Chapter 3


Mormonism Unvailed Howe, E. D., b. 1798

❮ Home

Howe, E. D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, From Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in which the Famous Golden Bible was Brought Before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries Into the Probability that the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written By One Solomon Spalding, More than Twenty Years Ago, and By Him Intended to Have Been Published As A Romance. Painesville, Ohio:E. D. Howe, 1834.



“The Book of Mormon,” is divided into a number of books, each one purporting to have been written by different individuals upon plates of brass, so far as the history of Lehi, the founder of the vast settlements which were situated on the isthmus of the Darien, were concerned; and upon plates of gold, so far as it relates to one Jared and his posterity, who were not confounded at the destruction of Babel, but were miraculously navigated by the hand of the Lord across the ocean. The history of Lehi and his posterity, commences in the reign of Zedekiah, King of Judah, six hundred years before the Christian era, and ends about four hundred years afterwards, which concludes the history, or fiction. The whole work is written in a miserable attempt to imitate the style of king James the first, and the sameness is such, and the tautology of phrases from the beginning to the end of the work, that no one can be left in doubt in identifying the whole with one individual author. We are not aware that the style of king James is better calculated to reveal the will of Heaven, than is the [23] modern and more refined language ; but is a strong evidence against the work now under our consideration. If God chose to reveal himself, it would be reasonable to expect that it would be done definitely, and in such language as could be clearly understood by all ; and why this long circumlocution of history ? it has nothing to do with salvation. Christ, nor the inspired writers of the new testament, furnish no such example ; the bare facts of the plan of redemption is set before us, and a few self evident rules to govern our moral conduct.

The first book is entitled “the book of Nephi,” and commences its narrative with the departure of Lehi from Jerusalem. He had four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi ; the last of whom is the principal hero in the present book, and the historian. He is a scholar, an engraver, and a worker of metals ; for he says : “Behold I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates of brass, which I have made with mine own hands ; wherefore, after that I have abridged the record of my father, then will I make an account of mine own life.” Lehi dreams marvelous dreams previous to his departure from Jerusalem, and sees wonderful visions. He goes about prophecying of the great calamities that await the Jews, and warns them to flee from the wrath to come. The people become vindictive at his clamor, and threaten his destruction.

To rescue Lehi, and to bring about wonderful events, God warns him to flee into the wilderness, and leave all his great possessions, his gold and his silver, and take nothing with him but his family, his tents, and provisions. A miserable condition for the wilderness indeed ; no clothing, no weapons, nor tools to make them with.

The command is obeyed, and he travels until he arrives on the borders of the Red sea.

The three el- [24] der brothers become disaffected, probably from their adversity and privations, and accuse the father with being visionary, &c. Nephi represents himself as being a particular favorite with the Lord, (or his narrator does for him) for he says : “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceeding young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know the mysteries of God,” &c. God blesses him, and makes a covenant with him, and promises him a choice land, which is above all others.— p. 9. Nephi is commanded by his father, together with his three brothers, to go back to Jerusalem, to the house of one Laban, who has in his possession a record of the Jews, engraven on plates of brass, as he is informed by the Lord in a dream ; and that it likewise contained the genealogy of his ancestors. Nephi is ready to obey, and by some little persuasion, the four brothers embark for the plates at Jerusalem. Laban, who has them in possession, refuses to give the plates to the embassadors. But Nephi was not to be foiled. Two unsuccessful attempts are made, and, the third time, Nephi finds Laban drunk within the walls of the city, and says : “And I, Nephi, beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof, and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceeding fine ; and I saw the blade thereof was of most precious steel.” p. 12.

This is the earliest account of steel to be found in history. Alexander the Great, who lived about three hundred years after the period here spoken of, employed iron for points to his implements of war, as Josephus tells us ; and the same author says, that he complained that his weapons were so easily blunted ; now, if steel had been in use, either at Rome, Jerusalem, or Damascus, at the time here spoken of, in Alexander’s time it would have been common, and he would have used it for his weapons instead of [25] iron. Damascus was once famous for manufacturing swords, but it was long after the Christian era. A coarse kind of steel, or iron carbonated, was used in the days of Julius Caesar, about one hundred years before Christ.

