The City of the Mormons


Caswall, Henry, 1810-1870 Caswall, Henry, 1810-1870

❮ Community

Caswall, Henry. The City of the Mormons; or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842, 2nd ed. revised and enlarged, 1–49. London: J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1843.



IN 1842.







With Frontispiece.











THE rise of a new religion exhibits human nature in an uncommon aspect, and therefore affords a highly interesting subject of examination to the thoughtful observer. Although every religion of modern origin must now be regarded as a wicked imposture, it is painfully instructive, on the one hand, to watch the demeanour of the successful founders of a spiritual dominion; and, on the other hand, to notice the conduct of those who rejoice in the supposed advantages of their novel “revelations.” It will then be found that, in the present age, neither enthusiasm, nor even outward morality, are essential to the character of a Prophet, and that men may believe themselves surrounded by the full blaze of prophecy and miracle, while they remain alike loose in principle, and profligate in practice. [1]

Nor is the growth of a new religion a subject merely of curiosity. In a historical point of view it is worthy of all the light which careful investigation can bestow. The cause of truth imperatively demands that the progress of error should be diligently noted. How gladly should we receive the testimony of one who had been a witness of the early growth of the religion of Mahomet! How highly should we esteem an authentic account of the process by which the corrupt Christian of the seventh century was gradually alienated from the faith of his fathers, and induced to accept as divine the “revelations” of the Arabian impostor!

To give such a testimony, to describe such a process, is the object of the following narrative. In Western America, amid countless forms of schism, a new religion has arisen, as if in punishment for the divisions of professed Christians. Like Mahometanism, it possesses many features in common with the religion of Christ. It admits the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments, it even acknowledges, in a certain sense, the Trinity, the Atonement and Divinity of the Messiah. But it has rejected and denounced that Church which Christ erected upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, and has substituted a system of mock Catholicity in its stead. It has introduced a new book as a depository of the revelations of God, which in practice has almost superseded the sacred Scriptures. It teaches men to regard a profane and ignorant impostor as a special prophet of the Almighty, and to consider themselves as Saints while in the practice of impiety. It robs them of their honesty, no less than of their substance [2] and finally sends them, beneath a shade of deep spiritual darkness, into the presence of that God of truth whose holy faith they have denied.

At the first preaching of Mormonism, sensible and religious persons, both in Europe and in America, rather ridiculed than seriously opposed it. They imagined it to be an absurd delusion, which would shortly overturn itself. But system and discipline, analogous to those of Rome, have been brought to its aid. What was at first crude and undigested, has been gradually reduced to comparative definiteness and proportion. At the present moment Mormonism numbers, probably, a hundred thousand adherents, a large portion of whom are natives of Christian and enlightened England.

The immediate cause of my visit to Nauvoo was the following. Early in April, 1842, business took me to St. Louis, a city of thirty thousand inhabitants, situated on the western bank of the Mississippi, and six miles distant from Kemper College, the most western institution of the American Church. Curiosity led me to the river’s side, where about forty steam-boats were busily engaged in receiving or discharging their various cargoes. Here a ponderous consignment of lead had arrived from Galena, four hundred miles to the north, and the crew were piling it upon the shore in regular and well-constructed layers. There a quantity of ploughs, scythes, and other agricultural implements, crowded the decks of a steamer which had just finished a westward voyage of fourteen hundred miles from Pittsburg. In another place, a vessel that had descended the rapid current of the Missouri for many hundred miles in an [3] easterly direction, was landing pork and other produce of the fertile West; while farther down a large steam-boat from New Orleans, crowded with passengers from the South, having completed her voyage of twelve hundred miles, was blowing off the steam from her high pressure engines with a noise like thunder.

Desiring to know something respecting the passengers in the last boat, I proceeded on board; and as soon as the stoppage of the steam permitted me to be heard, I inquired of the clerk of the boat how many persons he had brought from New Orleans. “Plenty of live stock,” was his reply, “plenty of live stock; we have three hundred English emigrants, all on their way to join Joe Smith, the prophet at Nauvoo.” I walked into that portion of the vessel appropriated to the poorer class of travellers, and here I beheld my unfortunate countrymen crowded together in a most comfortless manner. I addressed myself to some of them, and found that they were from the neighbourhood of Preston in Lancashire. They were decent-looking people, and by no means of the lowest class. I took the liberty of questioning them respecting their plans, and found that they were indeed the dupes of the missionaries of the false prophet. I begged them to be on their guard, and suggested to them the importance of not committing themselves and their property to a person who had long been known in that country as a deceiver. They were, however, bent upon completing the journey which they had designed, and although they civilly listened to my statements, they professed to be guided in reference to Mormonism by that per- [4] verted precept of Scripture; “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.”

From this moment I determined to visit the stronghold of the new religion, and to obtain, if possible, an interview with the prophet himself. Accordingly, on Friday evening, April 15th, I embarked on board the fine steamer “Republic,” bound, as her advertisement assured me, “for Galena, Dubuque, and Prairie du Chien.” I had laid aside my clerical apparel, and had assumed a dress in which there was little probability of my being recognized as a “minister of the Gentiles.”

In order to test the scholarship of the prophet, I had further provided myself with an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalter written upon parchment, and probably about six hundred years old. Shortly after six o’clock our paddles were in motion, and we were stemming the rapid current of the “Father of waters1,” while the booming of our high-pressure engine re-echoed from the buildings and the woods along the shore. The passengers were principally emigrants from the eastern states, on their way to the new settlements in Iowa and Wisconsin. Those in the cabin were so numerous, that our long supper-table was three times replenished at our evening meal; while a still greater number crowded the apartments of the deck passengers. During the night we passed the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi, and in the [5] morning we were pushing our way through the comparatively clear waters, and along the woody banks of the Upper Mississippi. Occasionally we passed a small village, and two or three times during the day we landed at some rising town; but generally the scene was one in which nature enjoyed undisturbed repose. The river was high from frequent rains in the upper country, and its surface was about one foot lower than the top of the verdant banks. Our cabin windows were frequently brushed by the branches and clustering foliage of the cotton-wood trees; the sugar-maple and the sycamore were putting forth their early leaves at a short distance in the background, and one dense mass of heavy timber covered the picturesque bluffs to their very summit. The day was pleasant, and I sat almost constantly upon the highest or “hurricane” deck, enjoying a fine prospect of the noble river and its shores. During the following night we continued our ascending course, and early on Sunday morning we were at the foot of the “Des Moines Rapids,” with Illinois on the right hand, and Iowa on the left. The rapids prevent the passage of steam-boats during the greater part of the year, on account of the shallowness of the water and the strength of the current. As the river was now full, we experienced no difficulty, and slowly made our way against a stream running perhaps seven miles an hour. The Mississippi is here about a mile and a half in width, and forms a beautiful curve. On the western side were a number of new houses with gardens neatly fenced, and occupied, I was told, by Mormon emigrants who had recently arrived. Farther onward the bluffs of Iowa rose [6] boldly from the water’s edge, while on the Illinois or eastern side, as the steamer gradually came round the curve, the Mormon city opened upon my view. At length, Nauvoo in all its “latter-day glory” lay before me. The landing-place being difficult of access from the rapidity of the current, the steamer took me to Montrose immediately opposite, and touching for a moment, while I stepped on shore, in the next moment was again ploughing the descending waters.

