes of delusion. Thus, an historical romance, with the addition of a few pious expressions and extracts from the sacred Scriptures, has been construed into a new Bible, and palmed off
upon a company of poor deluded fanatics as divine. I have given the previous brief narration, that this work of deception and wickedness may be searched to the foundation, and its author exposed to the contempt and execration he so justly deserves.
The whole mystery of the origin of this book seems to be cleared up by this statement, and I have seen no attempt made to gainsay or deny its truth. The farther, however, Martin Harris went into this delusion, the more he seemed to become infatuated. He had already embarked a large portion of his property in bringing out the publication of the book of Mormon, and though many things had occurred that we should think would have convinced any rational man that he had been made the subject of a deep laid scheme of deception, he still seems to have shut his eyes, and gone on in the dark. As I have already mentioned, at first, Martin Harris was assured that the golden plates, on which the record was engraven, would be his, and that it would be perfectly lawful to subject them to public inspection, -- but as the managers of this imposture proceeded they found it necessary to advance with more caution, lest they should pit into the hands of others the very elements which would contribute to their own utter explosion. Hence it was revealed to Jo Smith, that he would be authorized to show them only to three individuals who should assist in bringing forward this work, this was a lure to secure the continued co-operation of Harris. To convince Harris that he would be highly privileged, it was foretold in the book of Ether, written
by Moroni,* that he that should find the plates should have the privilege of showing them to three persons. The passage referred to it as follows, "Behold, ye may be privileged that ye may shew the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; and unto three shall they be shewn by the power of God; wherefore, they shall know of a surety that these things are true. And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shewn forth the power of God, and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost beareth record; and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world, at the last day."
In order to satisfy Harris, and those whom they hoped to delude, it became necessary that three witnesses should see the plates. And accordingly we find appended to the book of Mormon the following certificate, headed with this caption: --
TESTIMONY OF THE THREE WITNESSES"Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, his brethren, and also of the people of Jared, which came from the tower, of which hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and
* See Book of Mormon, page 548.
they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld, and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvellous in our eyes; nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the Judgment seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. -- Amen."
To know how much this testimony is worth I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity, told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly, -- "Did you see those plates?" Harris replied, he did. "Did you see the plates, and the engravings on them with your bodily eyes?" Harris replied. "Yes, I saw them with my eyes. -- they were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man." "But did you see them with your natural, -- your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this." Harris replied, -- "Why I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the
eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me, -- though at the time they were covered over with a cloth."
This was the way that Harris saw the plates, Cowdery, another of the witnesses, was one of the prime actors in getting up this "cunningly devised fable." Whether Whitmer, the third witness, was a deceiver, or one of the deceived, I am unable to say, but he and four of his brothers were among the earliest avowed converts to Mormonism. And as he was thus privileged because he assisted to bring forth the work, there can be but little doubt that he bore the same relation to it that Cowdery did. The declaration in the testimony "that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon," show but too well what sort of jugglery to blind people's eyes, this certificate is. They seem themselves not to have been satisfied with the testimony; and therefore, although it was expressly revealed that only three should see the plates, and that it should be established by the witness of three,* yet they immediately subjoin the testimony of eight additional witnesses in the following words: "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds and tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: that Joseph Smith, Jr., the author and proprietor of this work has shewn unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious
* See Book of Mormon, page 548.
workmanship. And thus we bear record, with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety, that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen: and we lie not, God bearing witness of it." This is signed by Hiram Page, Jo Smith's father, -- two of his brothers, and four of the Whitmers, brothers of the Whitmer, who was one of the three witnesses. They were all persons deeply interested in the success of this imposture, and expecting to make their fortunes by it. As I have before taken occasion to remark, Harris was ready to be duped by any thing which these jugglers were disposed to tell him. He seemed to think at length that he himself was inspired, and that revelations from heaven were made to him in reference to the most minute affairs in life. After the Book of Mormon was published it was revealed to him that he should sell it for one dollar and fifty cents per copy. But as it did not sell very briskly at that price, he declared that another revelation was made to him from heaven, and that he was ordered to sell the book for one dollar per copy. No matter where he went, he saw visions and supernatural appearances all around him. He told a gentleman in Palmyra, after one of his excursions to Pennsylvania, while the translation of the Book of Mormon was going on, that on the way he met the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked along by the side of him in the shape of a deer for two or three miles, talking with him as familiarly as one man talks with another. With a knowledge of the facts that have now been stated, the existence of the Book of Mormon can well be accounted for, and also the success of this imposture.
UP to the period, in which the preceding sketch was published in the columns of the Episcopal Recorder, no attempt was made, as far as our information extends, to contradict the statement of Mrs. Davison, or in any way to invalidate her testimony. Shortly after the appearance of the sketch above referred to, a small pamphlet was issued by one of the Mormon ministers, who, we understand, bears the relation of Pastor to one of the societies of that people, established in Philadelphia, who call themselves "The church of the latter day saints."
