Booth, Ezra. “Mormonism—No. VII.” The Ohio Star. (Portage County, Ohio) 2, no. 47 (24 November 1831).
Nelson, Portage Co. Nov. 21, 1831 .
REV. & DEAR SIR—
The following, with but little variation, is the copy of a letter which was written to the Bishop of the Mormonite Church, who, by commandment, has received his station, and now resides in Missouri. His business is to superintend the secular concerns of the Church. He holds a deed of the lands, and the members receive a writing from him, signifying, that they are to possess and occupy the land as their own, so long as they are obedient to Smith’s commandments. The Bishop is, in reality, the Vice-gerent of Smith, and those in collusion with him; and holds his office during their will and pleasure. I think him to be an honest man as yet, but there is a point beyond which he cannot go, unless he prostrates his honor as in the dust, and prostitutes his conscience to the vilest of purposes. He has frequently staggered and been ready to fall. The Conference last year gave him a tremendous shock, from which, with difficulty, he recovered. The law of the Church enjoins, that no debts with the world shall be contracted. But a thousand acres of land in the town of Thompson, could be purchased for one half its value, and he was commanded to secure it; and in order to do it, he was under the necessity to contract a debt with the world, to the amount of several hundred dollars. He hesitated, but the command was repeated, “you must secure the land.” He was one of the number, who was ordained to the gift of discerning spirits; and in a commandment, a pattern was given by which the good spirit might be distinguished from the bad, which rendered the gift of spiritual discernment useless: for the division was to be made from external appearances, and not from any thing discovered internally.—He saw the impropriety and it shook his faith. I am suspicious that the time is not far distant, when, by commandment, this office will be bestowed upon a more trusty and confidential person; perhaps Smith’s brother or father, or some one who has been disciplined in the State of New-York. Then it will become his business, to make over the property, by deed of conveyance, to the person appointed by commandment to supersede him. The Mormonites will tell you, that business of this nature is done by the voice of the Church. It is like this: a Sovereign issues his decrees, and then says to his subjects, hold up your right hands, in favor of my decrees being carried into effect. Should any refuse, they are sure to be hung for rebellion.
SEPT. 20, 1831.
SIR:—From a sense of duty, I take up my pen, to communicate to you the present impressions of my mind, which originated from facts, which occurred during my stay there, and while returning home. I arrived safely at my home on the 1st inst. after having passed through a variety of scenes, some of which, I design to disclose to you in this letter. You will probably be surprised, when you learn, that I am no longer a member of the Mormonite Church. The circumstances which led to this are numerous, and of such character, that I should have been compelled to sacrifice every principle of honesty, or cease to support a system, which I conceived to be grossly inconsistent, and in opposition to the best interest of human society. The first thing that materially affected my mind, so as to weaken my confidence, was the falsehood of Joseph’s vision. You know perfectly well, that Joseph had, or said he had, a vision, or revelation, in which it was made known to him by the spirit, that Oliver had raised up a great Church in Missouri.
This was so confidently believed, previous to our leaving Ohio, that while calculating the number in the Church, several hundred were added, supposed to be in Missouri. This great Church was found to consist of three or four females. The night we took lodgings in the school-house, and the morning which succeeded it, presented circumstances which I had not anticipated.
When you intimated to Joseph that the land which he and Oliver had selected, was inferior in point of quality to other land adjoining, had you seen the same spirit manifested in me, which you saw in him, would you not have concluded me to be under the influence of violent passion, bordering on madness, rather than the meek and gentle spirit which the Gospel inculcates? When you complained that he had abused you, and observed to him, “I wish you not to tell us any more, that you know these by the spirit when you do not; you told us, that Oliver had raised up a large Church here, and there is no such thing,” he replied, “I see it, and it will be so.” This appeared to me, to be a shift, better suited to an imposter, than a true Prophet of the Lord. And from that time I resolved, to weigh well every circumstance; and I can assure you, that no one that has any bearing on the subject, escaped my notice. But the spirit considered you insolence to Joseph, too intolerable, too be passed over unnoticed. Hence the commandment: “if he repent not of his sins, which is unbelief and blindness of heart, let him take heed lest he fall. Behold his mission is given unto him, and it shall not be given again.” You are to be careful, to submit patiently to all the abuse which Joseph sees fit to pour upon you; and to swallow passively, all the spurious visions, and false prophecies, that he in his clemency thinks proper to bestow upon you, lest you fall from your Bishoprick, never to regain it. These men, under whose influence you act, were entire strangers to you, until you embraced this new system of faith. Now, permit me to inquire, have you not frequently observed in Joseph, a want of that sobriety, prudence, and stability, which are some of the most prominent traits in the christian character? Have you not often discovered in him, a spirit of lightness and levity, a temper of mind easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking? Have you not repeatedly proved to your own satisfaction, that he says he knows things to be so by the spirit, when they are not so? You most certainly have. Have you not reason then to believe, or at least to suspect, that the revelations which come from him, are something short of infallible, and instead of being the production of divine wisdom, emanate from his own weak mind? Some suppose his weakness, nay, his wickedness, can form no reasonable objection to his revelations; and “were he to get another man’s wife, and seek to kill her husband, it could be no reason why we should not believe revelations through him, for David did the same.” So Sidney asserted, and many others concur with him in the sentiment. The commandment we received to purchase, or make a water craft, direct us to proceed down the river in it as far as St. Louis, and from thence, with the exception of Joseph and his two scribes, we were to proceed on our journey home two by two. The means of conveyance being procured, we embarked for St. Louis, but unpropitious events rolled on, superseded the commandment, frustrated our plans, and we had separated before we