Here I was in Iowa, two hundred and thirty miles from St. Louis, fifteen hundred miles from the mouth of the majestic river before me, and two thousand miles west of New York by the ordinary course of travel. It was nine o’clock on Sunday morning; the sun was shining brightly, as usual in this region, and a strong breeze had raised a moderate swell on the face of the stream. No ferryman was to be found, and for a few minutes it was a problem how I should cross to Nauvoo. The problem was soon solved by the appearance of a long and narrow canoe, 1 When the Mississippi is at its lowest stage, the depth of water at St. Louis is four feet; when full the depth is twenty-nine feet. The width of the river is three quarters of a mile; the average velocity four miles an hour; the average descent of the stream six inches per mile. hewed from the trunk of a tree, and lying close to the bank. In this doubtful-looking craft, thirteen Mormons on their way to the meeting in Nauvoo, proceeded to take their seats. At my request they accommodated me with a place, and shortly afterwards pushed from the shore, and put their paddles in motion. They worked their way with some difficulty, until they reached two islands near the middle of the river. Between these there was no swell, and little wind; but the current ran against us through a narrow passage with the rapidity of a mill-race. Here I thought we should be effectually baffled, and [7] more than once the canoe seemed to yield to the stream.

At length the stout sinews of the Mormons prevailed, and we were again in open water. After labouring hard for more than half an hour we safely landed at Nauvoo.

The situation of the place is rather striking. Above the curve of the Des Moines rapids the Mississippi makes another curve almost semicircular towards the north-east. The ground included within the semicircle is level, and upon this site the city has been laid out. The streets extend across the semicircle, being limited at each extremity by the river. These streets are intersected at right angles by others, which, running in one direction to the river, are bounded towards the south-east by a rising ground, on the summit of which the temple is in the course of erection. It was to this last-mentioned spot that with my companions I directed my steps.

Having ascended the hill, I found myself close to a large unfinished stone building, the walls of which had advanced eight or ten feet above the ground. This was the Temple. The view of the winding Mississippi from this elevation was truly grand, and the whole of the lower part of the town was distinctly seen. I was informed by my companions that the population of Nauvoo was about ten thousand; but subsequent inquiry led me to place the estimate three or four thousand lower.

The temple being unfinished, about half-past ten o’clock a congregation of perhaps two thousand persons assembled in a grove, within a short distance of the sanctuary. Their appearance was quite respectable, and fully equal to that of dissenting meet- [8] ings generally in the western country. Many grey-headed old men were there, and many well-dressed females. I perceived numerous groups of the peasantry of old England; their sturdy forms, their clear complexions, and their heavy movements, strongly contrasting with the slight figure, the sallow visage, and the elastic step of the American. There, too, were the bright and innocent looks of little children, who, born among the privileges of England’s Church, baptized with her consecrated waters, and taught to pronounce her prayers and repeat her catechism, had now been led into this den of heresy, to listen to the ravings of a false prophet, and to imbibe the principles of a delusion worse than paganism1.

The officiating elders not having yet arrived, the congregation listened for some time to the performances of a choir of men and women, directed by one who appeared to be a professional singing-master. At length two elders came forward, and ascended a platform rudely constructed of planks and logs. One wore a blue coat, and his companion, a stout intemperate-looking man, appeared in a thick jacket of green baize. He in the blue coat gave out a hymn, which was sung, but with little spirit, by the choir and congregation, all standing. He then made a few commonplace remarks on the nature of prayer; after which, leaning forward on a railing in front of the platform, he began to pray. Having dwelt for a few minutes on the character and perfections of the Almighty, he proceeded in the following strain:—

“We thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast in these [9] latter days restored the gifts of prophecy, of revelation, of great signs and wonders, as in the days of old. We thank Thee that, as Thou didst formerly raise up thy servant Joseph to deliver his brethren in Egypt, so Thou hast 1 In proof of this assertion, the reader is referred to pages 30, 31. now raised up another Joseph to save his brethren from bondage to sectarian delusion, and to bring them into this great and good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands, and which Thou didst promise to be an inheritance for the seed of Jacob for evermore. We pray for thy servant and prophet Joseph, that Thou wouldest bless him and prosper him, that although the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him, his bow may abide in strength, and the arms of his hands may be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. We pray also for thy holy temple, that the nations of the earth may bring gold and incense, that the sons of strangers may build up its walls, and fly to it as a cloud, and as doves to their windows. We pray Thee also to hasten the ingathering of thy people, every man to his heritage and every man to his land. We pray that as thou hast set up this place as an ensign for the nations, so Thou wouldest continue to assemble here the outcasts, and gather together the dispersed from the four corners of the earth. May every valley be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the crooked places straight, and the rough places plain, and may the glory of the Lord be revealed and all flesh see it together! Bring thy sons from far, and thy daughters from the ends of the earth, and let them bring their silver and their gold with them.”


Thus he proceeded for perhaps half an hour, after which he sat down, and the elder in green baize, having thrown aside his jacket,—for the heat of the sun was now considerable,— commenced a discourse.

He began by stating the importance of forming correct views of the character of God.

People were generally content with certain preconceived views on this subject derived from tradition. These views were for the most part incorrect. The common opinion respecting God made him an unjust God, a partial God, a cruel God, a God worthy only of hatred; in fact, “the greatest devil in the universe.” Thus also people in general had been “traditioned” to suppose that divine revelation was confined to the old-fashioned book called the Bible, a book principally written in Asia, by Jews, and suited to peculiar circumstances and peculiar classes. On the other hand, they supposed that this vast continent of America had been destitute of all revelation for five thousand years, until Columbus discovered it, and “the good, pious, precise Puritans brought over with them from England, some two hundred years since, that precious old book called the Bible.” Now God had promised to judge all men without respect of persons. If, therefore, the American aborigines had never received a revelation, and were yet to be judged together with the Jews and the Christians, God was most horribly unjust; and he, for his part, would never love such a God; he could only hate Him. He said there was a verse somewhere in the Bible, he could not tell where, as he was “a bad hand at quoting,” but he thought it was in the Revelation. “If it’s not there,” he said, “read the whole [11] book through, and you’ll find it, I guess, somewhere. I hav’n’t a Bible with me, I left mine at home, as it ain’t necessary.” Now this verse, he proceeded to observe, stated that Christ had redeemed men by his blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and had made them unto God kinds and priests. But in America there were the ruins of vast cities, and wonderful edifices, which proved that great and civilized nations had formerly existed on this continent. If the Bible was true, therefore, God must have had priests and kings among those nations, and numbers of them must have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Revelations from God must consequently have been granted to them. The Old and New Testaments were therefore only portions of the revelations of God, and not a complete revelation, nor were they designed to be so. “Am I to believe,” said he, “that God would cast me or any body else into hell, without first giving me a revelation?” God now revealed Himself in America just as truly as he had ever done in Asia. The present congregation lived in the midst of wonders and signs similar to those mentioned in the Bible, and they had the blessing of revelation through the medium of that chosen servant of God, Joseph Smith. The Gentiles often came to Nauvoo to look at the prophet Joseph—old Joe, as they profanely termed him—and to see what he was doing; but many who came to scoff remained to pray, and soon the kings and nobles of the earth would count it a privilege to come to Nauvoo and behold the great work of the Lord in these latter days. “The work of God is prospering,” he said, [12] “in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; in Australia, and at the Cape of Good Hope, in the East and West Indies, in Palestine, in Africa, and throughout America, thousands and tens of thousands are getting converted by our preachers, are being baptized for the remission of sins, and are selling off all they have that they may come to Nauvoo. The great and glorious work has begun, and I defy earth and hell, men and devils to stop it.”

A hymn was now sung; and afterwards a tall, thin, New-England Yankee, with a strong nasal twang and a provincial accent, rose up, and leaning forward on the railing, spoke for half an hour with great ease and volubility. He said that his office required him to speak of business.