The covenant with Nephi gives him a choice land. And again he says that his father has obtained a promise from the Lord that he should have a choice land, p. 14. Whether these are seperate lands, we are left to conjecture. If they are the same, one of the promises is gratuitous ; because when the Lord covenanted with Abraham, he promised him the land of Canaan, which should be inherited by his posterity forever. It is true, the covenant was renewed with Isaac ; but he was the rightful heir. If the Lord had have covenanted with Abraham, and with Isaac, for a land, we should naturally infer that they were different countries, especially if the covenant had been made with Isaac first. Nephi says the promise of the choice land, is to him, exclusively, as can be seen on page 9 ; consequently each have a seperate land. But the sequel of the fiction informs us, that they all embark into one ship,—land on this side of the Atlantic, and dwell together until Lehi dies.

Nephi says, he drew forth the sword of Laban, and cut his head off, which enabled him afterwards to obtain the plates by false pretences and deception. Thus we see the author would have us believe, that the Lord sometimes accomplishes his designs by murder and lying.

Lehi receives the plates from his sons,—examines them, and finds to his great satisfaction, that he is a descendant from Joseph, the son of Jacob. “And now, when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the spirit, and began to prophecy concerning his seed ; that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, which were of his seed. Wherefore, he said [26] that these plates of brass should never perish, neither shall they be dimmed any more by time.” p. 15.

The above plates have not been found ; if they have, we have not been furnished with a translation.

Nephi, and his brethren, are again sent back to Jerusalem, to bring with them into the wilderness, a man by the name of Ishmael, and his family, which consists of daughters and sons enough, to furnish each family with husbands and wives. They all arrive in the wilderness, and very soon a quarrel ensues between the different individuals of the families, which Nephi settles in a most masterly manner ; after which, the males of both families take wives, with which the provident author has kindly provided them.

The three next pages, to wit : 18, 19, and 20, are taken up in relating a marvelous dream, or vision, in which Laman and Lemuel are represented as being finally apostates, and would be cut off.

Nephi informs us, that he is at that time employed in engraving, or writing, on the plates, which he now names after himself ; and whether the plates of Laban are included, we are not told, nor are we informed how they were disposed of. The plates, hereafter, are called the plates of Nephi. p. 21.

A little further, on the same page, he says he has a commandment from the Lord, to make plates for the special purpose of making a record of his own ministry, and of his own people.

Here our hero introduces himself as a minister, and as having the charge of a people—he is in the wilderness destitute of any thing, nothing but tents and provisions, every thing was left behind, gold, silver, no metals or tools as a matter of course, but the command to make his plates is obeyed. We shall be compelled to institute a chapter of [27] miracles in order to account for the manner of making brass plates in the wilderness, without tools or metals, and likewise to satisfy our readers upon many other points in our review. Miracles will account for any thing, however ridiculous, whenever our minds preponderate in favor of the subject to which the story may be attached. Any thing, however preposterous and false it may be, if believed to be of divine origin, needs no evidence, because nothing is impossible with Deity.

