Two Years' Residence in the New Settlements of Ohio

1835

Griffiths, D., Jun. Griffiths, D., Jun.

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Griffiths, D., Jun. Two Years’ Residence in the New Settlements of Ohio, North America: With Directions to Emigrants, 132–41. London: Westley and Davis, 1835.

THE restless and enterprising temperament of Americans appears not less conspicuously in religion, than in politics and the pursuit of private happiness. Under the direction of God’s Spirit, it maintains a perpetual succession of Revivals at home, and sends forth a host of Missionaries to preach the gospel in foreign climes; but, accompanied with a weak understanding, and led astray by erroneous religious notions, it vents itself in the wildest fanaticism.

One of the most remarkable instances of credulity and fanaticism existing at the present time in the United States is exhibited in Mormonism.

It appears that A. D. 1830, an Angel of the Lord, as the Mormons say, appeared to a certain individual commonly called Joe Smith, [132] at that time residing in Manchester Township, Ontario County, New York State, and discovered to him a number of plates which had been hidden for ages in the side of a hill at Manchester. On these plates was engraven the religion of Mormon in unknown characters, which characters Mr. Smith by a miraculous gift of interpretation, translated into English; and this translation constitutes the “Book of Mormon,” otherwise called “The Golden Bible.”

Hearing a good deal about this said Mormonism, I had some curiosity to see the Golden Bible; and at last my curiosity was gratified by a Mormon Elder, who brought me the Mormon Bible, and the Mormon Newspaper; and, besides, gave me some authentic information respecting this new sect.

The Book of Mormon is about the size of the New Testament, the peculiar phraseology of which is imitated; I suppose, to give the book an air of authenticity. The contents of the book are set forth in the title page as follows.—“Wherefore it is an abridgement of the Record of the people of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites; written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of Revelation. Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof; sealed by the hand [133] of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord to come forth in due time by way of Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift of God; an abridgement taken from the book of Ether. Also, which is a Record of the people of Jared, which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to heaven: which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the Covenants of the Lord that they are not castoff for ever, and also to the convincing of Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations. And now if there be a fault it be the mistake of man, wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.”

Such are the subjects concerning which the book treats; and that the plates referred to above actually were discovered, we have the testimony of eleven witnesses at the end, prefaced by the following words; “Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that Joseph Smith, Junior, the author and proprietor of this work, has shewn unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of [134] which has the appearance of ancient work, and curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith hath shewn unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety, that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names to the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen; and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer.

Jacob Whitmer.

Peter Whitmer, Jun.

John Whitmer.

Hiram Page.

Joseph Smith, Sen.

Hiram Smith.

Samuel H. Smith.

Oliver Cowdry.

David Whitmer.

Martin Harris.

The Mormons have their High-Priests, Elders, Bishops, and Deacons, all of whom they send out by twos under the name of “Disciples,” without scrip or purse; the families of these “disciples” in the mean while are supported at home, by the voluntary contributions of, the Church. They baptize by immersion, on a profession of faith; and administer the Lords Supper once a fortnight, or oftener, according to circumstances.

In their creed the reader will recognize the sentiments of certain English and Scotch fana-[135]tics of the present day; for every believer, according to the Mormons, possesses supernatural powers. In proof of this, the Mormon Elder with whom I debated upon the point, brought forward such passages as these; “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, &c.” “And these signs shall follow them that believe, &c.”

In reply to my arguments showing that miraculous powers were confined to the first age of the church, he observed, it is not said in the New Testament when miracles should cease, or that they should cease at all.

If every believer has the power of working miracles, I asked, how was it that Baxter, Whitfield, and Watts, and others, wrought no miracles? Because, he answered, they did not believe that they possessed the power.

To settle the point in a more summary manner, therefore, I requested him to shew me a sign. In reply, he told me that he lay two or three months at the Mouth of—River, sick of a fever; that the skill of all the physicians in the neighborhood had failed to relieve his malady, and at last he sent for an Elder of the Mormon Church. The Elder came up to my bed side, he said, and asked me if I had faith to be healed. I answered yes. Then said the Elder “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” And I rose up instantly and walked with the Elder three miles to meeting [136] that night. In confirmation of all this he shewed me the scars on his leg where the breakings out had been healed.

As the means of investigation, were all at hand, I had not much doubt of the fact, allowing somewhat for exaggeration, and I merely related other wonderful cures that had come to my knowledge, accounting for them on natural principles. But, said I, if you had faith to be healed, I suppose you have faith to heal also, and there are many sick in the neighbourhood.