Although we do not think, that the truth, or falsehood of Mormonism, in any degree turns upon the correctness, or incorrectness of the foregoing statement of Mrs. Davison, for deceit and imposture are enstamped upon every feature of this monster, evoked by a money digger and a juggler from the shades of darkness -- still if her statement be correct and is to be relied upon, the facts brought out by Mrs. Davison would seem to be one of those singular developments of divine Providence, by which impostors
are confounded, and their devices brought to naught; and therefore it may be well to look for a moment at the arguments that are offered to disprove, what the writer of the pamphlet just referred to denominates "THE SPAULDING STORY." The pamphlet itself abounds with low and scurrilous remark -- just such as we should think would be likely to emanate from a Mormon leader. The principal points upon which the writer rests his argument, are,
First. The worthless character of Dr. P. Hurlbut -- who was deputed by a meeting called at New Salem to visit Mrs. Davison and obtain from her the manuscript written by her husband, Rev. Mr. Spaulding.
Secondly. That Mrs. Davison neither wrote nor signed the letter published in the Boston Recorder, but that it was the production of the Rev. Mr. Storrs.
Thirdly. That Sidney Rigdon did not join the Mormons nor have any connection with them, till after the Book of Mormon was published: and did not reside at Pittsburgh at the time he was supposed to have done so by Mrs. Davison.
1. In reference to the first point: this writer depicts the character of Dr. Hurlbut, as made up of dissoluteness, depravity, and crime. He was for a considerable period a zealous Mormon, was ordained an elder, became a distinguished preacher among them, and continued so, until they could endure his vices no longer and cast him out -- then he turned against them, and endeavored to expose their deception and imposture. Whether this be a slander or true testimony, we have no means of ascertaining. But we do not see, that in either case it makes any thing for Mormonism, or in the least affects the truth of Mrs. Davison's statement. We can readily believe that a system
of imposture like that of Mormonism, would have charms for just such a man as Hurlbut is described.
2. The assertion that Mrs. Davison did not write nor subscribe the letter published in the Boston Recorder, furnishes a fair specimen of the Jesuitical tricks resorted to, to keep up this imposture. A letter is inserted in the pamphlet above referred to, written by Mr. John Haven, in which a conversation is related, said to have taken place between Mrs. Davison and the brother of the writer, and which is calculated and evidently designed to carry the impression that Mrs. Davison utterly disavowed the authorship of the letter, published in her name in relation to the Spaulding manuscript. To satisfy myself on the truth of this point, I addressed a letter to the Rev. Mr. Storrs, an extract from which I will subjoin:
"Hollistown, June 28th, 1841."The results of my inquiries from Dr. Ely and from Mr. Austin confirm me in the opinion the Spaulding manuscript was the foundation of the foolish affair called the Mormon Bible. This is my opinion though we may not be able to prove it directly. I have never supposed, I have never said, that they were one and the same thing. Only that it was the foundation of the Mormon Bible; supposing that its story, its incidents, and names, gave the Mormon leaders the idea of their own book, and supposing that from it they manufactured the book about which so much has been said. So then, in using the word 'identical' in relation to the manuscript and Smith's book, it must be understood in a modified sense.
We may never be able to prove by direct testimony that such was the foundation of the Mormon Bible. But
we have circumstantial evidence enough. The communication made to the world by Mrs. Davidson, it seems to me settles the question.
And this testimony is not at all invalidated by the letter written from this town by Mr. John Haven, and published in the pamphlet you sent me, entitled "The Origin of the Spaulding Story concerning the manuscript found." And here observe the sophistry of this communication. The questions and answers from the letter are as follows: 'Did you, Mrs. Davison, write a letter to John Storrs, giving an account of the origin of the Book of Mormon? Ans. I did not. Ques. Did you sign your name to it? Ans. I did not; neither did I see the letter till I saw it in the Boston Recorder; the letter was never brought to me to sign. Ques. What agency had you in having this letter sent to Mr. Storrs? Ans. D. R. Austin came to my house and asked me some questions, took some minutes on paper, and from these wrote the letter. Ques. Is what is written in the letter true? Ans. In the main it is.'
The quibbling here is palpable. It is very true Mrs. Davidson did not write a letter to me, and what is more, of course she did not sign it. But this she did do, and just what I wrote to you in my former letter I supposed she did: she did sign her name to the original copy as prepared from her statement by Mr. Austin. This he told me last week. But again, mark another and important thing in this catechism. It is the distinct avowal after all, and published by the Mormons themselves that what she said was true. "Is what is written in the letter true?" Ans. In the main it is." It is just as you or any other honest man under similar circumstances would affirm such a production
to be the truth. In fact she does not as I understand from the questions and answers disavow a single statement made in the communication to which her name was affixed. But she affirms it all as a verity. I must confess my wonder that the Mormons should ever have published the above quotations. It must be that they thought their quibble about Mrs. D. not signing the identical piece of paper sent to me, would cover up the great and important fact that, she affirmed that all that was sent to me was the truth. So then the circumstantial evidence contained in the communication published in the Recorder some few years ago that the Spaulding manuscript was the origin of the golden Bible remains sound.