had accomplished one half of the voyage. The cause which produced this disastrous result, was a spirit of animosity and discord, which made its appearance on board, the morning after we left Independence. The conduct of some of the Elders became highly displeasing to Oliver, who, in the greatness of his power, uttered this malediction; “as the Lord God liveth, if you do not behave better, some accident will befal you.” The manner in which this was handed out, evinced it to be the ebullition of a spirit, similar to that which influenced Joseph in the school-house. No accident however befel them, until Joseph in the afternoon of the third day, assumed the direction of affairs on board of that canoe, which, with other matters of difference, together with Oliver’s curse increased the irritation of the crew, who, in time of danger, refused to exert their physical powers, in consequence of which, they ran foul of a sawyer, and were in danger of upsetting. This was sufficient to flutter the timid spirit of the Prophet and his scribe, who had accompanied him on board that canoe, and like the sea-tossed mariner, when threatened with the horrors of a watery grave, they unanimously desired, to set their feet once more upon something more firm than a liquid surface: therefore, by the persuasion of Joseph, we landed before sunset, intending to pass the night upon the bank of the river. Preparations were made to spend the night as comfortably as existing circumstances would admit, and then an attempt was made, to affect a reconciliation betwixt the contending parties. The business of settlement commenced, which elicited much conversation, and excited considerable feeling on both sides. Oliver’s denunciation was brought into view; his conduct and equipage, were compared to “a fop of a sportsman;” he and Joseph were represented, as highly imperious and quite dictatorial: and Joseph and Sidney, were reprimanded for their excessive cowardice. Joseph seemed inclined to arm himself according to his usual custom, in case of opposition, with the judgments of God, for the purpose of pouring them, like a thunder bolt upon the rebellious Elders; but one or two retorted, “none of your threats:” which completely disarmed him, and he reserved his judgment for a more suitable occasion. Finding myself but little interested in the settlement, believing the principles of discord too deeply rooted to be easily eradicated, I laid myself down upon the ground, and to silence, contemplated awhile the events of the evening, as they passed before me. These are the men to whom the Lord has intrusted the mysteries, and the keys of his kingdom; whom he has authorized to bind or loose on earth, and their decision shall be ratified in Heaven. These are the men sent forth, to promulge a new revelation, and to usher in a new dispensation—at whose presence the “Heavens are to shake, the hills tremble, the mountains quake, and the earth open and swallow up their enemies.”—These are the leaders of the Church, and the only Church on earth the Lord beholds with approbation. Surely, I never witnessed so much confusion and discord, among the Elders of any other Church; nevertheless they are all doomed to a perpetual curse, except they receive the doctrines and precepts which Mormonism inculcates, and place themselves under the tuition of men, more ignorant and unholy than themselves. In the midst of meditations like these, I sunk into the arms of sleep, but was awakened at a late hour, to witness and consent to a reconciliation, between the parties. The next morning, Joseph manifested an aversion to risk his person any more, upon the rough and rapid current of the Missouri, and in fact, upon any other river; and he again had recourse to his usual method, of freeing himself from obtaining another in opposition to it. He succeeded according to his desires. A new commandment was issued, in which a great curse was pronounced against the waters; navigating them, was to be attended with extreme danger; and all the saints in general, were prohibited journeying upon them to the promised land. From this circumstance, the Missouri river was named the river of Destruction. It was decreed, that we should proceed on our journey by land, and preach by the way as we passed along. Joseph, Sidney and Oliver, were to press their way forward with all possible speed, and to preach only in Cincinnati; and there they were to lift up their voices, and proclaim against the whole of that wicked City. The method by which Joseph and Co. designed to proceed home, it was discovered, would be very expensive. “The Lord don’t care how much money it takes to get us home,” said Sidney. Not satisfied with the money they received from you, they used their best endeavors to exact money from others, who had but little, compared with what they had; telling them in substance, “you can beg your passage, on foot, but as we are to travel in the stage, we must have money.” You will find, sir, that the expense of these three men, was one hundred dollars more than three of our company expended, while on our journey home; and for the sake of truth and honesty, let these men never again open their mouths, to insult the common sense of mankind, by contending for equality, and the community of goods in society, until there is a through alteration in their mthod of proceeding. It seems, however, they had drained their pockets, when they arrived at Cincinnati, for they were there under the necessity of pawning their trunk, in order to continue their journey home. Here they violated the commandment, by not preaching; and when an inquiry was made respecting the cause of that neglect, at one time they said, they could get no house to preach in; at another time they stated, that they could have had the court-house, had they staid a day or two longer, but the Lord made it known to them, that they should go on; and other similar excuses, involving like contradictions. Thus they turn and twist the commandments, to suit their whims, and they violate them when they please with perfect impunity. They can at any time obtain a commandment suited to their desires, and as their desires fluctuate and become reversed, they get a new one to supersede the other, and hence the contradictions which abound in this species of revelation. The next day after we were cast upon the shore, and had commenced our journey by land, myself and three others went on board of a canoe, and re-commenced our voyage down the river. From this time a constant gale of prosperity wafted us forward, and not an event transpired, but what lended to our advance, until we arrived at our much-desired homes. At St. Louis we took passage in a steam-boat, and came to Wellsville; and from thence in the stage home. We travelled about eight hundred miles farther than the three who took their passage in the stage, and arrived at our homes but a few days later. It is true we violated the commandment by not preaching by the way, and so did they by not preaching in Cincinnati. But it seems that none of us considered the commandment worthy of much notice.
