Caswall’s Prophet of the Nineteenth Century

1843-04

Millennial Star

❮ Home

“Caswall’s Prophet of the Nineteenth Century.” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star (Liverpool, England) 3, no. 12 (April 1843): 195–99.

CASWALL‟S PROPHET OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.

______

The above is the title of a work lately issued from the press, professing to be a history of the rise, progress, and present state of the Mormons or Latter-day Saints, to which is appended an analysis of the Book of Mormon.

The book is got up in a very respectable style, illustrated by a frontispiece from the pencil of its author, perfectly on a par with the style of its contents; the one being an absurd caricature, save perhaps of himself whose portrait he has introduced, and the other libellous and false in most of its statements, yet truthful in pointing out the malignity of the mind and heart that dictated its contents.

In our first perusal of the work, we could not avoid a feeling of horror at the consummate wickedness that could so barefacedly usher forth to the world such a tissue of falsehood as is to be found upon its pages. Much has been written at various times since the rise of the church— almost every variety of character at one time or other has done its utmost to stigmatize the people of God, and to blacken as much as possible the characters of his servants; and the rev. gentleman has apparently availed himself of everything he has considered of sufficient importance, and that without hesitancy, save when he has quoted from our own publications, when he has thought proper to intimate “that the [195] statements must of course be received with great caution.”

The priests of the day, almost of every cast, have done their utmost to overthrow the truth—apostates who have been cut off from our society, in consequence of transgression, have written against us with a malignity unequalled before, and that seemed to know no bounds; but Caswall has attained to the climax of unlimited slander, and seems to have accumulated in his own person every agency of evil that has ever been exercised against us.

It is not our intention to review consecutively the pages of this book, and endeavour to defend the principles of truth from any attack of the writer, for indeed he has not discussed the validity of one single doctrine held by the church of Jesus Christ; but still we shall make a few extracts, that the people may judge for themselves of the spirit of its author and the character of the work.

We are never depressed or in the least cast down at the publication of a work like the one before us; indeed we rejoice in it, and anticipate from its circulation, beneficial results to the cause we have espoused, and would much rather aid in its circulation than its suppression; yet at the same time we would intimate to the publishers that they have laid themselves open to the severest punishment that the law of libel can inflict.

He commences his preface with the statement that “if the base scheme entitled „Mormonism,‟ were designed merely as a gainful speculation, we might be satisfied with exposing the knavery of the imposters who have attempted to fill their pockets by operating on public credulity.” And again, touching the same subject, page 133, after describing the success of the first labourers in England, he says, “all these teachers lived on the industry of their dupes, by whom they were supported with food, clothing, lodging, and money, as their necessities required.” We know not what amount of audacity it may require on the part of the author to broach this subject, but we really are of opinion, that, for the interests of his own cause, he should have kept silence at least on this subject. What! the Mormons money-getters, oppressors of the public by the funds they extort from them! “Oh! shame, where is thy blush?” The reverend Henry Caswall, professor of divinity in Kemper college, St. Louis, a priest of the catholic and apostolic Church of England, to talk of the Mormons getting money and thereby oppressing the poor! We have heard the expression of “Satan correcting sin,” but it has no parallelism here. It has been our privilege to witness the proceedings of those elders of our church, who having left their families afar, came to this country to bear testimony of the work of the Lord; and we presume, had the rev. Henry Caswall been also a witness of their proceedings, their faithfulness, their humility and self-denial, he might have learned a lesson which the gentlemen of his own cloth, however backward at receiving, would most assuredly be benefitted by putting in operation amongst their parishioners. Indeed, if the gentleman would take a hint from us, for the benefit of his own church, over whose low condition he so much laments, we would tell him one secret of our success is, that the elders have at all times accommodated themselves to the people amongst whom they have been labouring—they have not disdained to share the humble pallet of the cottager, to be a grateful partaker of the coarse meal his poverty provided, and if they had (though rarely has it happened) means from the more wealthy in their possession, to minister to the relief of their wants.

Yes, we have seen those men whom he would slander, after having laboured for two or three years in this country, anxious to visit the land of their birth or adoption, in order that they might again enjoy the embraces of their family, without funds to enable them to do so, having been ever fearful of adding to the sufferings of a people well-nigh born down by the charitable burdens already upon them through the institutions of which he is so zealous a supporter.

“America,” says the writer, “becomes the cradle of Mormonism, through the want of influential religious institutions—through the growth of fanaticism consequent upon this— through the rise of Campbellism, and the want of respect for antiquity and established usages.”

