Vicissitudes Illustrated

1832

Towle, Nancy Towle, Nancy

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Towle, Nancy. Vicissitudes Illustrated in the Experience of Nancy Towle in Europe and America, 137–47. Charleston: For the Authoress, 1832.

To the State of Ohio, I desired to go, however: from other considerations than this. A very singular people (both of origin and practice,) had attracted my attention: whose particular place of gathering, at this time, was there. I had heard much of the people: and in many places, the excitement I found considerably in their favor; but many were halting between two opinions, respecting them; and wishing to be informed. What I had learned, I imagined, if real, was of no small moment, either to myself or others. But if not, the things should be duly investigated, (even of such as were skilled to discern,) and exposed as a warning to those, who were liable to founder, upon the same quicksands. My first impression of them, was, that they were a deluded people; [137] and their writings, were a long time at my side, before I thought them worthy of my notice—Wherefore, on seeing some of my acquaintance, if an error, carried away of that error; I began to think it high time, to look into the things, and to know for myself, what that error was.

Accordingly I took the steam-boat in company with Elizabeth, and we traveled down the Lake, and landed at Painesville, (Ohio.) From thence we went directly to Kirtland, where we met with the people, referred to above; and were entertained of E. Marsh, from the city of Boston.

Just as we reached the place, (which appeared providential,) all of their chief Elders arrived home: so that we had every opportunity of informing ourselves respecting them, which was desirable. As there are few, comparatively, who have had any knowledge of the Sect, so recently arisen, I will here take the liberty to subjoin some brief hints, in regard to, both them, and their persuasion.

A young man by the name of Smith, is the principal among them; who was trained, in the State of New York; and is now, about 28 years of age. He professes, about four years since, to have seen, and held communion with, an angel from God. That he was lying upon his bed, at a certain time, (having just been reclaimed from a back-slidden state) and the room, of a sudden, became light as day—when a beautiful person, presented himself, who required that he, (Mr. S.) should go to such a place; as he had something wonderful, he wished to reveal. He accordingly went; and was directed by the angel to a certain spot of ground, where was deposited a “Box”—[138] and in that box contained “Plates,” which resembled gold; also, a pair of “interpreters,” (as he called them,) that resembled spectacles; by looking into which, he could read a writing engraven upon the plates, though to himself, in a tongue unknown. These were delivered to him, as he asserts, to publish to the world. And when the things were committed to paper, “the box, &c. were to be sealed up, and deposited in the earth, from whence they were taken.”

All these things, he moreover, professes to have done; (though with the assistance of others, being himself, an illiterate youth,) and that the box, according to commandment, is sealed up, and to be seen of him, no more. The Book, consequently, taken from the plates, is regarded as the “Word of Inspiration:” and which contains the names of a considerable number of witnesses; that had been since esteemed, men of both intelligence, and veracity.

That book, I have both seen, and read—which is very voluminous. It pretends, for itself, to shew—by whom, and at what period, it was concealed in the rock. “By Jews,” according to its own testimony,) “of the ten tribes of Israel, in the 5th century, of the Christian Era.—Who for liberty of conscience, left the Old Word in a ship of their own construction; and sailed over the ‘Great Waters,’ they knew not whither, until they reached land:—and that, a number of centuries, anterior to the day of Christ.

It shews, furthermore, what darkness prevailed over all the country! how the earth shook,—and what strange phenomenon, was represented to [139] many, on the day the Son of God was crucified! It also shews, that from the wickedness of some tribes, how their complexion became changed; and how the ‘God Book,’ came to be lost, from among them. It foretells their fall; also, how long, and they shall rise again; and that their end, will then be great, till ‘time’ shall be, no more.”

The Book enjoins, 1st, “Baptism, by emersion, as a condition of acceptance with God:”— (which they consider, an acknowledgment of faith, in His Inspired Word: and a “being born again of water, and of the Spirit. ”) Hence, such only, as yield submission to this ordinance, and assent to the things contained in the Book, are with them, the avowed subjects of the kingdom of grace; and the favourites of Heaven.