Lehi comes out with a marvelous prophecy, considering the period in which it is made ; not so much on account of the prophecy as the language, in which he uses to express it. After the doctrine of the fall is explained, he speaks of the Messiah, and calls John by name, and quotes the words from Isaiah, or Matthew’s gospel : “Prepare ye the way of the Lord : make his paths straight ;” and continues, “for there standeth one among you, whom ye know not ; and he is mightier than I, whose shoes’ latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” —John I. 26–7. Here is another miracle in choosing the exact language of King James’ translation, more than two thousand years before it was arranged, and six hundred before the sentiment was uttered. The plan of redemption is explained at the same time, and the only way of salvation proclaimed ; consequently the law was abrogated at that time, and the Nephites were christians. The prophets of the old testament, doubtless, had very clear views of the promised Messiah, and of the atonement through his blood. But that they preached the law, and felt themselves bound by it, we never entertained a doubt. In the wise dispensations of God, man was not to avail himself of the redeeming doctrines of the gospel, until the time was fully come, when Christ was to appear to fulfil the law, and offer mercy through grace. Christ must appear on earth—die, and be raised from the dead, [28] before all was fulfilled, as the sacred writers understood it, and taught the disciples, and the world of mankind. If it were possible for the plan of redemption to have been unfolded, without the actual appearance of Christ in the flesh, why did not the patriarchs with whom God made his covenants, and his promises, preach redemption through the atonement, instead of sacrifices and ceremonies ? But we are informed by this same prophet Lehi, that “all mankind was in a lost, and in a fallen state ; and ever would be, save they should rely on this Redeemer.” p. 22. From the last paragraph, the author views the matter in the same light with us, that is, that the Christian religion was revealed and made known to the Nephites, six hundred years before the advent of Jesus Christ. Lehi speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the son of God. ‘And the son of God was the Messiah.’ Let us compare the above sentiments with the declarations and views of the inspired writers of the New Testament. “But when the comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the father,” &c.

John XV. 26. From this we should infer, that the Holy Ghost was yet in anticipation, because he is promised ; and to confirm our view of this subject, we will cite a few other passages. “It is expedient for you that I go away ; for if I go not away the comforter will not come unto you.”

John XIV, 7. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16, 8. “But ye shall receive, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you.”

Acts I, 8. In the second chapter of the Acts, we find all the above promises fulfilled.

Lehi continues his preaching, speaks of John and of the Virgin Mary, and calls her the “mother of God,” and declares the way of salvation, by Jesus Christ, through faith and repentance. p. 25. All the prophets of old, were far behind our Lehi, and they prophecied falsely too, if our [29] book of Mormon is true, according to our apprehension of the doctrines which they taught. If any one can reconcile the contradictions and incongruities between the sacred writings and Lehi’s prophecies, we should be gratified to hear it, and will be among the first to acknowledge our misconceptions and error. We are among the last who would be willing to villify, and ridicule, any thing that is counted sacred, without the best evidence of its falsehood and imposition. We consider, and believe, the prophecies and doctrines of the Bible of divine origin, and any thing which contravenes its precepts, or its revelations, will be regarded by us as false.

Our hero, Nephi, next presents himself in the drama, as a dreamer and a prophet, and is more explicit as to particular incidents than his father. In his vision, he is made acquainted with all the particulars of our Savior’s birth and life, to his baptism, which he witnesses, and sees the Holy Ghost descend in the form of a dove, and abide upon him. It is worthy of remark, that no circumstance is mentioned by Nephi, in relation to the life and ministry of our Savior, only what can be found in the New Testament. Very little is said by the evangelists of Jesus Christ, between the time of his birth and his entering upon the ministry. But we might expect some little incidents from such a revelation as the book of Mormon, which would throw some light upon that interesting subject, which is not to be found in the New Testament. It furnishes to us good evidence that the author was guided by the new Testament, when his low and licentious imagination conceived, and brought to light the “Book of Mormon.” He could not, nor dared not, fabricate any thing, for fear of detection, which could not be found in the historical part of the sacred writings. But upon any thing which pertains to spiritual affairs, and is not susceptible of contradiction, only through the medium of reason, every licence is taken by our author. [30]

