Chapter 8

1834

Mormonism Unvailed Howe, Eber D., b. 1798

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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.

CHAPTER VIII.

Before the publication of the book, Smith found many to believe its contents, from the ghost stories which he related concerning it. Soon after it was issued from the press, a person by the name of Parley P. Pratt happened to be passing on the canal through Palmyra, and hearing of the wonders of the gold plates and huge spectacles, called on the prophet, and was soon converted. This Pratt then resided in Lorain County, Ohio; and had, some time previous, formed an intimacy with Sidney Rigdon, and became a convert to his doctrines. This Rigdon was a man of great eloquence, belonging to a denomination of Christians, who style themselves, “Disciples,” or “Reformers,” and who are also, by their opponents, in derision, called “Campbellites.” He resided in the County of Geauga, and but a few miles from the place which has since been made the head quarters of Smith. He was a very popular preacher, and had large congregations in different parts of the country. If there was a man in the world that could successfully spread and give a name to the vagaries of the Smiths, it was Rigdon. They soon became convinced of this, by the representations of Pratt. We may here stop to remark than an opinion has prevailed, to a considerable extent, that Rigdon has been the Iago, the prime mover, of the whole conspiracy. Of this, however, we have no positive proof; but many circumstances have carried a suspicious appearance; and further developements may establish the fact.

Either before or soon after the arrival of Pratt at Manchester, among the Smiths, it appears that an expedition was fitted out for the Western Country, under command of [100] Cowdery, in order to convert the Indians, or Lamanites, as they called them. As a preparatory step, a long revelation was furnished by Smith, to Cowdery, to serve as his credentials. This curious document will be found in the succeeding pages, from which it will be seen that the prophet, at the outset, feared a rivalship, and took effectual means to put it down. His brother Hiram, it appears, also undertook to write some mysteries from a stone, which was forthwith vetoed, and pronounced to be the work of Satan.

As Cowdery had been a scribe to the prophet, it became necessary to supply his place. He therefore very prudently and affectionately, had the following command for his wife:

“A commandment to Emma, my daughter in Zion, A. “D., 1830.—A revelation I give unto you concerning my “will. Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an “Elect Lady, whom I have called. Murmur not because “of the things which thou hast seen, for they are withheld “from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in “a time to come; and the office of thy calling shall be for “a comfort unto my servant Joseph, thy husband, in his af- “flictions, with consoling words in the spirit of meekness ; “and thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and be “unto him a scribe, that I may send Oliver whithersoever “I will: and thou shalt be ordained under his hand to ex- “pound the scripture, and to exhort the church according “as it shall be given thee by my spirit, for he shall lay his “hands upon thee and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost ; “and thy time shall be given to writing and to learning much; “and thou needst not fear, for thy husband shall support “thee from the church, for unto them is his calling, that “all things might be revealed unto them whatsoever I will “according to their faith ; and verily I say unto thee, that “thou shalt lay aside the things of this world and seek for “the things of a better ; and it shall be given thee also to [101] “make a selection of sacred Hymns as it shall be given “thee, which is pleasing unto me to be had in my church, “for my soul delights in the song of the heart, yea the song “of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be ans- “wered with a blessing upon their heads, wherefore lift up “thy heart, and rejoice and cleave unto the covenant which “thou hast made—continue in the spirit of meekness—let “thy soul delight in thy husband and the glory which shall “come upon him—keep my commandments continually, “and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive ; and “except thou do this, where I am you cannot come, and verily “I say unto you that this is my voice unto all—Amen.”

These were some of Smith’s first attempts at making his followers believe that the Lord was to make known his will constantly through him ; and the persons chosen were, it must be acknowledged, the best of which the nature of the case would admit—his wife and Cowdery. In this operation, he abandoned his spectacles, or “peep-stone,” and merely delivered it with his eyes shut. In this manner he governs his followers, by asking the Lord, as he says, from day to day. Every difficult question or dispute is thus decided—from it there is no appeal. He has taught them, that to doubt their divine authority, is to endanger their salvation. We shall have occasion, in the progress of this work, to give many curious specimens of his art of governing.