They were all aware that God had by special revelation appointed a committee of four persons, and had required them to build a house unto his name, such a one as his servant, Joseph, should show them. That the said house should be called the “Nauvoo House,” and should be for a house of boarding: that the kings and nobles of the earth, and all weary travellers, might lodge therein, while they should contemplate the word of the Lord, and the corner-stone, which he had appointed for Zion. That in this house the Lord had said that there should be reserved a suite of rooms for his servant Joseph, and his seed after him from generation to generation. And that the Lord had also commanded that stock should be subscribed by the saints, and received by the committee for the purpose of building the house. The speaker proceeded as follows:—“Now, brethren, the Lord has commanded this work, and the work must be done. Yes; it shall [13] be done—it will be done. The Gentiles, the men of the world, tell us that such stock must pay twenty-five per cent. per annum, and the Lord hath required us to take stock; surely, then, when duty and interest go together, you will not be backward to contribute. But only a small amount of stock has hitherto been taken, and the committee appointed by the Lord have had to go on borrowing, and borrowing, until they can borrow no longer. In the mean time, the mechanics employed on the house want their pay, and the committee are not able to pay them. We have a boat ready to be towed up the river to the pine country, to get pinewood for the edifice. We have a crew engaged, and all ready to start; but we cannot send out the expedition without money.

The committee have made great personal sacrifices to fulfil the commandment of the Lord: I myself came here with seven thousand dollars, and now I have only two thousand, having expended five thousand upon the work of the Lord. But we cannot go on in this way any longer.

I call on you, brethren, to obey God’s command, and take stock, even though you may not dress so finely as you do now, or build such fine houses. Let not the poor man say, I am too poor; but let the poor man contribute out of his poverty, and the rich man out of his wealth, and God will give you a blessing.”

During this address, I noticed some of the English emigrants whom I had seen a few days previously on board the steam-boat at St. Louis. They were listening with fixed attention, and, doubtless, considering how many of their hard-earned sovereigns should be devoted to the pious work of building a fine hotel for [14] the prophet and his posterity. The thought arose in my mind, that these earnest appeals for money were designed mainly for the ears of the three hundred green saints who had just arrived.

This address being concluded, two other elders followed in a similar strain. They spoke with great fluency, and appeared equally familiar with worldly business and operations in finance, as with prophecies and the book of Mormon. At length, having, as they supposed, wrought up the zeal of the congregation to a sufficient pitch, they called on all believers in the book of Mormon, who felt disposed to take stock, to come forward before the congregation, and give in their names with the amount of their subscriptions. Upon this appeal, there was much whispering among the audience; and I detected two Mormons, evidently Yorkshiremen, in the very act of nodding and winking at each other. However, none came forward; and one of the elders coolly remarked,—that as they appeared not to have made up their minds as to the amount which they would take, he requested all who wished to become stockholders to come to his house the next afternoon at five o’clock.

The elder who had delivered the first discourse now rose, and said that a certain brother, whom he named, had lost a keg of white lead. “Now,” said he, “if any of the brethren present has taken it by mistake, thinking it was his own, he ought to restore it; but if any of the brethren present has stolen the keg, much more ought he to restore it; or else, may be, he will get cotched; and that, too, within the corporation limits of the city of Nauvoo.” [15]

Another person rose and stated that he had lost a ten-dollar bill. He had never lost any money before in his life; he always kept it very safely; but now, a ten-dollar bill had escaped from him, and if any of the brethren had found it, or taken it, he hoped it would be restored.

A hymn was now sung, and the service (if such it may be called) having continued from half-past ten o’clock till two, finally concluded. As the congregation dispersed, I walked with the Mormon who had brought me over in his canoe, to see the Temple. The building is a hundred and twenty feet in length, by eighty in breadth; and is designed to be the finest edifice west of Philadelphia. The Mormon informed me, that in this house the Lord designed to reveal unto his Church things which had been kept secret from the foundation of the world; and that He had declared that He would here restore the fulness of the priesthood. He shewed me the great baptismal font, which is completed, and stands in the centre of the unfinished temple. This font is, in fact, a capacious laver, eighteen or twenty feet square, and about four in depth. It rests upon the backs of twelve oxen, as large as life, and tolerably well sculptured; but for some reason, perhaps mystical, entirely destitute of feet, though possessed of legs. The laver and oxen are of wood, and painted white; but are to be hereafter gilded, or covered with plates of gold. At this place baptisms for the dead are to be celebrated, as well as baptisms for the healing of diseases; but baptisms for the remission of sins are to be performed in the Mississippi. My companion told me that he was originally a member of the Methodist Episcopal [16] Church in Canada1; but that he had obtained greater light, and had been led to join the “latter-day saints.”

While he was a methodist he felt that he was perfectly right in regard to his belief, and could confute all other sects, except the Roman Catholics. These, he said, had so much of the true and ancient Church mixed up with their corruptions, that he could not readily confute them. Many passages of the Scriptures remained at that time perfectly inexplicable to him, and he saw that no denomination, not even his own, was organized exactly on the primitive plan. But since he had been led to embrace Mormonism, new light had opened upon his soul; the Scriptures had become clear to his comprehension, and he had discovered a Church entirely conformable to the primitive model; having the same divinely appointed ministry; the same miraculous gifts of healing, and the unknown tongues; the same prophetical inspiration; the same close intercourse 1 The American methodists are governed by superintendents, who have assumed the title of Bishops and control the inferior preachers in a manner which is often represented as peculiarly despotic and oppressive. with the Almighty. I observed, that the truth of Mormonism depended on the previous determination of the question, whether Joseph Smith was, in fact, a prophet of God. He replied, that the inspiration of Joseph could be proved more readily than that of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. That Joseph had received revelations ever since he was fifteen years of age; and that the outlines of Mormonism were made known to him at a time when he could not possibly have planned so vast a work, or anticipated its triumphant success. While [17] conversing on these subjects, we arrived at the “Nauvoo House,” the hotel founded by “revelation.” The walls are advanced about as much as those of the temple, and, when completed, will form a capacious building. Passing the prophet Smith’s house, which is one of the best in the city, I arrived at a small, but neat tavern, where I called to get dinner. An old woman, apparently the mistress of the house, was seated by the fire, devoutly reading the book of Mormon, from which she scarcely lifted her eyes as I entered. Here I found a decent, and probably intelligent Scotchman.

Conversing with him on the subject of the services which I had just witnessed, I remarked how greatly deficient they appeared in dignity and spirituality; and contrasted them with the decorous and solemn worship of the Church of England, and of the Scottish Kirk. I particularly referred to the keg of white lead and the ten-dollar bill, as well as to the derogatory manner in which the preacher had alluded to “the old-fashioned book called the Bible.” Although I endeavoured to speak with mildness, the Scotchman replied with great warmth, that the English and Scottish churches taught lies, and that their members loved lies more than truth. That all their solemnity was produced by hypocrisy and false doctrines respecting God. That the Mormons despised long faces, and all religions which required people to wear a sanctimonious and hypocritical exterior.

He added, that Mormonism was making rapid progress in Scotland.

From the tavern, I proceeded to the landing-place, and engaged the ferryman to take me over to Montrose, on the Iowa side of the river. I found this [18] person to be a Mormon; and learned from him that the ferry was the property of the prophet Joseph. He further informed me, that the number of passengers had become so considerable, that a steam ferry-boat had been purchased, and would soon be in operation. I afterwards found that his opinion of the character of his brethren, “the saints,” was by no means flattering to them. He told a person in Montrose, that it was “no use to hoist a flag at Nauvoo as a signal to passengers, for it was sure to be stolen by the people there; they had so much of the devil in them.”