How grateful ought the people of the British islands to be for the institutions they enjoy—how free must England be from every thing absurd in religion, as well as from sectarianism and schism. [196] But how is it still that Mormonism has produced the effect which it has done upon the people of England, who have had the privileges of institutions so ancient, so venerable? One cause, says the writer, was the rise of Campbellism. [This is an error, if the writer supposes that the work of the Lord originated through such an instrumentality; but if he would say that the principles propagated by Alexander Campbell prepared the way in the minds of many for the reception of the fulness of the gospel, we will accede the point at once.] We know that the minds of many of our elders were prepared for the work through the belief and reception of many of the principles propagated by Campbell; it was our own case, and we shall not cease to be grateful for being permitted to come in contact with them, which, as far as we received them, we believe still; and we will go further and acknowledge that the Lord permitted the propagation of those principles as a forerunner to the fulness of the gospel, though its advocates knew it not.

But how must the Americans bewail their unfortunate lot, that they have not been privileged with the establishment of episcopacy! Surely, since Mr. C. has found the cause of the evil, congress will most assuredly send expresses to this country for legal and authorized dignitaries of the English Church to proceed forthwith, to officiate and ordain a sufficiency of clergy to raise an effectual bulwark against the inroads of fanaticism, and cause America to enjoy that oneness of sentiment and unanimity of feeling which characterizes the professors of religion in this land!

Many versions of the Spaulding fable have gone forth to the world, but it wanted the finishing touches of Caswall‟s master hand, in order to perfect it for the benefit of the public. We could not but tremble for the writer when we read it, and call to mind the announcement, that whosoever loveth or maketh a lie, shall have their part in the lake that burneth.

In describing the origin of the church, the writer has not scrupled to avail himself of any statement however absurd; hence we have the tale again of the bar of gold three or four feet long, as thick as a man‟s leg, and fast at one end!! The insertion of such a preposterous story smacks a good deal of “book-making,” to say the least of it.

For the publication of his sixth chapter we thank him, since he has therein stated a many principles of truth which we hold, though frequently in a contemptuous manner; yet not discussing at all the accuracy of the sentiments, we are glad at the opportunity afforded of making them public.

In the seventh chapter he gives an account of the commencement and progress of the work in England, though how a country so blessed with ancient institutions (and so many priests of his own order, whose teachings we should suppose were not without effect), could be so overcome we cannot imagine on Mr. C.‟s principles of reasoning; but he accounts for it through the prevalence of principles of dissent; but we fear there must have been some deficiency in his fancied panacea for religious absurdities, or surely this spirit of dissent could never have become so rampant as to pave the way for “Mormonism.”

The writer proceeds (for which we thank him) to narrate particularly the success of elders Fielding and Kimball in the neighbourhood of Ribchester, Clitheroe, &c.; of Parley P. Pratt in Manchester; of elder Fielding in the Isle of Man; elder Snow in London and Bedford; elder Richards in Monmouthshire; elder T. Harris in Bristol; elder Nixon in Doncaster; elder Taap at Paisley, in Scotland; elder G. A. Smith in the Potteries; elder Woodruff in Herefordshire; with the various success experienced in Woolwich, London, Edinburgh, Glasgrow, Liverpool, Birmingham and other places—that hundreds were being baptized unto repentance, and were enjoying the Holy Spirit—that within the course of a single year, one of the travelling elders reports having been present at the baptism of “seven thousand Saints.”

To shew his regardlessness of anything like accuracy in his statements, he then proceeds to say, that in the month of September, 1842, upwards of five thousand had already emigrated, and an equal number will probably leave before spring. We find this five thousand, by our books, not to have been much over five hundred, but we suppose in his zeal to oppose our principles, error would serve as well as truth. [197]

We are forbidden, says the writer in the same chapter to enter into argument with those of other persuasions, or to listen to any statements against our faith. This we declare unhesitatingly to be a base falsehood; indeed, we have had to regret, on many occasions, the readiness of our elders to enter into argument with our opponents, and to occupy their time with depicting the deformities of the mother of harlots or her daughters, and have rather exhorted them to employ themselves in the declaration of the principles of truth.

Has Mr. Caswall ever found any of our people afraid to defend the principles we have embraced? we suspect not, but if he will turn to the last page of Archdeacon Mant‟s sermon, he will find an exhortation to his parishioners not to enter into argument with the Saints. Again, he asserts that we teach men that their souls will be lost if they attend any services but their own.—

We must own, that in our connexion with the church, we have not heard this doctrine dwelt upon, and we can assure the rev. gent., that after having received the simple but glorious principles of the gospel (however unlettered may have been the individual who proclaimed them in our hearing), we have no relish for the popular sermonizing of the day, however adorned may be its delivery; and we hesitate not to say, that we have often heard, in our estimation, a greater amount of truth and sterling theology, from the lips of some uneducated man, in one day, than we had previously conceived of in the whole course of our lives. And when we indulge ourselves with a visit to the conventicles of the sectarists, it is merely to contemplate the hole from whence we were dug, and we come away with our hearts filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father, that we have been permitted to hear, and been led to obey, the glorious principles of eternal truth.