Nephi’s vision gives us a poor account of the corruptions of the Roman church, showing that the author understood very little of church History. The name of Jesus Christ is mentioned on page 28, and of John, the apostle, page 35. Nephi’s vision takes up about ten pages, from page 25, and gives, as his own views, a cursory account of the popular doctrines which have been agitated since the Reformation. To give credit to the pretence, that Nephi, living six hundred years before the christian era, could, or would, have had the name of Jesus and of John revealed in preference to any other prophet, is repugnant to common sense, and in direct violence to the universal belief of those who have ever been distinguished for piety, and a critical knowledge of the holy Bible. Besides, we cannot reconcile a view of revealed truth, with a disquisition on Church scisms, such as we find in Nephi’s vision. If the Book of Mormon is a revealed truth from God, we are compelled, irresistably, to conclude, that Paul was mistaken when he said the twelve apostles of the Lamb, developed certain secrets which were hid from ages and generations, and were ordained before the world to their glory, that they should have the honor of announcing them. But our author pretends that Nephi, together with sundry other prophets which he has created, had the whole christian system developed to them, many centuries before the twelve apostles, of which Paul speaks, had the honor of announcing it, and preached it to a set of Jews, who had been miraculously landed on, or near the Isthmus of Darien. Not only this, if we are to take the brass plate revelation for sacred truth, we must infer that there has been a great deficiency in the record of our Savior’s mission, or that he did not exhibit his truths while here, as fully, and as clearly as he did to these Nephites, through their prophets ; and consequently left the world in darkness, to grope their way in superstition and ignorance, until the mineral-rod [31] necromancy of Joseph Smith, Jun. searching after Robert Kidd’s money, which was buried in Manchester, Ontario county, New York, found the plates of Nephi, which had been buried there one thousand four hundred and twenty-eight years. How long he kept them, we are not informed ; but they were taken from him, and hid up again by the Lord, so that no divination, nor legerdemain, will enable him to find them.

“And it came to pass,” says Nephi, “that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father, and commanded him, that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness. And it came to pass, that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground, a round ball of curious workmanship ; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles, and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.” Which way the other pointed, we are not told, but probably the way they should not go. If this ball was a compass, as we are hereafter told by the author, many improvements have been made upon that instrument, except in the construction of the negative spindle, since that time. But what is most ridiculous, is, that it was a find brass ball, and yet the spindles could be seen to traverse in the inside of it. Perhaps Lehi had a stone which favored his vision, and enabled him to look into opaque bodies as well as into futurity.

The revealing stone, and the stone spectacles, will hereafter be described, which will account for many wonderful things, without searching into the chapter of miracles.

From page 39 to 42, is principally taken up in giving an account of eight year’s travels, following the direction of one of the spindles through the wilderness. It traversed eastwardly and southeastwardly, bringing them all safely on the borders of the Red sea, with the exception of Ishmael, who dies in the mean time. [32]

Nephi is now commanded by the Lord, to repair to the top of a mountain, where he sees a vision, in which he is informed that he must build a ship, and where he can find ore from which to manufacture tools. We are now presented with our hero in a new character,—that of a shipbuilder. So that in his youth he is a scholar, a historian, a worker of metals, a ship-carpenter, a prophet and a priest. It now seems that ore and tools are necessary, in order to construct a ship ; but to make plates of brass, neither ore, tools, nor metals were essential. Six pages are next occupied in giving an account of quarrels between Nephi and his brethren. But Nephi, in the mean time, builds a ship contrary to the opinions of his brothers, and the rational inference is, that he makes his own tools out of ore, and builds the ship without assistance from any one. It requires some little stretch of credulity, to believe that Nephi done all the above work, such as making iron from ore, and converting it into steel, and then making the tools necessary to build a ship, without tools with which to do it. The manner in which he built the ship, he accounts for in the following language :—“Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner of men, &c. but I did build it after the manner which the Lord did teach me.” p. 47.—How long he was in accomplishing this great work, we cannot learn ; but if all was done by a miracle, as the author intimates, we can see no necessity for any interference on the part of Nephi, but give to him the glory who accomplished the work.