On arriving at Montrose, I went to the house of a gentleman to whom I had brought letters of introduction from St. Louis. This gentleman, with his lady and his brother, has resided many years at Montrose; and as he possesses the independence to resist the encroachments of the Mormons, and the ability to expose their designs, he has been an object of constant persecution since the settlement of these people in his vicinity. He at once desired me to make his house my home, and offered me every assistance in prosecuting my researches. Under his hospitable roof I spent a pleasant evening. His family united with me in religious services (for there is no place of worship in the neighbourhood); and, after the awful proceedings of the morning, I felt happy to be once more among Christians.

On the following morning (Monday, April 18th), I took my venerable Greek manuscript of the Psalter, and proceeded to the ferry to obtain a passage. The boatman, being engaged to take over a family emigrating to Nauvoo, had provided himself with a heavy flat-boat, which promised us a long voyage. [19]

The family soon came on board. It consisted of a simple-looking American, his wife, and a numerous progeny. They had with them two oxen, two cows and a calf, bedding, tables, chairs, and a wooden clock. As we were about to push off, a traveller on horseback came on board, whom I found to be one of the numerous “Gentiles” induced by curiosity to visit the “Zion” of the West. The father of the family stated that he had become confounded by the conflicting doctrines of the sects, and imagined that in Mormonism he had finally discovered the only true Church. Our heavy boat was rowed up about a mile close to the Iowa shore. Having proceeded considerably above Nauvoo, the ferryman and his men began to venture out into the broad stream, in order to cross. As I had little time to spare, I was permitted to take the small skiff alongside, and, in company with the emigrant, to pull over to Nauvoo. On the way, I held some conversation with my companion, and found him to be thoroughly wedded to his delusion.

Having arrived at the city, I passed along a straggling street of considerable length bordering on the strand. Perceiving a respectable-looking store (or shop), I entered it, and began to converse with the storekeeper. I mentioned that I had been informed that Mr. Smith possessed some remarkable Egyptian curiosities, which I wished to see. I added that, if Mr. Smith could be induced to show me his treasures, I would show him in return a very wonderful book which had lately come into my possession. The storekeeper informed me that Mr. Smith was absent, having gone to Carthage that morning; but that he would return about nine o’clock in the [20] evening.

He promised to obtain for me admission to the curiosities, and begged to be permitted to see the wonderful book. I accordingly unfolded it from the many wrappers in which I had enveloped it, and, in the presence of the storekeeper and many astonished spectators, whom the rumour of the arrival of a strange book had collected, I produced to view its covers of worm-eaten oak, its discoloured parchments, and its mysterious characters. Surprise was depicted on the countenances of all present, and, after a long silence, one person wiser than his fellows, declared that he knew it to be a revelation from the Lord, and that probably it was one of the lost books of the Bible providentially recovered. Looking at me with a patronizing air, he assured me that I had brought it to the right place to get it interpreted, for that none on earth but the Lord’s Prophet could explain it, or unfold its real antiquity and value. “Oh,” I replied, “I am going to England next week, and doubtless I shall find some learned man in one of the universities who can expound it.” To this he answered with a sneer, that the Lord had chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; that he had made foolish the wisdom of this world; and that I ought to thank Providence for having brought me to Nauvoo, where the hidden things of darkness could be revealed by divine power. All expressed the utmost anxiety that I should remain in the city until the prophet’s return. The storekeeper offered immediately to send an express eighteen miles to Carthage, to hasten the return of Joseph. This I declined, and told him that my stay in Nauvoo must be very limited. They promised to [21] pay all my expenses, if I would remain; and assured me that they would ferry me over the river as often as I desired it, free of charge; besides furnishing me with a carriage and horses to visit the beautiful prairies in the vicinity. At length I yielded to their importunities, and promised, that if they would bring me over from Montrose on the following morning, I would exhibit the book to the prophet. They were very desirous that I should remain at Nauvoo during the night; but as I had my fears that some of the saints might have a “revelation,” requiring them to take my book while I slept, I very respectfully declined their pressing invitation. They then requested to know where I was staying in Montrose. I mentioned the name of the gentleman who had received me into his house; upon which they used the most violent language against him, and said that he was their bitter enemy and persecutor, that he was as bad as the people of Missouri, and that I ought not to believe a word that he said. They again pressed me most earnestly not to return to Montrose; but I continued firm, and expressed my intention of hearing both sides of the question.

The storekeeper now proceeded to redeem his promise of obtaining for me access to the curiosities. He led the way to a room behind his store, on the door of which was an inscription to the following effect: “Office of Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Latter Day Saints.”

Having introduced me, together with several Mormons, to this sanctum sanctorum, he locked the door behind him, and proceeded to what appeared to be a small chest of drawers. From this he drew forth a number of glazed slides, like picture [22] frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics. These had been unrolled from four mummies, which the prophet had purchased at a cost of twenty-four hundred dollars. By some inexplicable mode, as the storekeeper informed me, Mr. Smith had discovered that these sheets contained the writings of Abraham, written with his own hand while in Egypt. Pointing to the figure of a man lying on a table, he said, “That is the picture of Abraham on the point of being sacrificed. That man standing by him with a drawn knife is an idolatrous priest of the Egyptians. Abraham prayed to God, who immediately unloosed his bands, and delivered him.” Turning to another of the drawers, and pointing to a hieroglyphic representation, one of the Mormons said, “Mr. Smith informs us that this picture is an emblem of redemption. Do you see those four little figures?

Well, those are the four quarters of the earth. And do you see that big dog looking at the four figures? That is the old Devil desiring to devour the four quarters of the earth. Look at this person keeping back the big dog. That is Christ keeping the devil from devouring the four quarters of the earth. Look down this way. This figure near the side is Jacob, and those are his two wives. Now do you see those steps?” “What,” I replied, “do you mean those stripes across the dress of one of Jacob’s wives?” “Yes,” he said, “that is Jacob’s ladder.” “That,” I remarked, “is indeed curious.”

After this edifying explanation, a very respectable looking Mormon asked me to walk over to his house. This person was one of the committee appointed by [23] “revelation” to build the “Nauvoo House.” He informed me that he had migrated from the Johnstown District in Upper Canada. He would have returned to that country before, had he not been desirous of remaining to see the wonderful works of the Lord in Nauvoo. He preferred Canada to the United States; and the British government was, in his opinion, greatly superior to that of the Americans, which he considered little better than an organized mob, especially in the Western States. He regarded a strong monarchy as essential to good government, and believed that this opinion was generally held among the “Saints.” In the event of a war between England and America, England might rely upon it that the Mormons would not be her enemies. The Indians, too, whom the Americans had persecuted almost as badly as the Missourians had persecuted the Mormons1, were decidedly friendly to England. He had lately been among their tribes, and had found everywhere English muskets bearing the date of 1839. The Indians were already making preparations for espousing the cause of England in a war with America. He foretold that great desolation was about to be inflicted on America by England, with the assistance of the oppressed negroes and Indians. The conversation was now interrupted by the entrance of numerous Mormons, who begged to be permitted to see and handle the wonderful book. They all looked upon it as something supernatural, [24] and considered that I undervalued it greatly, by reason of my ignorance of its contents. It was in vain I assured them that a slight acquaintance with Greek would enable any person to decipher its meaning. They were unanimous in the opinion that none but their prophet could explain it; and congratulated me on the providence which had brought me and my wonderful book to Nauvoo. The crowd having cleared away, my host asked me to give 1 For an account of the war between the Mormons and the Missourians see “The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century,” Chapters IX. and X. my opinion of Nauvoo. I told him that it was certainly a remarkable place, and in a beautiful situation; but that I considered it the offspring of a most astonishing and unaccountable delusion.