The expedition to the “Lamanites” was finally fitted out by Smith, and was composed of Cowdery, Pratt, Peterson and Whitmer. In the latter part of October, 1830, under the guidance of Pratt, they arrived at the residence of Rigdon, in Mentor, Ohio, well supplied with the new bibles.—They professed to rejoice at finding a people walking according to the scriptures, and pretended to acknowledge no other guide. They professed to have no commands for them ; nevertheless, they called upon them to receive the [102] book as from Heaven, which they said mostly 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 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 by Rigdon, and pronounced a “silly fabrication.” When farther pressed upon the subject, they required the people to humble themselves before God, and pray for a sign from Heaven.

Near the residence of Rigdon, in Kirtland, there had been, for some time previous, a few families belonging to his congregation, who had formed themselves into a common stock society, and had become considerably fanatical, and were daily looking for some wonderful event to take place in the world. Their minds had become fully prepared to embrace Mormonism, or any other mysterious ism that should first present itself. Seventeen in number of these persons, readily believed the whole story of Cowdery, about the finding of the golden plates and spectacles. They were all re-immersed, in one night, by Cowdery. At this, Rigdon seemed much displeased, and when they came next day to his house, he told them that what they had done was entirely without precedent or authority, from the scriptures—for they had immersed those persons that they might work miracles, as well as come under their new covenant—showed them that the Apostles baptized for the remission of sins, instead of miraculous gifts. But when pressed upon the point, they said it was done merely at the solicitation of those persons. Rigdon again called upon them for proofs 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 showed unto them. Rigdon here showed [103] them from scripture the possibility of their being deceived: ‘For Satan 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?” 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 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 this, Rigdon was persuaded to tempt God by asking this sign, which he knew to be contrary to his revealed will ; he of course received a sign, and was convinced that Mormonism was true and divine.—According to his own reasoning, therefore, the Devil appeared to him as an angel of light ; but he now imputed his former reasoning to pride, incredulity, and the influence of the Evil One.

On the conversion of Rigdon, a most successful starting point was thought to have been obtained. Cowdery and his associates then began to develope the peculiarities of the new imposition. Scenes of the most wild, frantic and horrible fanaticism ensued. They pretended that the power of miracles was about to be given to all those who embraced the new faith, and commenced communicating the Holy Spirit, by laying their hands upon the heads of the converts, which operation, at first, produced an instantaneous prostration of body and mind.

Many would fall upon the floor, where they would lie for a long time, apparently lifeless. They thus continued these enthusiastic exhibitions for sev- [104] eral weeks. The fits usually came on, during or after their prayer-meetings, which were held nearly every evening.—The young men and women were more particularly subject to this delirium. They would exhibit all the apish actions imaginable, making the most ridiculous grimaces, creeping upon their hands and feet, rolling upon the frozen ground, go through with all the Indian modes of warfare, such as knocking down, scalping, ripping open and tearing out the bowels. At other times, they would run through the fields, get upon stumps, preach to imaginary congregations, enter the water and perform all the ceremony of baptizing, &c. Many would have fits of speaking all the different Indian dialects, which none could understand. Again, at the dead hour of night, the young men might be seen running over the fields and hills in pursuit, as they said, of the balls of fire, lights, &c., which they saw moving through the atmosphere.

Before these scenes fully commenced, however, Cowdery had departed for the country inhabited by Indians, with the expectation of converting them to Christianity, by means of his new bible, and miracles which he was to perform among them. These pretensions appeared to have taken possession of the minds of the young men in their aspirations. Three of them pretended to have received commission to preach, from the skies, after having jumped into the air as high as they could. All these transactions were believed to be the Spirit of God, by the whole congregation, which now numbered more than one hundred.—That they were honestly impelled by the same causes which have, in all ages of the world, contributed so much to debase human nature, we have no doubt. One of the young men referred to, freely acknowledged, some months afterwards, that he knew not what he did, for two or three weeks.—Such is the mind of man, when his reason is dethroned by [105] physical causes. One of these aerial commissions, which they all supposed was signed and sealed by Christ himself, we here subjoin, verbatim:

“Oh my servant, there is a great work for you and the “other two of your brethren. I send a messenger to tell “you where to go and find a piece of parchment that shall “contain these words:—You shall teach repentance and re- “mission of sins to all who shall come in the sound of your “voice—I command you that you do these things in sincer- “ity and in truth ; and if you do, you shall be blessed.—

“The time is shortly acoming and is not far distant when “you shall be bound together for life—the names of your “brethren are these: Burr Riggs and Edson Fuller, and if “they are not faithful I will choose another in their stead— “my work must be done. My servants, you shall go forth “from place to place, and if you are true to your trust, “they shall hear. Remember that I am the Lord your God “—serve me above all others, and I will bless you, in the “end, Amen.