Yes, he replied, but they have not faith to be healed, if they are sick.

In addition to the gifts of healing, the Mormons pretend to prophecy. As a specimen of their prophetic gifts; the Elder declared that but a short time before, a young Prophetess had foretold, that on a certain day six persons would be baptized by immersion, at a distant place; and it came to pass, beyond all human calculation. The Mormons also pretend to have foretold the natural phenomenon, which took place on November thirteenth, 1833, and was visible throughout the United States; but unfortunately the prophecy was accomplished before it was promulgated.

The phenomenon to which I refer, was thus described in an American Newspaper at the time.

November 13, 1833.

MESSRS EDITORS.

A singular phenomenon was exhibited in the [137] heavens on Wednesday morning, which excited the admiration of all who witnessed its extraordinary appearance, and is well worthy the investigation of scientific enquirers. About four o’clock in the morning, a large meteoric body, resembling a globe of fire, exploded in the Zenith of the heavens, and poured a continuous stream of flaming particles on the sky beneath. The increasing scintillation from this luminous globular body, were showered down like drops of falling rain, illuminating the whole visible horizon, and scattering rich rays of light in each airy path as they fell. After this meteoric shower of fiery rain had for some time descended, a luminous serpentine figure was formed in the sky, which on its explosion, produced a shower of fire equally brilliant and incessant. The inflammatory particles then apparently cohering in one ignited mass, rolled up in a ball to the Zenith; and from this lofty elevation burst, and shot out streams of electric fire from its luminous orb, which continued to fall till the hour of six in the morning, when the dawning day put an end to their glory and their flight.”

The Mormons profess to have the gift of tongues; and as I had heard a performance of unknown tongues at Mr. Irving’s Chapel, in London, I requested the Mormon Elder to favour me with a few sentences, that I might compare them with the “Oh, oh, oh! Ah, ah! Ee-aw, ee-ee, oh! Aw-ah! Ee-aw-oh! Oh, oh, oh, ah, [138] Ee-aw-aw, -ee-aw!,” of our English manifestations; but in vain.

The Mormons believe, likewise, in the personal reign of Christ, which they predict is to commence in thirty years from this time; and in the literal restoration of the Jews; but as to the ten tribes of Israel, from whom they say the American Indians are descended, and the “stick of Joseph,” they are to be gathered together upon the American continent, and brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles.

If I do not mistake, there are 12,000 of these Mormons. When the sect first sprang up they pitched upon the Western Reserve for their Zion or Promised Land, but finding some difficulty in settlement, they went, for the most part to Missouri; some of them, however, still remain among the New Settlements, on the shores of Lake Erie.

That many of the Mormon people are perfectly sincere is pretty evident from the sacrifice of property they make. Indeed, they expose themselves without fear to the most contagious diseases, and persist to the death in refusing medical aid. I was acquainted with the case of a young woman in dying circumstances, who could not be persuaded to allow the physician to be called in, although her complaint set all the healing power of the Mormon church at defiance; and, what was worse, her own mother stood at the bed-side, encouraging her obstinacy, and exhorting her to die in the Mormon faith.[139]

But, however credulous and sincere the Mormon people may be, unquestionably the priests and leaders of Mormonism generally are “wide awake folks,” as an Ohioan would express himself, and they find it a profitable game. They have a regular system of cheating by the sale of Newspapers &c., in which they promulgate their prophecies, revelations &c., just as fast as expediency will allow. And, as a specimen of their occasional tricks, I quote the following from the New York Observer. “We perceive by a letter from Independence, in Missouri, that difficulties have already begun in the Mormon community, at Mount Zion. In that quarter, one of the members having sued a bishop in a court of justice, for fifty dollars, which had been sent by plaintiff to said bishop, from Ohio, to purchase an inheritance for himself and the saints in Zion in these latter days, the jury found for the plaintiff; it appearing that though the bishop had appropriated the money to the purchase of an inheritance, yet he had procured the deed to be drawn in his own name, and to his heirs for ever.”

But to conclude, (for I think the reader must be tired of Mormonism) it has come out at last, that the Golden Bible was originally composed for a Novel, and being turned into a Bible by the ingenuity of two or three leading men among the Mormons, was printed and published as the basis of their religion. This de-[140] velopement we trust will speedily extinguish the new lights.

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