C., M. S. “Mormonism.” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 35 (15 February1831): 1–2.
[ For the Telegraph.
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed and done among the Mormonites, it seems good to me also (having had knowledge of many things from the beginning) to testify to my brethren of mankind, that they may know something certainly concerning these wonderful people.
About the last of October, 1830, four men, claiming to be divinely inspired, came from Manchester and Palmyra, Ontario county, N.Y., bringing a pretended revelation, entitled the “Book of Mormon.” They came to the brethren of the reformation in Mentor, saluted them as brethren, and professed to rejoice at finding a people walking according to the scriptures of truth, and acknowledging no other guide. They professed to have no commands for them, nevertheless, they called upon them to receive their mission and book as from Heaven, which they said chiefly concerned the western Indians, as being an account of their origin, and a prophecy of their final conversion to christianity, and make them a white and delightsome people, and be reinstated in the possession of their lands of which they have been despoiled by the whites.—When called upon for testimony, they appealed (like Mahomet) to the internal evidences of their book. The book was read and pronounced a silly fabrication. When farther pressed upon the subject, they required the brethren to humble themselves before God, and pray for a sign from heaven.
They took up their abode with the pastor of the congregation, (Sidney Rigdon,) who read their book and partly condemned it—but, two days afterwards, was heard to confess his conviction of its truth. Immediately the subtlety and duplicity of these men were manifest—as soon as they saw a number disposed to give heed to them, then it was they bethought themselves of making a party—then it was they declared that their book contained a new covenant, to come under which the disciple must be re-immersed. When called upon to answer concerning their pretended covenant, whether it was distinct from that mentioned in Heb. VIII. 10–13. they would equivocate, and would say, (to use their own words) “on the large scale, the covenant is the same, but in some things it is different.” Immediately they made a party—seventeen persons were immersed by them in one night. At this Mr. Rigdon seemed much displeased, and when they came next day to his house, he withstood them to the face—showed them that what they had done was entirely without precedent in the holy scriptures—for they had immersed those persons that they might work miracles as well as come under the said covenant—showed them that the apostles baptized for the remission of sins—but miraculous gifts were conferred by the imposition of hands. But when pressed upon the point, they justified themselves by saying, it was on their part merely a compliance with the solicitations of those persons. Mr. Rigdon again called upon them for proof of the truth of their book and mission: they then related the manner in which they obtained faith, which was by praying for a sign, and an angel was shown unto them.
Here Mr. Rigdon showed them from the scriptures the possibility of their being deceived: “For Stan himself is transformed into an angel of light”—but said Cowdery, “Do you think if I should go to my Heavenly Father with all sincerity, and pray to him in the name of Jesus Christ, that he would not show me an angel—that he would suffer Satan to deceive me?” Mr. Rigdon replied, “if the heavenly Father has ever promised to show you an angel, to confirm any thing, he would not suffer you to be deceived, for, says the apostle John, ‘this is the confidence we have with him, if we ask things according to his will, he hearkens to us.’ But,” he continued, “if you should ask the heavenly Father to show you an angel when he has never promised you such a thing, if the Devil never had an opportunity of deceiving you before, you give him one now.”
However, about two days after, Mr. R. was persuaded to tempt God by asking this sign, which he knew to be contrary to his revealed will; he received a sign, and was convinced that Mormonism was true and divine. Wherefore, to make use of his own reasoning, we presume the Devil appeared to him in the form of an angel of light. The Monday following he was baptized.
On the morning of the preceding day he had an appointment to preach in the Methodist chapel at Kirtland. He arose to address the congregation apparently much affected and deeply impressed.
He seemed exceedingly humble, confessed the sins of his former life, his great pride, ambition, vainglory, &c. &c. After he was baptized, he professed to be exceedingly joyful, and said he would not be where he was three days ago for the universe. When reminded of the scriptural objection which he had made against praying for that which was not promised, he imputed his reasoning to pride, carnality, and the influence of the evil one. In short, the whole man seemed changed, so much so that Mrs. Rigdon said that Mr. Rigdon’s appearance was enough to convince any one of the truth of their religion. Mr. R. and, indeed the whole of that sect, seem rather disposed to boast of their humility and piety. Mr. R. was formerly very irascible, but now thinks he cannot be ruffled, he was formerly haughty, but now affects great humility. The males among them wear a peculiar kind of hats, by which they distinguish themselves, and exhibit their humility; but while they are calling upon people, as it were, to come and see their humility, we cannot but call to mind an ancient anecdote: when Diogenes the Cynic, saw Plato with a richly embroidered cloak, he caught it from his shoulders, and cast it under his feet, saying “I trample upon the pride of Plato.”—“Yes,” said Plato, “but with a greater pride.”
