“Latter Day Saints.” Isaac Scarritt to Mr. H, 13 July 1835. Western Christian Advocate (Cincinnati, Ohio) 2, no. 30 (20 November 1835): 120.
LATTER DAY SAINTS MR. EDITOR:—For two years past, the people calling themselves “the latter day saints,” have visited this place, and some of my highly esteemed friends have united with them. With others, I have been invited to examine “whether these things are so.” This I have done candidly, prayerfully, and impartially; and as I have uniformly opposed all bitter railing against these people—have read their works—conversed frequently and freely with their ministers— sometimes attended their worship—and always felt and acted friendly toward them, they, no doubt, entertained some expectations that I should eventually unite with them. Indeed I might have been won over, had I, on careful examination, found any thing either in their faith or practice that appeared more excellent than any thing to be met with elsewhere; for I held myself entirely open to conviction. Under these circumstances, having a peculiar occasion to speak out my sentiments on some particular points, I wrote the following epistle to a preacher of the above order, soon after having met with him in public worship. While writing the letter, I had no idea of its being made public; but on mature deliberation, I concluded to draw off a copy and send you for publication. Two reasons induced me to this: 1. That it might reach the ears of the “High Priest.” 2. That others may know my sentiments as far as they are here expressed. I could say much on this system, having, as I said, examined it thoroughly; but the miscellaneous remarks of my letter are all I shall exhibit at this time.
Dupage, Cook co., Ill., July 13, 1835.
SIR:—I perceived that the question I asked you last Sabbath respecting Enoch’s translating a city to heaven, which was mentioned in your discourse, excited some unpleasant sensations in your mind. I had no design to interrupt your devotions (it being after meeting was dismissed), or to demand proof of the assertion that was made; I only wanted to know positively what was your doctrine and belief in that respect.
But there was another subject wherein you glanced at me in your address, which explicitly demands my notice. You said that I was the first, to your knowledge, that denied the Scriptures of the Bible being the “testimony of Judah.” Be it so; I now state to you explicitly, that I consider the idea of a particular Scripture testimony ascribed to Judah, and another to Joseph, a fabrication got up in the book of Mormon (page 67), which has no shadow of foundation in the Scriptures of truth. In support of the “testimony of Judah,” you quote Genesis, xlix, 10.—Here is a prediction that the regal power should reside in Judah until Christ came; but what has this to do with the subject of Scripture authors? Can you see no difference between a king swaying a “scepter,” and administering “laws” to his subjects, and a divinely inspired writer? Besides, the whole of the New Testament was written after Shiloh [Christ] had come, therefore the passage affords no proof of its being the testimony of Judah. Why not call it the testimony of Levi? for Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Ezra were Levites. Besides, it was the business of the priests to take charge of, and preserve the Scriptures, as well as to teach and expound them.
Joshua was an Ephraimite, and ought, on your theory, to be on the side of Joseph. As to some of the Scripture writers, it is unknown of what tribe they were; but the noted New Testament writer, Paul, we know was a Benjaminite. David and Solomon, and probably Isaiah and Daniel, are all that are known to be the tribe of Judah. So little ground have you to say that our Scriptures are the “testimony of Judah.” That passage in Ezekiel, xxxvii, 16, is urged as proof of the testimonies of Judah and Joseph; but what rare genius first discovered that two books of Scripture, were represented by these two sticks, I cannot imagine. There needs no inspiration here; common sense is sufficient to decide that 22d verse fully explains the whole meaning of the sticks. But you ask, what then was to be written upon the sticks? I answer, simply the names of Judah and Joseph, or Ephraim. Turn to Numbers, xvii, 2, 3, there you have the whole subject of writing on sticks exemplified. I now ask, in my turn, what was to be written on these sticks? Do you say the Bible on the stick of Judah, and the Book of Mormon, on the stick of Joseph! and all this writing to be done by Ezekiel the priest, in the land of Chaldeans! the first, to be the Scripture for the land of Palestine! the second, for North America! and these two, notwithstanding the many contradictions between them, should become one in the latter days!!
Such an interpretation, for its singularity, almost equals the idea of a city’s being translated to heaven.
Whatever was meant by the stick of Joseph, it was to be in the hand of Ephraim; the Book of Mormon, therefore, cannot be meant by it, for that book gives no intimation that there was ever an Ephraimite in this country. Perhaps you will be surprised, as some of your brethren have been, at this assertion; especially as one of your wise and inspired leaders, on seeing an Indian, personated him, and broke out in this sublime strain, “I once was pleasant Ephraim, when Jacob for me prayed,” &c. To settle this point, we must have recourse to the history; and although I have it not before me, I will make some statements from memory, which you may compare with the Book of Mormon for their correctness. There were two sets of emigrants said to come from Jerusalem and settle in this country. The first was Lehi with his six sons—Ishmael and his three sons—and Zoram a servant of Laban. Lehi, the account states, was a descendant of Manassah, and left Jerusalem in the first year of Zedekiah; of Ishmael; there is no account of what tribe he was; and as to Zoram, it is unknown whether he was even a Jew. These first settled in what was called the land of Nephi.
