“The Mormons.” Western Christian Advocate (Cincinnati, Ohio) 9, no. 1 (22 April 1842).
In reply to a letter addressed to the learned Professor Anthon, by the Rev. T. W. Coit, asking an explanation of his connection with the Mormons, professor A. has published a long letter in which are detailed many curious facts connected with the movements of some members of that sect. The Mormons claim Mr. Anthon as a proselyte, but that gentleman’s letter shows that they have not the slightest authority for so doing. He says:
“Many years ago, the precise date I do not now recollect, a plain-looking countryman called upon me with a letter from Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell, requesting me to examine, and give my opinion upon a certain paper, marked with various characters which the Doctor confessed he could not decipher, and which the bearer of the note was very anxious to have explained. A very brief examination of the paper convinced me that it was a mere hoax, and a very clumsy one too.
The characters were arranged in columns, like the Chinese mode of writing, and presented the most singular medley that I had ever beheld. Greek, Hebrew, and all sorts of letters, more or less distorted, wither through unskillfulness or from actual design, were intermingled with sundry delineations of half-moons, stars, and other natural objects, and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac. The conclusion was irresistible, that some cunning fellow had prepared the paper in question, for the purpose of imposing upon the countryman who brought it, and I told the man so without any hesitation. He then proceeded to give me the history of the whole affair, which convinced me that he had fallen into the hands of some sharper, while it left me in great astonishment at his own simplicity.”
The countryman stated that a gold book had recently been dug up in the western or northern part of the state of New York, consisting of many gold plates, like leaves, secured by gold wires, in the form of a volume. Each plate was inscribed with unknown characters, and the paper handed to Professor Anthon was a transcript of one of the pages. Along with the golden book there had been dug up a very large pair of spectacles! which possessed the very valuable property of enabling any who looked through them, not only to decipher the characters on the plates, but also to comprehend their exact meaning, and to be able to translate them! This fact, said the countryman, had been fully tested. A young man had been placed in the garret of a farm-house, with a curtain before him, and having fastened the spectacles to his head, had read several pages in the golden book, and made known their contents. He had also copied an entire page, which copy was the paper shown to Mr. Anthon. As the golden book was said to contain most important religious revelations, some of the countryman’s neighbors desired to have it translated and published. A proposition had accordingly been made to the countryman to sell his farm and apply the proceeds to the printing of the golden book, and the golden plates were to be left with him as security, until he should be reimbursed by the sale of the work. In order to convince him that he would run no risk in this matter, he was told to take the copy of one of the pages of the book, and submit it to the opinion of some learned men, and it was in pursuance of this request that he waited upon Dr. Mitchell, of New York, who referred him to Professor Anthon. The Professor told the man “that an attempt had been made to impose upon him, and defraud him of his property,” and gave him his opinion in writing, that “the marks on the paper appeared to be merely an imitation of various alphabetic characters and had no meaning at all connected with them.” The countryman then took leave with many thanks. Professor Anthon adds:
“The matter rested here for a considerable time, until one day, when I had ceased entirely to think of the countryman and his paper, he paid me a second visit. He now brought with him a duodecimo volume, which he said was a translation into English of the “golden bible.” He also stated, that, notwithstanding his original determination, he had been induced eventually to sell his farm, and apply the money to the publication of the book, and had received the golden plates as a security for payment. He begged my acceptance of the volume, assuring me that it would be found extremely interesting, and that it was already “making a great noise” in the upper part of the state. Suspecting now, that some serious trick was on foot, and that my plain-looking visitor might be in fact a very cunning fellow, I declined his present, and merely contented myself with a slight examination of the volume while he stood by. The more I declined receiving it, however, the more urgent the man became in offering the book, until at last I told him plainly, that if he left the volume, as he said he intended to do, I should most assuredly throw it after him as he departed. I then asked him how he could be so foolish as to sell his farm and engage in this affair; and requested him to tell me if the plates were really of gold. In answer to this latter inquiry, he said, that he had not seen the plates themselves, which were carefully locked up in a trunk, but that he had the trunk in his possession. I advised him by all means to open the trunk and examine its contents, and if the plates proved to be gold, which I did not believe at all, to sell them immediately. His reply was, that if he opened the trunk, the ‘ curse of Heaven would descend upon him and his children. However,’ added he, ‘I will agree to open it, provided you will take the curse of Heaven upon yourself, for having advised me to the step. I told him I was perfectly willing to do so, and begged him to hasten home and examine the trunk, for he would find that he had been cheated. He promised to do as I recommended, and left me, taking his book with him. I have never seen him since.
Such is a plain statement of all that I know respecting the Mormons. My impression now is, that the plain-looking countryman was none other than the prophet Smith himself, who assumed an appearance of great simplicity in order to entrap me, if possible, into some recommendations of his book. That the prophet aided all me, by his inspiration, in interpreting the volume is only one of the many amusing falsehoods which the Mormonites alter relative to my participation in their doctrines. Of these doctrines I know nothing whatever, nor have I heard a single discourse from any one of their preachers, although I have often felt a strong curiosity to become an auditor, since my friends tell me that they frequently me in their sermons, and even go so far as to say that I am alluded to in prophecies of Scripture!
If what I have here written shall prove of my service in opening the eyes of some of their deluded followers to the real designs of those who profess to be the apostles of Mormonism,[Can’t Read] I have no doubt, only by that which you yourself will feel on this subject.
Rev. Dr. Coit, New Rochelle, N. Y.”