We were much amused with the writer‟s allusion to our “church meetings;” which, says he, “are held at night to the exclusion of all but the initiated.” The writer here commits another blunder, our church meetings are held in the open day, forming the afternoon service, and are open to the public. The gentleman has been confounding our council meetings with our church meetings, which are generaly held in an evening, at a convenient time when persons have concluded the labours of the day, and are intended, most assuredly, to be entirely practical in their influence.

But it is in the narrative of the persecution of the Saints in Missouri that the writer seems to enjoy himself most; yea, to revel with delight in the most minute detail of their sufferings, as the few extracts we shall make will abundantly manifest.

“An unhappy band,” says he, “of one hundred and ninety women and children, protected by only three men, travelled in one direction more than twenty miles (nine of which were over a bleak prairie) before they dared to halt and await the arrival of their husbands and fathers. In another direction, about two hundred women and children proceeded to the Missouri river, where they spent a whole night on the naked prairie, exposed to drenching sleet and piercing frost.—In consequence of this treatment, many of the Mormons died, while their triumphant enemies burned their deserted homes and took possession of their flocks and herds, their household furniture, their corn, and the improved lands upon which they had „squatted,‟ and which by their industry they had brought into cultivation.” Again; “on Tuesday the 30th of October, 240 of the militia unexpectedly attacked a small party of Mormons at Haun‟s Mills. Twenty of the latter were driven into a blacksmith‟s shop, where they were deliberately massacred, the assailants firing their rifles through the interstices of the logs of which the building was constructed. A child nine years old, survived the general massacre by concealing himself under the bellows; but was afterwards discovered and shot, the perpetrator justifying the act by coldly asserting, that „little sprouts soon become large trees, and this boy, if suffered to live, would become a Mormon like his father.‟ An old man, once a soldier in the American revolution, was shot down but not killed. One of the assailants seizing an old scythe, cut off the old man‟s fingers as he stretched out his hands for mercy, then severed the hands from the arms, then the arms from the body, and lastly the head from the trunk.”

Thus, with a minuteness of detail does he apparently luxuriate in describing the [198] sufferings of the Saints; and as a further confirmation of the character of the spirit by which he is actuated, we will give an extract from page 178. “A court martial was next held upon the prisoners under gen. Lucas, the members of the commission consisting of nineteen militia officers and seventeen preachers of various sects, who had served as volunteers against the Mormons. This singular court came to a determination that our prophet and his comrades should be taken into the public square of Far West, and there shot in the presence of their families.”

Here was a decision worthy of the court that sat in judgment, at the thought of which, decreed by such authorities, and to be put in execution under such circumstances, makes our blood almost curdle in our veins as we read; yet mark the sympathy it meets with from Mr. Caswall, and his expression of apparent regret that it was not inflicted:—“HAD THIS DECISION BEEN ENFORCED, MYRIADS MIGHT HAVE BEEN SAVED FROM THE INFAMY OF MORMONISM, AND SMITH WOULD HAVE GONE INTO ETERNITY UNDER A LESS ONEROUS BURDEN OF UNPARDONABLE GUILT.” This needs no comment, and without occupying more space in the notice of this work, though every page contains some falsehood, and the entire work is so full of misstatements, that it would almost require a publication as large as itself to refute them; yet one quotation more we will make, as it is the finishing passage of his work. Though our readers will be aware by our last month‟s STAR, that the wishes of Mr. C. have not been realized, but that our beloved brother Joseph Smith has been triumphantly delivered from the hands of his enemies, and their wicked purposes have been entirely frustrated.

“THE READER WILL, NO DOUBT, JOIN WITH THE AUTHOR IN A SINCERE AND HEARTY WISH THAT THE SUPREMACY OF THE LAW MAY BE FINALLY VINDICATED—THAT THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT MAY BE IN SOME MEASURE REDEEMED FROM THE DISGRACE IT HAS INCURRED—AND THAT AN EXAMPLE MAY SPEEDILY BE MADE OF THE INIQUITIOUS BEING WHO HAS OUTRAGED REVELATION AND REASON, SET HEAVEN AND EARTH AT DEFIANCE, AND FORFEITED, AT LEAST, ALL CLAIM TO MERCY AT THE HANDS OF MAN.”

❮ Back