But another thing: I expect we shall never be able to lay our hands on the identical manuscript, and thus prove by comparison in the sight of all that one was the foundation or origin of the other. But be this as it may, the very fact that it is lost, is evidence in my mind that the manuscript was the foundation of the Mormon book. Dr. Hurlbut took the manuscript. It is reported in Missouri, that he sold it for four hundred dollars; that the manuscript is not to be found. I must confess that my suspicions are, that a deep laid plot has been consummated to obtain possession of the manuscript, and thus preclude all possibility of its ever being compared by competent men with the Book of Mormon. At least my suspicions will not be removed until the manuscript -- and the whole manuscript -- is returned to the hands of its owner. I am suspicious that a deep and long game has been played by the Mormons to obtain and destroy the manuscript. Someone has got that manuscript and has got it secreted from the public eye. And if that manuscript cannot be found, in my mind
will be proved that the Mormons have conveyed it away. The burden of proof is on the Mormons. To them it belongs to produce the manuscript. If they have got the manuscript and will not produce it, it is plain they fear its publication to the world will destroy their pretended revelation.
I also wrote to the Rev. Mr. Austin for information, who returned me an answer from which I make the following extracts.
"Starbridge, Mass., June 28th, 1841."The circumstances which called forth the letter published in the Boston Recorder in April 1839, were stated by Mr. Storrs in the introduction to that article. At his request I obtained from Mrs. Davison a statement of the facts contained in that letter, and wrote them out precisely as she related them to me. She then signed the paper with her own hand which I have now in my possession. Every fact as stated in that letter was related to me by her in the order they are set down. (There is one word misprinted in the published letter, instead of "woman preacher," on the second column, it should be Mormon preacher.)
"That the pamphlet published to refute the letter should contain false statements is not surprising. A scheme got up in falsehood must be sustained by lies. But the truth of the statements contained in that letter of Mrs. D. will remain unshaken, notwithstanding all the Mormons can do. It gives a very clear, consistent and
rational account of the origin of that abominable piece of deception and fraud.
"Mrs. Davison is now living about twelve miles from this place; is an aged woman and very infirm. Dr. Hurlbut was an entire stranger to her, and obtained her confidence by means of the letters of introduction which he brought from gentlemen in New Salem. He promised to return the manuscript in a short time. Mrs. D. would only consent to lend it to him. He stated some time after he had received the manuscript that he had made $400 out of it. Mrs. Davidson has not the least doubt now but that he obtained it in order to sell it to the Mormons. If Dr. H. can be found, I have no doubt but that the manuscript may be traced into the hands of the Mormons -- which would be about as satisfactory as to find it. If they purchased it of him, (of which there is no doubt) and refuse to present it, the reason is obvious. I can give no information with respect to the present residence of Dr. H. I suppose light on this point may be obtained at New Salem.
"It is really wonderful how this most palpable delusion has spread. The foundation of it is the most weak and absurd of any delusion ever palmed upon the world. It is remarkable how these manias all tend to one point. Perfectionism, Unionism, and Mormonism, as they have been developed in this region, all have aimed directly at licentiousness. They feed and fatten upon one base passion. Mormonism will doubtless have its day and then die. Something quite as absurd will spring up in its place. There is an appetite in the community which craves such food. If it can be garnished with the name of religion, it will go into more extensive use.
"This is one of the deepest plots of the devil. He has placed his golden hook under the name of a "golden book" in the nose of those miserable fanatics, and is leading them in the direct way to destruction.
Yours in the bonds of Christian fellowship,
"D. R. AUSTIN."
3. In relation to the assertion, that Sidney Rigdon did not embrace Mormonism till after the publication of the Book of Mormon; and that he did not reside in Pittsburgh at the time stated by Mrs. Davison, we have some remarks to offer in a subsequent chapter.
If Rigdon did not reside there at the time, still in accordance with Mrs. D's suggestion, a copy might have been made of Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, which subsequently came into his hands. This copy, even if Rigdon had no hand in preparing the Book of Mormon, and was wholly ignorant of the existence of Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, might have reached Smith in some other way. It is enough to know that the one was the foundation of the other, no matter who the agents in the imposture are. Even if it could be proved that Rigdon had no knowledge of the manuscript, and no hand whatever in preparing the Book of Mormon, this would in no respect invalidate Mrs. Davison's testimony, or show that Mr. Spaulding's historical romance was not the foundation of that book. Mrs. Davison mere conjectures that Rigdon must have been the agent -- and that from circumstantial evidence -- but she knows that the outline of her husband's historical romance is actually the basis -- the manifest substratum of the Mormon Bible.
The point is made very clear by her testimony, that,
in some way or another, Smith and his coadjutors obtained a copy of Mr. Spaulding's manuscript, which evidently forms the basis of this pretended bible, and fastens upon it the undoubted mark of imposture.
But were not this the case -- had Smith and those associated with him no such basis, on which to build the scheme developed in the Book of Mormon, this would in no way strengthen the claims which this volume sets up for a divine origin. The book itself is full of internal evidence of imposture and fraud.
If the reader can have patience to follow us we will endeavour in the two subsequent chapters to furnish him with an outline of the principal topics contained in the Book of Mormon.
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