It inculcates, 2dly, “That every such member, shall come out from the world: forsake father, mother, wife and children; nor call aught of his possessions, his own.” Hence, they are to embody themselves together, at some particular place; “have all things common; ” and so live together, in love; as the peculiar people, and the household, of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It enjoins, 3dly, “That every distinct member, be found at the Lord’s Table every Sabbathday, to commemorate His death and sufferings until He come;—and, moreover, that such, ‘exercise faith in God, of working miracles;’ according to the attainment of the primitive disciples: viz. of healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, and of imparting the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands, &c. (To the faith of the Apos-[140]tles, some of them, profess already to have attained; particularly Mr. S. whom they call their “Seer.” He could do, many wonderful things.

They believe, according to the Book: “That a day of great wrath, is bursting upon all the kindreds of the earth; and that, in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, alone, shall be deliverance in that day,” even in the land, which the Lord Jesus had given to them, for a dwelling-place, and an everlasting possession.) The place where they then had their stay, was not the “Land of Promise;” but that, lay, on the western boundary of the State of Missouri. In which place, they were then assembling; and where they believed that in process of time, they should have a temple; and a city, of great magnificence, and wealth; and that shortly, they should increase, and tread down all their enemies, and bruise them beneath their feet. After which period, Christ Jesus should descend, and reign with them, personally, 1000 years upon the earth. And then their enemies should be loosed for a season, (or, as one said to me, for the space of three months,) when, should take place, the General Judgment; and the final consummation of all created things.”

These things, accordingly, they had prevailed on some thousands to believe. Of their numbers, I found, ministers, of different persuasions: and some, it appeared, who had once been eminent for piety. I found, also, many men, of both influence and wealth. Husbands, who had left their wives: and wives, that had left their husbands.—Children, that had left their parents: and parents, their children,—that they might be “accounted [141] worthy,” as they said, “to escape all the things that should come to pass; and to stand before the Son of Man.

On the evening that we arrived, they had a meeting for searching hearts; which we, were too weary, to attend. The next day, which was the Sabbath, we had the privilege of going to hear them; but they allowed us to say nothing. We were present, at their communion season; also by the river side, where the ordinance of baptism, was administered. Thus, through all their exercises, I had followed them for one day, with the strictest scrutiny, and I wished to be away. I had travelled the world extensively; and had a chance of visiting some, of almost every religious fraternity; (at least within the bounds, of the United States) and I now, thought myself prepared to say of Mormonism,1 “That it was one of the most deep-concerted-plots of Hell to deceive the hearts of the simple that had ever come, within the limits of my acquaintance.

As a people, howbeit, in common with the world, I will do them the justice to say, I saw nothing indecorous; nor had I, any apprehension, of any thing of the kind. But in their public performances, I no more looked upon them, as sanctioned by the Lord of Hosts, than if, they had merely intended, to mimic the work of the Lord. Rather, to the contrary, I viewed the whole, with the utmost indignation and disgust: and as a mere profanation and sacrilege of all religious things. [142]

I really viewed it strange, that so many men of skill: should be thus duped of them. I pitied, and loved them too; believing that many, had actually intended, forsaking all for Christ.

“But, if christians,” is the question, “how came they to be the votaries of such ‘cunningly devised fables’ as these.” I answer “By not adhering strictly, to the rule-of-life, which God had given; as they should have done: thus, in the hour of temptation, they were left to believe a lie; although I believe, they may be saved at last —yet so, as by fire!”

Having by this time understood, that they could neither flatter, nor frighten us to their belief; they then undertook by threats, if possible, to drive us thereto: and said, one Phelps2You are in the gall of bitterness, and the strong bonds of iniquity: and I have authority to say to you; “You shall not be saved unless you believe that Book!”

Ans. If I had the Book, Sir, I would burn it!

And permit me, in return to prophecy respecting yourself. You will go away, into your Zion; (as you term it) and you will very shortly find, your faith to fail you. Then, you will reel and stagger as a drunken man; and as a bullock, unaccustomed to the yoke, you will run to and fro: your substance, at length, is wasted: your System of Doctrine, has come to the ground: your family is in wretchedness; and your children around you, crying for bread! Then you will be [143] glad, though in disgrace, to return to the place, from whence you had come out.”