“That that you had a messenger tell you to go and get the “other night, you must not show to any son of Adam.—

“Obey this and I will stand by you in all cases—my ser- “vants, obey my commandments in all cases, and I will “provide.

{Be ye always ready,}

{Be ye always ready,} whenever I shall call.

{Be ye always ready,}

My Seal

“There shall be something of greater importance re- “vealed when I shall call you to go—my servants, be faith- “ful over a few things, and I will make you a ruler over “many.—Amen, Amen, Amen.” [106]

These commissions, they said, came on parchment, and they had only time to copy them before they vanished from their sight. With such papers in their pockets they actually went through the country, preaching, and made many converts. Two of the three afterwards obtained their reason, and left the concern. All these things were afterwards pronounced by Smith to be the work of the Devil, although more than one hundred had been converted to Mormonism, by merely witnessing the exhibitions. They professed, at all times, their inability to work miracles, but were secretly trying to perform them, and frequently proclaimed their success. At a distance from the scene of action, many notable miracles were circulated.

During these performances, it should be remembered, that Rigdon was not present. In about three weeks after his conversion, he repaired to the bible quarry, in the state of New York, in order to have a personal interview with the prophet. Smith was prepared to receive him, of course; and a commandment was soon fitted out for him, every way calculated to suit his case and vanity. This being an important link in the chain of our history, we here transcribe it:

“A Commandment to Joseph and Sidney, Dec. 7, 1830:

“Saying, listen to the voice of the Lord your God ; I am “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course “is one eternal round ; the same to-day as yesterday and “forever. I am Jesus Christ, was crucified for the sins of “the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that “they may become the sons of God, even on me as I am “in the father, as the father is in me, that we may become “one. Behold, verily, verily I say unto my servant Sid- “ney, I have looked upon thee and thy works; I have heard “thy prayers, and prepared thee for a greater work—thou “art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold, thou “wast sent forth even as John, to prepare the way before [107] “me and Elijah which should come, and thou knewest it “not—thou didst baptize by water unto repentance, but “they secured not the Holy Ghost ; but now I give unto “you a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water and “give the Holy Ghost by laying on of hands, even as the “Apostles of old. And it shall come to pass that there shall “be a great work in the land, even among the Gentiles, “for their folly and their abominations shall be made man- “ifest in the eyes of all nations ; for I am God, and mine “arm is not shortened, and I will shew miracles, signs and “wonders, unto all those who believe on my name ; and “whosoever shall ask in my name, in faith, shall cast out “Devils, they shall heal the sick, they shall cause the blind “to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb “to speak, and the lame to walk ; and the time speedily “cometh that great things are to come and be shown forth “unto the children of men ; but without shall nothing be “shown forth except desolation and destruction upon Baby- “lon, the same which hath made all nations drink of the “wine of their fornication, and there is none that doeth “good except them that are trying to receive the fulness of “my Gospel, which I have sent forth unto this generation.—

“Wherefore, I have called upon the weak things, that they “are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the “power of my spirit, and their arm shall be my arm, and I “will be their shield and their buckler; I will gird up their “loins and they shall fight manfully for me, and their ene- “mies shall be put under their feet ; and I will let fall the “sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation “will I preserve them, and the poor and the meek shall have “the gospel preached to them, and they shall be looking “forth to the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand, “and they shall learn the parable of the fig-tree, for even “now already, summer is nigh at hand, and I have sent [108] “forth the fullness of my gospel by the hand of my serv- “ant Joseph, and in meekness have I blessed him, and I “have given unto him the keys of the mysteries of those “things which have been sealed, even things which have “been from the foundation of the world, and the things “which shall come from this time till the time of my coming, “if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his “stead ; wherefore, watch over him that his faith fail not ; “as it shall be given by the comforter, the Holy Ghost, “which knoweth all things. And a commandment I give “unto you, that thou shalt write for him, and the scriptures “shall he given, even as they are in my own bosom, to the “salvation of mine own elect, for they will hear my voice, “and shall see me, and shall not be asleep, and shall abide “the day of my coming, for they be prepared, even as I “am prepared, and now, I say unto you, tarry with him “and he shall journey with thee—forsake him not, and “surely these things shall be fulfilled ; and inasmuch as ye “do not write, behold it shall be given unto him to prophe- “cy, and thou shalt preach my gospel and call on the Holy “Prophets to prove his words as they shall be given him.

“Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye “are bound and I will cause the Heavens to shake for “your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice “upon the hills and flourish, and Israel shall be saved in “mine own due time, and by the keys which I have given “shall be led and no more be confounded. Lift up your “hearts and be glad, for your redemption is nigh. Fear “not, little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come. Be- “hold, I come quickly, even so. AMEN.”

We, before, had Moses and Aaron in the persons of Smith and Cowdery, and we now have John the Baptist, in the person of Sidney Rigdon. Their plans of deception appear to have been more fully matured and developed after [109] the meeting of Smith and Rigdon. The latter being found very intimate with the scriptures, a close reasoner, and as fully competent to make white appear black, and black white, as any other man ; and at all times prepared to establish, to the satisfaction of great numbers of people, the negative or affirmative, of any and every question, from scripture, he was forthwith appointed to promulgate all the absurdities and ridiculous pretensions of Mormonism, “and call on the Holy Prophets to prove” all the words of Smith. But the miraculous powers conferred upon him, we do not learn have yet been put in requisition. It seems that the spirit had not, before the arrival of Rigdon, told Smith any thing about the “promised land,” or his removal to Ohio. It is, therefore, very questionable, “what manner of spirit” it was which dictated most of the after movements of the Prophet. The spirit of Rigdon, it must be presumed, however, generally held sway ; for a revelation was soon had, that Kirtland, the residence of Rigdon and his brethren, was to be the eastern border of the “promised land,” “and from thence to the Pacific Ocean.” On this land the “New Jerusalem, the city of Refuge,” was to be built. Upon it, all true Mormons were to assemble, to escape the destruction of the world, which was so soon to take place. The width of this Mormon farm, we have not heard described. The revelation concerning the promised land, we have not been able to obtain a copy of ; it is explained, however, in the following letter from Rigdon, written to his brethren in Ohio, soon after he became acquainted with the movements and designs of the prophet.

“I send you this letter by John Whitmer. Receive him, for he is a brother greatly beloved, and an Apostle of this church. With him we send all the revelations which we have received ; for the Lord has declared unto us that you pray unto him that Joseph Smith and myself go speedily [110] unto you ; but at present it is not expedient for him to send us. He has required of us, therefore, to send unto you our beloved brother John, and with him the revelations which he has given unto us, by which you will see the reason why we cannot come at this time. The Lord has made known unto us, some of his great things which he has laid up for them that love him, among which the fact (a glory of wonders it is) that you are living on the land of promise, and that there is the place of gathering, and from that place to the Pacific Ocean, God has dedicated to himself, not only in time, but through eternity, and he has given it to us and our children, not only while time lasts, but we shall have it again in eternity, as you will see by one of the commandments, received day before yesterday. Therefore, be it known to you, brethren, that you are dwelling on your eternal inheritance ; for which, cease not to give ceaseless glory, praise and thanksgiving to the God of Heaven.—Yes, lift up your heads with joy, for the kingdom is ours till the Savior comes, even so, Amen—therefore, prepare your hearts to receive salvation which God has sent unto you, knowing that they have come from God ; and know assuredly if you receive them, you shall receive greater things, yes, things unspeakable and full of glory—“such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive,” for our God hath in visions shown it unto me. Therefore, I write with the greatest certainty of these things which he hath prepared for us—yes, even us, forever, who receive the revelations of the last days, are the very people of whom the prophets spoke, and the very saints who shall rejoice with Jesus”!!!

This communication caused a great rejoicing in the congregation. They were then residing upon their “eternal inheritance”!!! Rigdon tarried with Smith about two months, receiving revelations, preaching in that vicinity, [111] and proving by the prophets that Mormonism was true, as he imagined. He then returned to Kirtland, Ohio, being followed in a few days after by the prophet and his connections. This being the “promised land,” in it their long cherished hopes and anticipations of “living without work” were to be realized. Thus, from almost a state of beggary, the family of Smiths were immediately well furnished with the “fat of the land” by their fanatical followers, many of whom were wealthy.

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