About three weeks after Mr. R. was baptizee by Oliver Cowdery, he went to the state of New York, to see Joseph Smith, jr. while Cowdery, with his three companions, proceeded on to the western Indians. Before they left us, however, they threw off their mask, and showed their cloven foot. They declared Joseph Smith to be that prophet predicted by Moses, Deut. xviii.15, and applied to O. Cowdery prophetical declarations which are directly and particularly applied to John the Baptist, harbinger of the Messiah. When the apostle Peter and deacon Stephen were brought to confront them upon their application of Deut. xviii.15, they would express wonder, saying, “do you think Christ was like Moses?”
Immediately after Mr. R. and the four pretended prophets left Kirtland, a scene of the wildest enthusiasm was exhibited, chiefly, however, among the young people: they would fall, as without strength, roll upon the floor, and, so mad were they that even the females were seen in a cold winter day, lying under the bare canopy of heaven, with no couch or pillow but the fleecy snow. At other times they exhibited all the apish actions imaginable, making grimaces both horid and ridiculous, creeping upon their hands and feet, &c. Sometimes, in these exercises, the young men would rise and play before the people, going through all the Indian manœuvers of knocking down, scalping, ripping open, and taking out the bowels. At other times, they would start and run several furlongs, then get upon stumps and preach to imagined congregations, baptize ghosts, &c. At other times they are taken with a fit of jabbering that which they neither understand themselves nor any body else, and this they call speaking foreign languages by divine inspiration. Again the young men are seen running over the hills in pursuit, they say, of balls of fire which they see flying through the air.
They say much about working miracles, and pretend to have that power. Cowdery and his fellows essayed to work several while they tarried in Kirtland, one in particular, the circumstances of which I had from the Mormonites themselves. It was a young female who had been confined to her bed for two years—they prayed over her, laying on hands, and commanding her in the name of Jesus Christ to rise up and walk; however, no effect appeared until the next day, when she was persuaded to leave her couch and attempt to walk. She arose, walked three or four steps, (which they told as a miracle) she then almost fainted, and was assisted back to her bed from which she’s not since arisen. But as all their miracles have proved to be a mere sham, to speak vulgarly, the Mormonites have endeavored to save the credit of their prophets, by declaring that they never pronounced these people whole but only prayed for them—but when confronted by one of the disciples in Kirtland upon the instace just mentioned, as it was so public they could not deny it, one of them said that he did not know but Cowdery did command her to arise, but if he did it was in a laughing, jesting way!!!—Another of the Mormonites said Cowdery did not command her to arise, but merely asked her why she did not arise. Another instance of a man in Painesville, who was in the last stage of consumption, was attempted to be healed by Cowdery. A few days afterwards Mr. Rigdon was heard to say “that he would get well, if there was a God in Heaven!” he has since deceased. But these prophets had the policy to cover their retreat in these things, by saying that they would not recover immediately; the Lord would take his own time; and one of these people a few days ago, when put to the worst upon the subject, said that he did not think Cowdery would have attempted to do any miracles, had he have known how things would turn out.
Feb.1.—Mr. Rigdon just returned from the state of New York. His irascible temper only left him for a little season. Two friends went from Mentor to see him—required of him a reason for his present hope, and for his belief in the Book of Mormon; he declined, saying he was just weary, having just come off his journey; had lost much sleep, and the like. After a number of words had passed, by way of solicitation on one side, and refusal on the other, one of the friends from Mentor said he thought there was no more evidence to confirm the Book of Mormon than the Koran of Mahomet. At this Mr. Rigdon seemed very angry—rose up and said, “Sir, you have insulted me in my own house—I command silence—If people that come to see us cannot treat us with civility, they may walk out of the door as soon as they please.” The person then made some apology. Mr. R. said he had borne every thing; he had been insulted and trampled upon by old and young; and he would bear it no longer. The other of the friends from Mentor expressed his astonishment, that a man who had just been exhorting others in so meek and humble a manner, as Mr. R. had been doing, a few minutes before, should manifest such a spirit. Mr. R. denied that he was angry. The two friends bade him good night, and departed. Two days after, I accompanied several friends to Mr. R’s residence, we found him in conversation with a Methodist presiding elder—that being soon broken off, one of my friends modestly approached Mr. R. and solicited him to give some reason for his present faith. Mr. R. with great show of good nature, commenced a long detail of his researches after the character of Joseph Smith; he declared that even his enemies had nothing to say against his character; he had brought a transcript from the docket of two magistrates, where Smith had been tried as a disturber of the peace, which testified that he was honorably acquitted. But this was no evidence to us that the Book of Mormon was divine. He then spoke of the supernatural gifts with which he said Smith was endowed: he said he could translate the scriptures from any language in which they were now extant, and could lay his finger on every interpolation in the sacred writings, adding, that he had proved him in all these things. But my friend knowing that Mr. Rigdon had no knowledge of any language but his own vernacular tongue, asked him how he knew these things, to which Mr. R. made no direct reply.