He said that he admired my candour, and was not surprised at my unbelief, seeing that I was a stranger to the people and to the evidences of their faith. He then proceeded to inform me respecting these evidences. He assured me, in the first place, that America had been mentioned by the prophet Isaiah. I begged for the chapter and verse. He pointed to the sentence,—“Woe to the land shadowing with wings.” Now to what land could this refer, but to North and South America, which stretched across the world with two great wings, like those of an eagle? “Stop,”

I said; “does not the prophet describe the situation of the land? Observe that he says, ‘it is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.’” “Well,” said my host, “that my be true; but is not America beyond Ethiopia?” “Have you a map?” I said. “Yes,” he replied, “here is my little girl’s school atlas.” “Now tell me,” I said, “where Isaiah wrote his book.” “In Palestine,” he answered.

“Very well,” I replied, “now tell me in what direction from Pales- [25] tine is Ethiopia?” “South, by the map,” was the reply. “in what direction from Palestine is America?” “West,” he answered. “Now do you think that Isaiah would have described a country in the west, as lying beyond another which is due south?” He was silent for a moment, and then confessed that he had never thought of studying the Bible by the map; “but probably this map was wrong.” I now requested him to let me know the number of troops composing the Nauvoo Legion. He informed me that they consisted at present of seventeen hundred men. He had taken the oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria, and on this account had not connected himself with the legion. The discipline of this band he considered superior to that of the American militia generally, but inferior to that of British troops, or even of the Canadian militia. He believed that the Mormons held many doctrines in common with the Irvingites and other sects in England. He cherished the belief in a separate place of departed spirits distinct from heaven and hell, and considered that when the restitution of all things takes place, the earth will be purified, and transferred from its present sphere to a brighter and more glorious system.

Having listened with due attention to the instructions of my host, I walked over to the store, where the storekeeper expressed his readiness to show me the mummies. Accordingly he led the way to a small house, the residence of the prophet’s mother. On entering the dwelling, I was introduced to this eminent personage as a traveller from England, desirous of seeing the wonders of Nauvoo. She welcomed [26] me to the “holy city,” and told me that here I might see what great things the Lord had done for his people. “I am old,” she said, “and I shall soon stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; but what I say to you now, I would say on my death-bed. My son Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy, and he is indeed a true prophet of Jehovah. The angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since1, and directed him to a cave in which the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited. He shewed him also the Urim and Thummim, by which he might understand the meaning of the inscriptions on the plates, and exhibited to him the golden breastplate of the high priesthood. My son received these precious gifts, he interpreted and published the holy record, and now the believers in that revelation are more than a hundred thousand in number. I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose. They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters beautifully engraved.

I have seen and felt also the Urim and Thummim. They resemble two large bright diamonds set in a bow like a pair of spectacles. My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown 1 See “The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century,” p. 77. languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English. I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate. It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly.”


While the old woman was thus delivering herself, I fixed my eyes steadily upon her. She faltered, and seemed unwilling to meet my glance; but gradually recovered her self-possession.

The melancholy thought entered my mind, that this poor old creature was not simply a dupe of her son’s knavery; but that she had taken an active part in the deception. Several English and American women were in the room, and seemed to treat her with profound veneration.

I produced my wonderful book. The old woman scrutinized its pages, and in an oracular manner assured me that the Lord was now bringing to light the hidden things of darkness according to his word; that my manuscript was doubtless a revelation which had long been hidden, and which was now to be made known to the world, by means of her son the prophet Joseph. She then directed me up a steep flight of stairs into a chamber, and slowly crept up after me. She shewed me a wretched cabinet, in which were four naked mummies frightfully disfigured, and in fact, most disgusting relics of mortality. One she said was a king of Egypt whom she named, two were his wives, and the remaining one was the daughter of another king.

I asked her by what means she had become acquainted with the names and histories of these mummies. She replied, that her son had informed her, and that he had obtained this knowledge through the mighty power of God. She accounted for the disfigured condition of the mummies, by a circumstance rather illustrative of the back-woods. Some difficulty having been found in unrolling the papyrus which enveloped [28] them, an axe was applied, by which the unfortunate mummies were literally chopped open. I requested her to furnish me with a “Book of Mormon,”

She accordingly permitted me to take one of the first edition belonging to a certain Lavinia Smith, for which I paid the latter young lady a dollar.

From Mr. Smith’s residence I proceeded to the Mormon printing-office, where the official papers and “revelations” of the prophet are published in a semimonthly magazine, denominated the “Times and Seasons.” For another dollar I purchased this magazine complete for the last year, the history of the persecution of the Mormons by the people of Missouri, and other documents of importance. The storekeeper met me at the printing-office, and introduced several dignitaries of the “Latter-day church,” and many other Mormons, to whom he begged me to exhibit my wonderful book. While they were examining it with great apparent interest, one of the preachers informed me that he had spent the last year in England, and that, with the aid of an associate, he had baptized in that country seven thousand saints. He had visited the British Museum, where he affirmed that he had seen nothing so extraordinary as my wonderful book.

The Mormon authorities now formally requested me to sell them the book, for which they were willing to pay a high price. This I positively refused, upon which they importuned me to lend it to them, so that the prophet might translate it. They promised to give bonds to a considerable amount, that it should be forthcoming whenever I requested it. I was still deaf to their entreaties, and having promised to exhibit the book [29] to their prophet on the ensuing day, I left them and returned to Montrose.

On arriving at the house of my hospitable entertainer, I was informed by him that the Mormons on the Iowa side of the river had been busily engaged in trying to find out who I was, and whence I came. They had generally come to the conclusion that I was a convert to Mormonism recently arrived from England.

After tea my kind host provided me with a horse, and, in company with him, I took a delightful ride upon the prairie. The grass was of an emerald green, and enameled with the beautiful wild flowers of spring. Far to the North West a line of bluffs seemed to bound the prairie at the distance of eight or ten miles, while in other directions it extended as far as the eye could reach. Numerous clumps of forest trees appeared at intervals, and herds of cattle were reposing on the grass or feeding on the rich herbage. Upon an eminence near Montrose, I was shewn the tomb of Kalawequois, a beautiful Indian girl of the tribe of Sacs and Foxes. She died recently at the early age of eighteen, having lingered six years in a consumption. She was buried on this spot by moonlight, with all the ancient ceremonies of her nation. Adjoining her grave was the tomb of Skutah, a full blooded Indian “brave,” and a distinguished warrior of the same tribe.

My host stated, that previously to the arrival of the Mormons, his only neighbours were the Indians, with whom he lived on the most friendly terms. Nothing could exceed their honesty and good faith in all their intercourse with him: and although [30] heathens, he considered them superior in morality and common sense to the “Latter-day Saints.” Keokuk is the present chief of the Sacs and Foxes, having succeeded to the jurisdiction on the demise of the venerable Black Hawk, who died of grief at the age of eighty, in consequence of the treatment experienced by his nation at the hands of the United States. The residence of Keokuk and the chief village of his tribe, are situated near the Des Moines river, and about a day’s journey westward of Montrose.