The patriarch Noah, had special directions for building the ark, the kind of wood, &c., and he built it after the model given him, and he had many years in which to accomplish it. And we have good reason to believe that the work was done in the same manner as other ships were built, and that he employed workmen to aid him in it. Ne- [33] phi arrogates to himself a great preference with the Lord, over the patriarch Noah.

Lehi, and all his host, after the ship is completed by our hero, go on board, and immediately embark for the promised land. But the wicked dispositions of Laman and Lemuel would not allow the crew to remain in peace. A mutiny takes place on ship board, and our hero and admiral was taken, and bound so tight that he could not move. But the Lord is represented as being on Nephi’s side, and a remedy was at hand at once. The famous brass ball-compass ceased to traverse ! “and they knew not wither to steer the ship, insomuch, that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest.” We will leave the reader to draw the inference, whether the terrible storm arose from the abuse of Nephi, or, because the compass would not traverse ! p. 48.

If the bare statement of a succession of miracles, such as have been recorded thus far in the Book of Mormon, unaccompanied by any testimony, or carrying with it any plausible probability of truth, entitles the work to the credit of Divine authenticity, we have already failed in our attempt to prove it a fiction. But we apprehend our readers will not receive the ridiculous story of Nephi, although it be clothed in the mantle of sanctity, without first instituting a critical enquiry, and comparing the probabilities with the sacred truths of Holy Writ.

We might have mentioned, that Lehi had two sons born in the wilderness, after he departed from Jerusalem. The eldest was called Jacob, and the other Joseph ; these two sons are somewhat important personages in the como-tragedy hereafter.

To return to our crew. Finding the compass would not traverse, they get frightened, and set Nephi at liberty ; the magnet again operates—the seas become calm—and every [34] thing quiet. Whether the ship had sails, or was propelled by oars, or by a current, or by the will, or by the power of the spindle, we cannot inform our readers, for it is not stated. But Nephi, or the author, says that they all landed safely on the promised land.

“And it came to pass, that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forest of every kind, both the cow and the ox.” p. 48.

More miracles to substantiate the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. We had supposed that oxen were the result of a surgical operation upon bulls, changing their natures, in order to render them docile and useful to man ; and nothing can be more ludicrous than to suppose the matchless power of the Almighty, had interfered with these animals in the wilderness, and caused the transformation of them as represented.

Nephi is again commanded to manufacture more plates to engrave upon, and in this land of promise materials are plenty. The art of making them without materials is probably lost. Gold, silver and copper ores are found, and no others mentioned, but brass plates can be made, doubtless, by Nephi out of gold, silver, and copper ores, as well as out of nothing, as he must have done before he navigated the tribe across the ocean. p. 50.

We are next presented with a recapitulation of the prophecies of Lehi, in relation to the coming of our Savior, together with a fictitious quotation from prophecies conceived by our author, and brought forth in his own miserable, barren style. “To be lifted up according to the words of Zenoch, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, and according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness,” Here we are presented with three new prophets, which were known to our hero, [35] prophecying of the most important events which ever transpired, or ever will. The last of which uttered a falsehood, because he speaks of three days of darkness at the time of the crucifixion. p.

51. The evangelists in the New Testament, state, that there was a darkness over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour, varying from three hours to three days. Profane history, likewise, corroborates the statement made by the evangelists. If such prophets as Zenoch, Neum, and Zenos, had ever existed, would not there have been some trace left, or allusion made, either in sacred or profane writing respecting them ? The known characteristic of the Jews, from time immemorial, is conclusive evidence that these prophets are fictitious characters. The Jews have ever been distinguished for their tenacity to their traditions and religion. They have ever held their prophets in the highest veneration, particularly those who spake clearly of the coming Messiah.

We are now relieved by the author, from the coarse style in which the book is written, by the introduction of the 48th and 49th chapters of Isaiah, in the approved translation. To contrast the sublime style of the inspired writer, with the insipid and tasteless diction of the author of the Book of Mormon, requires more ability than we possess. [36]

❮ Back