—The second emigrant, we are informed, was Muleck, the son of Zedekiah, who left Jerusalem at the time it was taken by the King of Babylon, and settled in Zarahemla; he and his posterity, of course were descendants from Judah; these, with those of Manassah, as far as can be gathered from the history, make up the whole Jewish settlement in this country: these were the alleged writers of the Book of Mormon. How then can you maintain that that work is the testimony of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim when not an Ephraimite had any hand in it?
I call your attention to that part of the history which asserts that a son of Zedekiah emigrated to this country at the time of the taking of Jerusalem, and compare it with Jeremiah, xxviii, 23, and xxxix, 6. Here we have an express account that the sons of Zedekiah were taken and slain! This is only one instance out of many, in which the Book of Mormon stands in flagrant contradiction with the Scriptures.
Your explanation of the book, mentioned in Isaiah, xxxix, 11, is equally singular with that of the sticks. You take it for granted that nothing could be meant in that passage but Joseph Smith interpreting the Book of Mormon; and refer to the account of his proceeding, which appears to be framed particularly with an endeavor to bring it under the influence of this passage of Scripture. But whatever be its meaning or its application, it is certain that it has reference to certain characters mentioned in the preceding verse, Now I am by no means sure but the character and conduct of Joseph Smith in this business, is like the vision of those blind slumbering prophets, rulers, and seers. There does certainly seem some analogy between the two cases; but after all I doubt of your being very fond of producing this text to prove his divine mission, did you but see the bearing of your own argument.
You say, that the work from which the account of Enoch’s translating the city is taken, is called the Prophecies of Enoch; and that the proof of it will shortly appear in the publications of your church. While waiting for this proof, I shall content myself with dropping this passing remark. It might seem sufficient for you to resort to the fruitful source of Scripture revelations contained in the hidden plates, without calling to your aid an old Jewish legend which has always been condemned as a spurious production and base forgery.
You maintain, “that Christ will not come again to the earth, until he can find the church as he left it.” Then he will have to look to some other church than the latter day saints; for this church possesses, or pretends to possess the gift of tongues, but the church when Christ left it, did neither. See Luke, xxiv, 49–51, compared with Acts, ii, 1–4. Here it is evident that Christ left the church before these gifts were bestowed; therefore, they, at that time, neither had them, nor pretended to have them. Your church, then, with all its gifts, will not be found in accordance with that state of things in which Christ left his church; but those whom you consign to eternal perdition for not claiming these gifts, may, upon your own premises, be enabled to “abide the day of his coming, and stand when he appeareth.”
Among other singular ideas, you advanced this: that the ark with all its contents was “hid up to the Lord” by Jeremiah, and that it would come forth at the restoration of Israel. If this be the case, it is to be hoped that hit will not come forth attended with that enchantment which pervades the sacred “plates.” These, although claiming to be a divine revelation of Scripture, do, at the very time of their fulfillment, make their short and transient visit to an individual, and then, like Captain Kidd’s money chests, disappear from the view and grasp of mortals! This state of things seems to be recalling the age of witches and wonders! rather than bearing any analogy to the ordinary method of God’s dealing with respect to his Word.
But when the Jews shall have again come into possession of their sacred ark, what will be done with Aaron’s rod, all in full blossom? Possessed of this divine emblem of their prerogative, will not some of the sacerdotal line be for reviving the old “Aaronic priesthood,” to the great detriment of those who claim to be of the order of Melchisadeck? Let me here tell you that your assertions respecting the ark, are not only altogether destitute of proof, but are in direct contradiction of the Scripture. See Jeremiah, iii, 16.
You maintained that in order to have a correct and authentic version of the Scriptures in any language, it was as necessary to have the translator divinely inspired, as the original writer.
I maintain the contrary, on the following ground: the inspired original being accessible to all (who are versed in the language), no individual could make a defective translation without being exposed to detection; this secures the practicability of having a correct translation by uninspired men. As to the authenticity of Scripture, that has always been determined by the church, both Jewish and christian; and nothing is wanting for the church to acknowledge any translation of Scripture to be authentic, but to be satisfied that it is true; and this may easily be done, as above stated, by the general consent of the learned. This position of yours goes to prove what I have uniformly charged upon your system, viz: that it detracts from, and nullifies the Scriptures. For, 1. You consider them as only scattered fragments of the whole record of divine revelation. 2.
“The most plain and precious parts,” have been expunged by the “abominable church.” 3. They have been translated by uninspired men, which renders them unauthenticated. 4. Being the “testimony of Judah,” they are principally designed for that country, and not for a general standard. Thus your professed regard for the Scriptures is like the salutation of Joab to Amassa—
2 Samuel, xx, 9, 10—while it professes a kiss, it aims a deadly stab at the heart.