The tribe consisted, before the war, of about nine thousand persons, who are now reduced to three thousand. The two sons of Black Hawk still survive, and are noble and princely both in person and character. The Indians have the greatest possible contempt for Joseph Smith, and denominate him a Tshe-wál-lis-ke, which signifies a rascal. Nor have other false prophets risen more highly in their estimation. A few years since, that notorious deceiver Matthias1 made his appearance one evening at the door of Keokuk’s “waikeop,” or cabin. He wore a long beard, which was parted on each side of his chin; a long gun was on his shoulder, and a red sash around his waist. Keokuk demanded who he was, to which question the blasphemous impostor replied that he was Jesus Christ, the only true God, and that he was come to gather the Indians, who were of the seed of Israel. “Well,” said Keokuk, who is a very dignified man, “perhaps you are what [31] you allege, and perhaps you are not. If you are, you cannot be killed. If you are not, you are a rascal and deserve to be shot. Look at these two fine rifle pistols—they were made in New York—they never miss their aim. Now see me sound them with the ramrod. They have a tremendously heavy charge. Now I point them at you. Now I am going to fire.” At this Matthias suddenly bolted, being unwilling that his claims should be tested by so novel and so striking a mode of theological argument. He afterwards obtained admission, at Keokuk’s request, to the waikeop of an old Indian man and woman who lived alone. They gave him supper, and when he had fallen asleep they made a fire, and watched him all night, believing him to be the devil, whom they had heard described by the Roman Catholic missionaries.

These Indians have made remarkable customs. Before undertaking a war, their warriors fast forty days in a solitary cabin constructed of bark. During this period, they eat barely sufficient to keep themselves alive. They also sacrifice dogs; and having tied the dead bodies to trees about six feet above the ground, they proceed to paint the noses and stomachs of the victims with a deep red colour. They consult prophets, who are provided with sacred utensils, denominated medicine bags; and which contain the skins of “skunks,” with other precious articles. When the warriors return from their fast, the people make a great feast on dogs which have been fattened for the occasion. None but men are allowed to attend. At the appointed hour, the warriors may be seen travelling to the rendezvous; each carrying, with great [32] solemnity, 1 For an account of Matthias, see that extraordinary work entitled “Matthias and his Impostures,” by Col. Stone, of New York. his wooden bowl and wooden spoon. At the house appointed for the feast, the dead dogs are in readiness, together with a profusion of boiled Indian corn and beans. My host was present on one of these occasions, and took particular notice of the ceremonies. Some of the warriors began by cutting the dogs into equal portions, which they placed in a large iron kettle over a fire, and boiled for about half an hour. The remainder of the guests reclined upon mats on both sides of the house, while the fire burned briskly at the centre, the smoke escaping through an opening in the roof. The corn and beans were placed all round the room in wooden dishes upon the ground.

The dog meat being sufficiently boiled, the pieces were taken out, and every person present received his share. A distinguished “brave” now arose, and made a speech; after which, a second stood up and repeated the monosyllable, “ugh.” At this signal, all began to eat; holding the pieces of canine flesh in their hands without knives or forks, and devouring with all their might.

This feast on dogs is considered a sort of penance. Whoever swallows the whole of his portion is called a big brave; while those who are made sick by it, are denominated squaws. The men of this tribe enjoy themselves exceedingly at their villages during the winter, visiting one another with great sociability. All the hard work devolves upon the women, who cut down trees for firewood, make the fires, and minister like slaves to the comfort and luxury of their lords. These Indians, notwithstanding their neglect of the squaws, have many courteous and gentlemanly habits. They have no profane word in their vocabulary, and the [33] most abusive words employed by them are liar, rascal, hog, and squaw. They, however, catch with facility the profane expressions of the whites, which they sue with great readiness, and without understanding their signification. Thus, they will often employ an oath as a friendly salutation; and while kindly shaking hands with a friend, will curse him in cheerful and pleasant tones of voice.

The following morning (Tuesday, April 19th), a Mormon arrived with his boat and ferried me over to Nauvoo. A Mormon doctor accompanied me. He had obtained, I was told, a regular diploma from a medical school as a physician: but since the Mormons generally prefer miraculous aid to medicine, it is probable that his practice is somewhat limited. He argued with me while we were on the passage, and evinced a tolerable share of intelligence and acuteness.

The success of Mormonism in England was a subject of great rejoicing to him. I observed, that I had reason to believe that the conquests of Mormonism in Britain had been principally among the comparatively illiterate and uneducated. This, he partially admitted; but he maintained that God had always chosen people of that description, for they were rich in faith. I replied, that the class of persons to whom he referred, abounded in wrong faith no less than in right faith: and that among the lower class of persons in England, the wildest delusions, of the most contradictory character, had, from time to time been readily propagated. I further remarked, that the same class of people who believed in Joanna Southcote, might easily be persuaded to credit the divine mission of Joseph Smith. Changing [34] the subject, I begged him to inform me whether the Mormons believed in the Trinity. “Yes,” he replied; “we believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; that makes three at least who are God, and no doubt there are a great many more.” Having uttered this horrid blasphemy, he proceeded to state, that the Mormons believe that departed saints become a portion of the Deity, and may be properly denominated “Gods.”

On landing at Nauvoo, I walked with the Doctor along the street which I mentioned before as bordering on the strand. As I advanced with my book in my hand, numerous Mormons came forth from their dwellings, begging to be allowed to see its mysterious pages; and by the time I arrived at the prophet’s house, they amounted almost to a crowd. I met Joseph Smith at a short distance from his dwelling, and was regularly introduced to him by the storekeeper. I had the honour of an interview with him who is a Prophet, a Seer, a Merchant, a “Revelator,” a President, an Elder, an Editor, and the Lieutenant-General of the “Nauvoo Legion.” He is a coarse, plebian, sensual person in aspect, and his countenance exhibits a curious mixture of the knave and the clown. His hands are large and fat, and on one of his fingers he wears a massive gold ring, upon which I saw an inscription. His eyes appear deficient in that open and straightforward expression which often characterizes an honest man. His dress was of coarse country manufacture, and his white hat was enveloped by a piece of black crape as a sign of mourning for his deceased brother, Don Carlos Smith, the late editor of the “Times and[35] Seasons.” His age is about1 thirty-seven. He led the way to his house, accompanied by many elders, preachers, and other Mormon dignitaries. On entering the house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and gaping spectators remained standing2.

I handed the book to the prophet, and begged him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I replied, that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter; but that I should like to hear his opinion. “No,” he said; “it ain’t Greek at all; except, perhaps, a few words. What ain’t Greek, is Egyptian; and what ain’t Egyptian, is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said: “Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics; and them which follows, is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the characters that was engraved on the golden plates.” Upon this, the Mormons around began to congratulate me on the information I was receiving. “There,” they said; “we told you so—we told you that our prophet would give you satisfaction. None but our prophet can explain these mysteries.” The prophet now turned to me, and said, “This book ain’t of no use to you, you don’t understand it.” “Oh yes,” I replied; “it is of some use; for if I were in want of money, I could sell it for something handsome.” [36]

“But what will you sell it for?” said the prophet and his dignitaries. “My price,” I answered, “is higher than you would be willing to give.” “What price is that?” they eagerly demanded. I replied, that I would not sell it to them for many hundred dollars. They then repeated their request that I should lend it to them until the prophet should have time to translate it, and promised me the most ample security; but I declined all their proposals. I placed the book in several envelopes, and as I deliberately tied knot after knot, the countenances of several among them gradually sunk into an expression of great despondency. Having exhibited the book to the prophet, I requested him in return to show me his papyrus, and to give me his own explanation, which I had hitherto received only at second hand. He proceeded with me to his office, accompanied by the multitude. He produced the glass frames which I had seen on the previous day; but he did not appear very forward to explain the figures. I pointed to a particular hieroglyphic, and requested him to expound its meaning. No answer being returned, I looked up, and behold! the prophet had disappeared. The Mormons told me that he had just stepped out, and would probably soon return. I waited some time, but in vain: and at length descended to the street in front of the store. Here I heard the noise of wheels, and presently I saw the prophet in a light waggon, flourishing his whip and driving away as fast as two fine horses could draw him.

