Gleanings by the Way No. x

1840-10-10

Episcopal Recorder Clark, John A. (John Alonzo), 1801-1843

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Clark, John A. “Gleanings by the Way No. x.” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia,Pennsylvania) (10 October 1840): 114-15.

GLEANINGS BY THE WAY.

NO. X.

Dear Brethren,—Although I have occupied your attention so long with the history of the origin and rise of Mormonism, I have a few words more to add before closing the subject. Several facts which have come to my knowledge, since commencing these sketches, lead me to apprehend, that the developments we have been attempting to make are not ill-timed. Is there any one who would have formed so low an estimate of the Christian intelligence of this land, as to have concluded a priori that a deception so barefaced, and, withal, so ridiculous, as the pretended disinterment of the Mormon BIBLE from one of the hills of Western New-York, and this— set on foot by an illiterate vagrant hanging on the skirts of society, and of exceedingly doubtful moral character, and backed by the pecuniary means of a man of the most credulous and superstitious cast of character, whose sanity of mind was greatly questioned by all his acquaintance, should have gained in a period of ten years such dominion over human belief, as to be deceived as the undoubted truth of God by more than sixty thousand persons? We are surprised to hear of the success of this imposture in the Great Valley of the West, although there is material there for almost every erratic conception of the human mind to act upon. But what shall we say of the success of Mormonism in the Atlantic states,—gathering its converts from orthodox and evangelical churches? Will it not fill intelligent Christians with surprise to learn that the Mormons are establishing themselves not only in many parts of New England, but that they are spreading through Pennsylvania, and that they already have two churches formed in Philadelphia, and that a portion of the members of these churches, have been regular communicants in the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches? Such, however, is the fact. And we shall not be greatly surprised, if this “mystery of iniquity” continues to work, and that those who have dared to “add to the words” of God’s finished revelation, shall receive the threatened curse. We shall not be surprised if “God shall send upon such, strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,” and that they “wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

One thing however is distinctly to be noted in the history of this imposture. There are no Mormons in Manchester, or Palmyra, the place where this Book of Mormon was pretended to be found. You might as well go down into the Crater of Vesuvius and attempt to build an ice house and its molten and boiling lava, as to convince any inhabitant in either of those towns, that Jo Smith’s pretensions are not the most gross and egregious falsehood. It was indeed a wise stroke of policy, for those who got up this imposture, and who calculated to make their fortune by it, to emigrate to a place where they were wholly unknown. As soon as they had arranged their apparatus for deceiving weak, and unstable souls—as soon as the Book of Mormon was printed and their plans formed, the actors in this scene went off en masse to a part of the country where their former character and standing were unknown, and where their claim to divine inspiration could be set up with a little more show of plausibility than it could have been any where in the state of New York. Mormonism had to grow a number of years in a western soil, and there acquire a sort of rank and luxuriant growth, before it could be transplanted with any success to a point nearer its birth-place. And even now it keeps it very much in the 1227 background its grand peculiarities. The Mormon preachers, I am told, in this region, generally dwell upon the common topic of Christianity, rather than upon the peculiarities of their system. The object of this is manifest. They wish to strengthen themselves by a large accession of converts, before they stand on the peculiarities of their system. But all Christians should beware of their devices. Their whole system is built upon imposture.

They believe Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God, when there is not a man in our Penitentiary, that might not with just as much plausibility lay claim to that character.

They believe the BOOK OF MORMON to be a divine revelation, when it can be proved, that the whole ground-work of it was written by Mr. Spaulding as a Religious and Historical Romance. They believe that they have the power among them to work miracles, when even “Satan with all” his “power and signs and lying wonders, and with all his deceivableness,” has not been able to sustain their claim in a single instance.

Martin Harris, after he went to Kirtland, Ohio, where the first Mormon settlement was formed, used occasionally to return to Palmyra. As one of the three witnesses, he claimed divine inspiration, and is, I believe, to the present day regarded by the Mormons, as one of the greatest and best among “the latter-day saints.” In these visits to the place of his former residence he not only endeavoured to proselyte his old acquaintances to his new faith, but used sometimes to edify them with very solemn prophecies of future events. I was informed by Judge S—–of Palmyra, that he came to his office so much and uttered his prophecies so frequently that he at length told him, that he would not consent to his uttering his predictions any more orally, but that he must write them down and subscribe his name to them, or else seek some other place for the exercise of his prophetic gift. Harris instantly wrote down two predictions, attaching his signature to each.

The one was a declaration that Palmyra would be destroyed, and left utterly without inhabitant before the year 1836. The other prediction was that before 1838 the Mormon faith would so extensively prevail, that it would modify our national government, and there would at that period be no longer any occupant of the presidential chair of the United States. To these predictions he subjoined the declaration that if they were not literally fulfilled, any one might have full permission to cut off his head and roll it around the streets as a football. Bear in mind that this was one of the pretended chosen witnesses of God, to testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon. I need not say that both these prophecies in their entire failure of fulfillment convicted him of falsehood, and show how little is the value of his testimony.