Mr. Smith arrived at Kirtland the next day; and being examined concerning his supernatural gifts by a scholar, who was capable of testing his knowledge, he confessed he knew nothing of any language, save the king’s English.
Mr. R. asserted that our revelation came to us upon human testimony—this we denied, and gave him reasons which he himself formerly urged against deists. He then said the old revelation was confirmed by miracles, but the Book of Mormon would never be; it was not designed to be thus confirmed. (And Mahomet said, nearly twelve centuries ago, “Moses and Jesus were empowered to work miracles, yet the people did not receive them; wherefore God had sent him without that attestation, to be the last and greatest prophet.”) But in this Mr. R. contradicts his book, for that declares it is thus to be established.
We then asked Mr. R. what object we could have in receiving the Book of Mormon— whether it enjoined a single virtue that the Bible did not, or whether it mentioned and prohibited a single additional viced, or whether it exhibited a new attribute of Deity? He said it did not.
“The Book of Mormon,” said he, “is just calculated to form and govern the millennial church; the old revelation was never calculated for that, nor could it accomplish that object; and without receiving the Book of Mormon, there is no salvation for any one into whose hands it shall come.” He said faith in the Book of Mormon was only to be obtained by asking the Lord concerning it. To this scriptural objections were made. He then said if we had not familiarity enough with our Creator to ask of him a sign, we were no Christians; and, that if God would not condescend to his creatuses, in this way, he was no better than Juggernaut!!!!
Now, courteous reader, I have given a simple statement of facts for the purpose that you might not be deceived by the pretensions of these false prophets. They proclaim the ancient gospel, putting their own appendages to it. When they think it will best suit their purpose, they say nothing about the Book of Mormon, and at other times make it their chief topic.—Mr. R. said to me, since he became a Mormonite, that it was no part of his religion to defend the Book of Mormon, he merely wished the people to give heed to the old revelation, to humble themselves, and enter into the privileges which it conferred upon its believing subjects. Again, there is no salvation without receiving the Book of Mormon! Mr. R. now blames Cowdery for attempting to work miracles, and says it was not intended to be confirmed in that way. How then are we to obtain faith? Does the book offer any internal evidence of its divinity? If it does, it has not yet been discovered. It contains nothing but what might have been, and evidently was, borrowed from the sacred writings and from the history of the world. Was it so with the revelation that was from the beginning? far otherwise. A celebrated English writer, (Soam Jenyns) has proved to a demonstration, that the Christian religion is demonstrably divine, irrespective of any miracle that was ever wrought, from these premises, viz: that there were no writings or systems, then in the world, from which it could have been borrowed. Again, respecting Smith and his followers, do they give any proof of their honesty? They can give none but their own assertion; they have no sacrifice to make—no loss of fortune of reputation to sustain—they are in a land of liberty. Very different were the circumstances of those who first promulgated the “faith once delivered to the saints:”—They had to forsake ther relatives, leave their possessions, and forfeit their repution. Scourging and torture, imprisonment and death, were often staring them in the face, and always in the prospective. Thirteen apostles, all, save one, sealed their testimony with their blood. So, whether their religion was true or false, they proved their honesty. But Mormonism is to be proved from beginning to end by assertion, and this we have in whole numbers, without fractions. But we know that they cannot more roundly and positively assert than hundreds of impostors who have gone before them.
But we know who has said, “evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” for which cause we are admonished to “continue in the things which we have learned, and been assured of, knowing from whom we have received them.” The Pharisees said to the blind man, who had been healed by Jesus Messiah, “we know that God spoke unto Moses, but as for this fellow we know not whence he is.” So we say; we know that “God has spoken unto us in these last days by his Son,” but as for Joseph Smith we know not whence he is.
But we know the scripture has said, “cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord; for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land not inhabited.” But the contrast is, “blessed is the man who trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that putteth out her root by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
Now let me conclude with the conclusion of that revelation which begins with the beginning of time and ends with the end of time: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and form the things which are written in this book.”—“And all the people shall say amen.”
M. S[.] C.