1 By his own account in the “Times and Seasons,” Joseph Smith was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, (U.S.) on the 23rd of December, 1805.

2 See the frontispiece.

As he disappeared from view, enveloped in a cloud of dust, I felt that I had turned over another page in the great book of human nature. [37]

The Mormons now surrounded me, and requested to know whether I had received satisfaction from the prophet’s explanation. I replied that the prophet had given me no satisfaction, and that, on the contrary, he had proved his own ignorance most effectually. They wished to know my own religious opinions. I informed them that I had been educated in the Church of England, to which I was conscientiously attached. One of the Mormons said that the Church of England had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof, and that it was the duty of all men to turn away from her. I asked him what he understood by the power of godliness. He replied, “the power of working miracles and of speaking in unknown tongues.”

He maintained that the Church of England denied that the gifts of the Holy Ghost are communicated at the present day to the people of God. I told him that he was mistaken, referring to the passages in the “Service for the Ordering of Priests,” “Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God.” And again,

“Thou the Anointing Spirit art,

Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.”

And again,

“Thou in thy gifts art manifold,

By them Christ’s Church doth stand.”

Another said that the ministers of the Church of England were dumb dogs, that its bishops were regardless of the advancement of the gospel, that their belly was their God, and that money was their idol. I inquired whether he was particularly well acquainted [38] with the English bishops and clergy. He replied, that he had never been out of America; but that he had received these accounts from travellers. I told him that I had been personally acquainted with many of the bishops and clergy of the English Church, and that his very general assertion was decidedly contrary to the truth. A renegade now came forward, who stated himself to have been a member of the Established Church of Ireland. He said that the Thirty-nine Articles were a bundle of inconsistencies from beginning to end. I begged him to specify some of the inconsistencies. He said that the first Article asserts that God is without body, parts, or passions; that the second Article teaches that Christ is God; and that the fourth Article states that Christ ascended into heaven with his body, flesh, and bones. Thus, he maintained, the fourth Article was inconsistent with the first. I replied, that the same charge of inconsistency might be applied to the Scriptures with equal fairness, and quoted some texts by which the doctrines of the first, second, and fourth Articles are respectively proved. He flew off at once to another subject, and maintained that baptism in the Church of England is not valid, inasmuch as it is not administered by persons having authority. I asked him what constituted a sufficient authority. He replied, “a commission from Christ, proved by the possession of miraculous gifts.” I said that the English clergy possessed a commission from Christ, which could be proved to belong to them, even in the absence of miraculous gifts at the present time. He wished to know how their commission could be proved without miracles. I told him that the bishops [39] of the English Church, from whom the inferior clergy derive their authority, are apostles just as truly as St. Barnabas and St. Timothy were. This statement took him altogether by surprise; he looked at me incredulously, and requested me to give him proof. I presented him with a brief outline of the clear and simple argument for the Apostolic Succession, and referred him to the historical fact, that bishops have been consecrated by bishops from the age of inspiration to the present time. I said that the commission of our Saviour to the eleven, extending as it did through all time and all the world, implied an apostolical succession till the day of judgment; that Scripture testifies to a succession of Apostles as long as Scripture can testify to it: and that afterwards the continuance of the succession is proved by a vast number of Christian writers down to the present time. He considered for a moment, and then said, that such a succession must have come through Rome; that Rome was the mother of harlots, and that the Church of England was the eldest of her numerous family of daughters. “The Church of England,” said he, “reminds me of a story I heard about an old cow—” As he was becoming abusive I thought it best to check him, and seriously requested him to inform me whether it was an English cow or an Irish bull of which he was speaking. At this the younger Mormons began to laugh, and my opponent seemed rather disconcerted and was silent.

An old American in a blue home-spun suit, and with a disagreeable expression in his face, now entered the lists against me. He told me that I was in great darkness and unbelief, and that I ought to [40] repent, obey the gospel, and be baptized. I replied, that as for repentance, I hoped I repented every day; as for obedience, without boasting, I believed I might claim to be equal to the “Latter-day Saints;” and as for baptism, I had been lawfully baptized by one having authority. He said that Church of England baptism possessed only the authority derived from Acts of Parliament, and that the English Church was merely a Parliament Church. I replied, that the English Church had a double sanction: first, that of Christ—who founded the Catholic Church, of which the English Church is a portion; and secondly, that of Parliament, by which, long after its foundation, it was acknowledged as the National Religion. “But,” I proceeded, “it is now my turn to say something about your religion, since you have spoken freely of mine. It is easy for you to argue as you do about the descent of the Indians from Israel, the existence of miraculous powers in the Church, and the supposed errors and inconsistencies of professed Christians. In regard however to the real question at issue, on which your religion depends, namely, the inspiration of your prophet, you have not given me the slightest satisfaction.” They requested me to state what evidence I should consider satisfactory. I replied, “When the Jewish dispensation was to be introduced, God enabled Moses to work great wonders with his rod. God smote a mighty nation with miraculous plagues. He divided the Red Sea and the River Jordan.

He came down on Mount Sinai amid clouds and lightnings and the terrific sound of the trumpet of heaven. He caused Moses to strike the rock and the waters gushed forth. He rained down

[41] manna for the space of forty years in the wilderness. Again, when the Christian dispensation was to be established, Christ walked upon the waters; He controlled the winds and the waves; He fed assembled thousands with a few loaves and fishes; He healed the sick; He opened the eyes of the blind; He brought the dead to life; and finally, He raised Himself from the grave.

“You maintain that your prophet is sent to establish a third dispensation. I demand, therefore, what signs are given to prove his commission?”

The old man replied, that the healing of the sick, the casting out of devils, and the speaking of unknown tongues, were very frequent in the “Latter-day Church.” I said that signs of that kind were of a very doubtful description, since the imagination possessed great power over the nervous system. I inquired whether Smith had ever walked across the Mississippi, or brought a dead man to life. He replied in the negative; but said, that among them the blind received their sight, and the ears of the deaf were opened. I then observed, “You perceive that I am rather deaf, and you say that I have no faith. Now can you open my ears so that I may hear your arguments more distinctly?” Immediately the old man stepped forward, and before I was aware of his object, thrust his fore-fingers into my ears, and lifting up his eyes, uttered for about a minute in a loud voice some unintelligible gibberish. “There,” he said finally, “the Holy Ghost prompted me to do that, and now you have heard the unknown tongue.” “But my hearing is not improved,” I said. “That,” he replied, “is because you have no [42] faith. If ever you believe the Book of Mormon, you will immediately recover perfect hearing, through the gift of the Holy Ghost.” I looked at him somewhat severely and said, “Take care, old man, what you say. When you employ holy names, you should speak with awe and reverence; but you and other Mormons here, as far as I have observed, employ the most sacred terms with the most disgusting levity.