Harris.3“I, have authority to say to you—You shall not enjoy, the comforts of God’s grace, until you believe that book!”

Ans. “You look like an artful, designing, man: and I think you mischievous enough, to be the inventor, of that plot!”

Har. “I should be willing to bear, all the sins of the human family, beyond the grave—if these things, are not so!”

Rigdon.4 “You are in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity. You never were, “born again.” You never were called, to preach the Gospel. And all, that you have ever done in the world, was mischief.”

1 So called from the writer of the plates whose name was “Mormon.”

2 Formerly, an Editor of the paper, published in New-York, called the Phoenix.

3 One of the writers of the Book; (and as he stated to me) that had expended $5000 for its publication.

4 A Baptist preacher, formerly in the State of Ohio; and once, much beloved.

Ans. “The Lord of Heaven, knows the man, to be a liar!”

Ques. “Mr. Smith,—Can you, in the presence of Almighty God, give your word upon oath—that, an Angel from Heaven, shewed you the place of those Plates:—and that, you took the things, contained in that Book, from those plates: and at the direction of the Angel, you returned the Plates, to the place, from whence you had taken them?”

Ans. “I will not swear at all!”

Upon this, being about to leave the place, he turned to some women and children in the room; [144] and lay his hands upon their heads; (that they might be baptized of the Holy Ghost;) when, Oh! cried one,5 to me, “What blessings, you do lose!—No sooner, his hands fell upon my head, than I felt the Holy Ghost, as warm water, to go over me!”

But I was not such a stranger, to the spirit of God, as she imagined; that I did not know its effects, from that warm water! and I turned to Smith, and said “Are you not ashamed, of such pretensions? You, who are no more, than any ignorant, plough-boy of our land! Oh! blush, at such abominations! and let shame, cover your face!

He only replied, by saying, “The gift, has returned back again, as in former times, to illiterate fishermen.” So he got off, as quick as he could. He recollected himself, wherefore, and returned to pass the compliment of ‘Good-by.’ A good-natured, low-bred, sort of a chap: and that seemed to have force enough, to do no one, any harm. Another, of their Elders threatened, to put us off the ground; and that he would have no more such blasphemy there. I said, “Sir, you need not trouble yourself to do that; we will go without; we were invited to this place, by the woman of the house; and did not think of being carried out, by any other person.”

We attended a meeting of Presbyterians, on Monday evening; and were invited to join them, in prayer and exhortation: that we accordingly did, with a degree of satisfaction. Two, chris- [145] tian people came in, the next morning, and invited us to Perry; to which place, we rejoiced to go, believing that God had sent them.

As we left the Mormonites, (for so they are called,) a number of families,6 started for the “Promised-Land.” One turned to us, with much apparent animation, and said, “We are now going to that Land, which is to be our dwelling-place, forever-more!” And they renewed their charge to us; that if we could not see with them; to be careful, and not to oppose them. I returned, “ I shall think it duty, to speak and write against you, wherever I may go!”

At Perry, I spoke in a school-house, where all seemed to hear with much surprise. Next night, I spoke at the Methodist Chapel in Painsville. There we found some husbands and wives at variance, about Mormonism: the one, detesting such a mass of absurdities—(or rather the evils resulting therefrom;) had burned the Book: while the other, wished to unite with the people, and held the same as sacred. I now rejoiced that I could give them such advice—if heeded, as would prevent the unhappy division; (if not the ruin of themselves,) before it was too late: and I now understood more especially, why duty had led me hither. Because, as I found, here were many staggered at these things; that dared not for their lives oppose them; neither did they dare embrace them. While they were threatened with destruction, in case they did not: (for example as myself had been,) and that were rejoiced, to [146] meet with any one, from whom they could hear the right side of the question.

From the consideration, that not only these, but many others over the world, (even as far as they, or their writings might have extended, were liable to be carried away of the same 5 E. M. formerly of Boston: but born in Ireland.

6 Phelps, and others. delusion; I therefore, have been the more particular here, in my remarks respecting them. So I now, leave my friendly reader, to think and act for himself: and I proceed with the account of my journeyings still, among many others, (though not to the same extent;) in divers ways “deceiving and deceived.”

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