Another fact worthy of note in this connection is, that as Harris, Smith, Rigdon, &c., all expected to make their fortune out of this scheme, when the banking mania began first to prevail in our country, they caught the contagion, and embarked in a banking enterprise. In the end it liked to have proved a ruinous operation to them all. Ultimately this speculation severed Harris from Smith and Rigdon, who went farther west, and commenced operations in Missouri. Harris, in one of his late visits to Palmyra, remarked to a friend of mine, that Jo Smith had now become a complete wretch, and that he had no confidence either in him or Rigdon. Recollect that this is the testimony of one of the three chosen witnesses by which the truth of the Book of Mormon is to be established.

One fact more. You recollect that it was mentioned in a former No. of these sketches, that Martin Harris’ wife could not be induced to come over to the Mormon faith. He consequently abandoned her, visiting her only once or twice a year. She at 1228 length declined in health, and was evidently sinking down to the grave. A gentleman of undoubted veracity in Palmyra told me that a few days before her death, Harris returned, and on one occasion while sitting in the room with her, appeared to be very much occupied in writing. She inquired what he was writing? He replied that he was writing a letter to the girl to whom he was going to get married when she was dead! And according to his words he was married in a very few weeks after her death. What are we to think of Mormonism, when we remember that a man of such feelings and such morality was one of the chosen witnesses to attest its truth.

I have already said, that the Mormons in this region cautiously keep out of sight the peculiarities of their system, and principally dwell upon the common topics of Christian faith and practice. One proof of this is, the very few copies of the Book of Mormon, that are found among them. I am told that among all the members of the two Churches established in Philadelphia, there are not more than twenty copies of the Book Mormon. This book I suppose is only for the initiated—for those whose faith is well established.

Another fact in proof of the foregoing position is the effort they use to drop the name of Mormons, and to assume the more taking one of “Lattter day Saints”—and when called upon to state their creed, instead of declaring boldly that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon his word, they rather dwell upon those points of faith which all Christians hold in common.

In illustration of this last remark, I will here insert a written statement given by Joseph Young of Kirtland, Ohio, an elder of the Mormon Church, while on a visit to Boston to establish his faith in that city.

“The principal articles of the faith of the Latter-day Saints, vulgarly called Mormons, are

1. A belief in one true and living God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and in his Son Jesus Christ, who came into this world 1800 years since, at Jerusalem; was slain, rose from the dead, ascended on high, and now sits on the right hand [114] of the Majesty in the heavens; that through the atonement thus wrought out, all men may come to God and find acceptance; all of which they believe is revealed in the holy Scriptures.

2. That God requires all men, wherever his gospel is proclaimed, or his law known, to repent of all sins, forsake evil, and follow righteousness; that his word also requires men to be baptized, as well as to repent; and that the direct way pointed out by the Scriptures for baptism, is immersion. After which, the individual has the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit; that this divine communication is absolutely promised unto all men, upon whom “the Lord our God shall call,” if they are obedient unto his commandments. This gift of the Holy Spirit, was anciently bestowed by the laying on the apostle’s hands: so this church believes that those who have authority to administer in the ordinances of the gospel, have this right and authority, through prayer; and without this authority, and this gift, the church is not now what it anciently was; consequently, cannot be recognized as the true Church of Christ.

3. That God will, in the last days, gather the literal descendants of Jacob to the lands, anciently possessed by their fathers; that he will lead them as at the first, and build them as at the beginning. That he will cause his arm to be made bare in their behalf; his glory to attend them by night and by day. That this is necessary to the fulfillment of his word, when his knowledge is to cover the earth as the waters cover the seas. And that, as 1229 men anciently saw visions, dreamed dreams, held communion with angels, and converse with the heavens, so it will be in the last days, to prepare the way for all nations, languages and tongues, to serve him in truth.

4. That the time will come when the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven, accompanied with ten thousand of his saints; that a mighty angel will lay hold on the dragon, bind him, cast him into the pit; where he will be kept from deceiving the nations for a thousand years; during which time, one continued round of peace will pervade every heart. And,

5. They believe in the resurrection of the body: that all men will stand in the presence of God, and be judged according to the deeds, or works, done in this life; that the righteous will enter into eternal rest, in the presence of God, but the wicked be cast off, to receive a just recompense of reward; and that, to ensure eternal life, a strict obedience to all the commandments of God, must be observed, to the end.”

You see there is not even a remote allusion to what constitutes the gist of their whole system. But I will here leave the subject for the present.

Yours, &c.

J. A. C.

1230

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