How miserable were your services on last Sunday; how cold your worship, how unedifying and farcical your preaching. The Holy Ghost was manifestly absent from your assembly, which resembled a Jewish Synagogue more than a Christian congregation. There was no Bible, there was no Lord’s Prayer, there were no motives presented to humiliation, self-examination, or any branch of devotion; there was little besides senseless speculations on the character of god, idle assertions of special revelations and miraculous gifts, and disgraceful advertisements of stolen goods.” Here they interrupted me and said that their preachers did not need the Bible, being immediately inspired by the Holy Ghost. “No,” I said, “it is not inspiration, it is a Satanic delusion. Your prophet himself has proved to me that he is not inspired, and I will make the fact known to the world. Would you believe a man calling himself a prophet, who should say that black is white?” “No,” they replied. “Would you believe him if he should say that English is French?” “Certainly not.” “But you heard your prophet declare, that this book of mine is a Dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics, and, farther, that it is written in characters like those of the original Book of Mormon. I know it most posi- [43] tively to be the Psalms of David, written in ancient Greek. Now what shall I think of your prophet?” They appeared confounded for a while; but at length the Mormon doctor said, “Sometimes Mr. Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes as a mere man. If he gave a wrong opinion respecting the book, he spoke as a mere man.” I said, “Whether he spoke as a prophet or as a mere man, he has committed himself; for he has said what is not true. If he spoke as a prophet, therefore, he is a false prophet. If he spoke as a mere man, he cannot be trusted, for he spoke positively and like an oracle respecting that of which he knew nothing. You have spoken severely, without regard to my feelings, respecting the Church to which I belong; but I hardly like to tell you all that I think respecting your prophet and yourselves.” “Speak out,” said some. “Go on,” said others. “We are above prejudice,” said the old man. “If Smith be not a true prophet,” I proceeded, “you must admit that he is a gross impostor.” “We must,” they replied. “Then I will freely tell you my opinion, so that you may not think that I intend to say at a distance what I would not say in Nauvoo itself. I think it likely that most of you are credulous and ignorant, but well-meaning persons, and that the time at least has been when you desired to do the will of God. A knot of designing persons, of whom Smith is the centre, have imposed upon your credulity and ignorance, and you have been most thoroughly hoaxed by their artful devices. Mahomet himself was a gentleman, a Christian, and a scholar, when compared with your prophet. And oh! how mournful to look round, as I can at present, and to [44] reflect, how many have been enticed away from their homes, dragged across earth and sea, and brought to this unwholesome spot, where, with the loss of substance and of health, they are too often left to perish in wretched poverty and bitter disappointment.” One of the Mormons who had listened attentively to what I said, now remarked with some solemnity of manner, “If we are deceived, then are we of all men the most miserable.” “Indeed I believe you are most miserable,” I replied, “and I pity you from the very bottom of my heart. And oh! how gladly would I see you delivered from this awful delusion, and returning to the bosom of that holy Catholic Church, from which many of you have apostatized. There you may find plain and honest teaching, without these lying signs and wonders. There you may find holy and solemn services fitted for the edification of the people of God. There you may find a true baptism, a true communion, true gifts of the Holy Ghost, and true ministers who descend in one unbroken line from the Apostles sent forth by Christ Himself.” Several of them now said that faith is the gift of God, that God had promised to give wisdom to those who should ask it; that they had prayed to God to guide them into all truth, and that He had led them to believe in the book of Mormon. I replied that God had appointed other means of ascertaining the truth, and that if we reject those means it will be vain to pray to Him for guidance. Thus He had declared his Church to be the pillar and ground of truth. But it was evident that they had deserted the true ground, since they had attached themselves not to any branch of the apostolic Church, [45] but a sect barely fifteen years old.” The old man in blue now told me that they pitied me as much as I pitied them.

“Come, my friend,” he said to me, “let you and I go down to the Mississippi, only let me put you under the water and baptize you, and when you come up again, you will see all mysteries clearly, and will believe in our great signs and wonders.” I told him in reply, that to submit to such a baptism would be almost the greatest sacrilege which could be committed. “I must now leave you,” I proceeded; “I have been among you three days; I have expressed my sentiments freely respecting your religion and your prophet, and I heartily thank you that you have listened to me with attention, and that although you have had me altogether in your power, you have not put me under the Mississippi and kept me there.”

I walked to the ferry with the Mormon who had brought me over in the morning, the Mormon doctor, and one or two others. When we arrived at the boat we found it safe, as it had been carefully padlocked in the morning. The oars, however, were missing, a circumstance which caused great vexation to the owner. He exclaimed “My oars are gone; somebody has hooked my oars.” “Who has taken your oars?” I asked. “Some of the boys, I guess,” he replied.

“What! some of the young Latter-day Saints?” I said. “I guess it was,” he answered. “But do not the young saints learn the ten commandments,” I demanded, “and especially the eighth, ‘Thou shalt not steal?’” “I guess they know them all,” the poor man answered, “but any how they don’t practise them.” Accordingly he took a piece of board in his [46] hands, and having given another piece to one of his companions, he proceeded rather awkwardly to paddle across the wide and rapid stream. A third piece of board was given to the doctor, who sat with me in the stern, to be used as a rudder. For some time we advanced tolerably well; but before long the doctor began to argue with me vehemently. He said that no man could obtain salvation, who devoted so little attention to the truth of God as I had done; and that instead of spending only three days, I ought to have remained at least three weeks at Nauvoo. I told him that I had seen quite enough to convince any person of ordinary understanding, that Smith was an impostor. He replied that Smith might be as bad as he was reported to be, but that his prophecies would not thereby be proved false. He might be a swindler, a liar, a drunkard, a swearer, and still be a true prophet. David was a murderer and an adulterer, and yet was a true prophet. St. Peter said that even in his time “David had not yet ascended into heaven.” David was in hell, for no murderer had eternal life abiding in him. So Smith might be as infamous as David was, and even deny his own revelations, and turn away from his religion, and go to hell; but this would not affect the revelations which God had given by him. It was in vain that I attempted to correct the doctor’s false positions; the stream of his heretical eloquence had begun to flow, and, finally, I suffered it to flow unchecked. He said that the truth of Mormonism did not depend on the character of Smith or of any other man. That our Lord had told the Jews that there were other sheep, not of that fold, whom He intended to bring, and [47] that in accordance with this declaration, after his ascension into heaven, He descended again in America and preached the Gospel to the Indians, as the veracious history of the book of Mormon assured us. That for his own part, his faith had been produced solely by the power of God, and that if he was deceived, God Almighty had deceived him, and no other. “I was once an honest Atheist,” he proceeded; “I felt that Christianity could not be true, since Christians have not yet decided among themselves what Christianity is. I was induced by curiosity to listen to the preaching of a Mormon elder. My attention was strongly arrested; I began to believe in God, and for many weeks and months was earnest in my prayers to Him for a knowledge of the truth. After the space of six months, I was one night lying awake in my bed meditating, when suddenly a conviction of the reality of the Christian religion flashed upon my mind like lightning. I saw the truth of the Scriptures and of the book of Mormon. I felt powerfully convinced that the prophecies of Joseph Smith were from God. At the same time I was filled with a supernatural extasy which resembled heaven itself. I could not restrain my feelings, but cried out, O my God, if it be thus to be baptized with the Holy Ghost, what must it be to be baptized with fire! From that time I have been a member of the ‘Latter-day Church,’ and, believe me, I would rather be an honest Atheist again, than embrace the doctrines of any of the sects. If the religion which I profess be false, there is no true religion upon earth1.” [48]

The doctor’s zeal had so completely carried him away, that he quite forgot his duty as helmsman. The boat was now about the middle of the Mississippi, and after sundry tortuous windings, seemed about to return to Nauvoo. The poor fellows who were paddling with the boards complaining of the doctor’s steering, I volunteered to take the helm, and the medical gentleman forthwith resigned his piece of board into my hands. The skiff now proceeded with a straight course, and we shortly landed in Iowa. The doctor, on parting from me, complimented me somewhat equivocally on my seamanship, by observing, that if I knew the way of salvation as well as I knew how to steer, I might have a good chance of getting to heaven. . . . [49]

1 There are known to be persons living at Nauvoo, who have inwardly renounced Mormonism, and with it all religion. They say, however, that they profess conformity to Mormonism, because it is equally good with, or not worse than, any other religion. This fact exhibits the tendency of Mormonism to infidelity and atheism.

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