In this voyage upon the waters, we demonstrated that the great dangers existed only in imagination, and the commandment to be the offspring of a pusillanimous spirit. The spirit also revealed to Joseph, that “on the steam-boats, plots were already laid for our destruction.” This too we proved to be false. While descending the Missouri river, Peter and Frederick, two of my company, divulged a secret respecting Oliver, which placed his conduct on a parallel with Ziba’s; for which Ziba was deprived of his Elder and Apostleship: “Let that which was bestowed upon Ziba, be taken from him, and let him stand as a member in the Church, and let him labor with his own hands with the brethren.” And thus by commandment, poor Ziba, one of the twelve Apostles, is thrust down; while Oliver the scribe, also an Apostle, who had been guilty of similar conduct, is set on high, to prepare work for the press; and no commandment touches him, only to exalt him higher.—These two persons stated, that had they known previous to their journey to Missouri, what they then knew, they never should have accompanied Oliver thither.
Sidney, since his return, has written a description of the land of Zion. But it differs essentially from that which you wrote; so much so, that either yours or his must be false.
Knowing him to be constitutionally inclined to exaggerate, and suspecting that this habit would be as likely to preponderate, in his written, as in his oral communications, you cautioned him against it. “What I write will be written by the most infallible inspiration of the Holy spirit,” said he, with an air of contempt. You must be careful sir, or it will again and sound in your ears, “if he repent not” for giving a false description of the land of Zion, let him take heed lest he fall from his office. This, Sidney said, was one reason why you were not permitted to return to the State of Ohio. The want of time and paper notify me to bring this letter to a close. And now permit me to intreat you, to candidly view the whole subject, from the commencement unto the present time. Look at it with your own eyes, and no longer suffer these strangers to blind you, and daub you with their untempered mortar. Think how often you have been stumbled by those discordant revelations, false visions, and lying prophecies. Put into practice the resolutions you expressed to me the morning after the collision at the school-house, that you would go home, and attend to your own business. Transfer the lands you hold in your hands, to the persons whose money paid for it. Place yourself from under the influence of the men who have deceived you; burst the bands of delusion; and fly for your life, fly from the habitations haunted by impostors; and having done this, you most surely will be glad and rejoice, and prove to your own satisfaction, as I have done, the falsity of Joseph’s prophetic declaration, “if you turn against us you will enjoy no more satisfaction in the world.”
Some things are intimated in the foregoing letter, which more properly belong to Cowdery’s mission to the Indians; and when I come to notice that mission, those things will, probably, be more fully exhibited.
It is also indirectly stated, that Rigdon has acquired the habit of exaggeration. The truth of this statement, I presume, will be doubted but by few, who have been long acquainted with him. Most of his communications carry the appearance of high and false coloring; and I am persuaded, that truth by his embellishing touch, often degenerates into fiction. I have heard him several different times, give a representation of the interview between himself, and to use his own phraseology, “the far-famed Alexander Campbell.” This man’s wonted shrewdness and presence of mind, forsook him when in the presence of this gigantic Mormonite; so much so, that “he was quite confused and acted silly.” I will give you a specimen of the language, with which Rigdon said he assailed him: “You have lied Alexander. Alexander you have lied. If you do not receive the Book of Mormon you will be damned.” With such like [unreadable text] had at the feet of his chastising master. “You are a liar, you are a child of the Devil, you are an enemy to all righteousness, the spirit for the Devil is in you,” and the like, is dealt out profusely against an obstinate opponent, and especially, one whom they are pleased to nickname apostate. I regret the necessity I am under of making such statements, and could wish there had been no occasion for them. But truth compels me to it, and the good of society demands it.
REV. I. EDDY.