« AnteriorContinuar »
filled with animosity, which was augmented by an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate their ex-governor, Mr. Boggs, one of Smith's greatest enemies. A charge of complicity was preferred against the prophet which was strengthened by the remembrance of one of his predictions in 1841, that Boggs would die by violent hands within a year. One of the old Danites is judged to have been the proposed murderer. Clouds of trouble3 were now collecting in surgy masses above his head. While at a place on the border of Illinois, he was carried off by a coup de main, executed by two Missouri sheriffs officers; but after several weeks custody regained his freedom. A mine however was sprung in Nauvoo itself. He was charged with favouring and acting upon the “spiritual wife” doctrine, first broached by Rigdon ; but the corporation of Nauvoo ordered the newspaper of his accusers to be suppressed, which was done with fire and fury.* Flying for their lives to Carthage, Foster and Law obtained a warrant against Joseph and Hyrum Smith ; this was served, but nullified by the mayor of Nauvoo, and the county authorities ordered out the militia to enforce it. The Mormons were preparing to resist, but at the invitation of Mr. Ford, the Governor, the brothers surrendered, to save the effusion of blood which a conflict would have caused, resulting, as that must have done, in the defeat and massacre of all the Mormons within reach. The Smiths were lodged in the gaol at Carthage, where as is well known, on the 27th of June, 1844, a ruffian mob, fearing that a rescue would be planned, stormed the building and shot them both, the prophet's last words being “O Lord, my God!" So went down his sun in blackness and blood! His murder was cowardly and horrible, but a striking fulfilment of the words, “ They that take the sword, shall perish by the sword !" He was buried with all the honours which his devotees could lavish on their Prophet, who was now encircled with all the charms which martyrdom could purchase. Space would fail us to notify subsequent events. The Mormons exercised commendable forbearance; and devoted increased attention to their internal economy and foreign auxiliaries. Addresses were published to all the saints throughout the world, the largest of which bore the name of “Brigham Young,” President of the Twelve Apostles, who vaulted into the vacant seat of anthority. Rigdon, who made the same attempt, was tried and cast out, loaded with charges of the grossest description. It is history still fresh that the More mons were compelled to succumb to the hostile feelings engendered against them, and on Feb. 3rd, 1846, began to remove farther west. Their sufferings by the way were pitiably severe ; but in 1848 their exodus was completed, and the ill-fated refugees, resting in the Great Salt Lake Valley, founded the territory of Deseret, which has been received as a territory into the United States under the name of Utah, of which Brigham Young is the legal Governor. Full of vicissitudes has been the career of this singular people; and these are not likely to abate. Their return of prosperity has again developed the seclusive and aggressive spirit which affliction and reverses had tamed, and they stand charged with refusing to submit to any jurisdiction but that emanating from their own ecclesiastical authorities. Should they resist the Constitution of the United States, a more terrible visitation will befal them, which for the sake of our common humanity, we hope their prudence will avert. *
* This accusatiou is now verified by no less an authority than Joseph's successor, who said in August last, at the Special Conference, “ The world have known long ago, even in brother Joseph's days, that he had more wives than one."
Smith's character it is difficult to estimate, as it is impossible to say whether, like other successful impostors, he did not succeed in at last imposing on himself. Persons of weak judgments and conceited dispositions are specially prone to construe success into a token of Divine approval; so: “deceitful is the heart above all things, and desperately wicked.” The Mormon Prophet is charged by his adversaries with nearly every vice which stains the calendar of crime ; and his adherents claim for him every virtue which can adorn a beatified saint. We shall judge, not very erroneously, perhaps, if we ascribe to him cunning rather than wisdom, directed by an intense spirit of self-seeking, which grew more voracious and unscrupulous as his deception prospered. His conscience seems seldom to have stood in the way of his lust for luxury, wealth, and power : and there is satisfactory proof that he became dazzled and magnetized with prospects which it would have required the genius of an Alexander, and the lifetime of a Methuselah, to realize.
II. MORMONISM AS A RELIGIOUS SYSTEM Is possessed of Scriptures, Creed, and Constitution. * See Appendix C
(1.) Its Scriptures consist of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants and Revelations, with a New Version of The Holy Bible, infamously altered to favour the new imposture. Many books have been published by the Mormons, most of them by their great litterateur, Orson Pratt ; but their inspired writings are confined to the works first named, with such miscellaneous contributions as may flow in from time to time. The Book of Mormon professes to be a transcript from the unsealed golden plates. It is in fifteen books, and the drift of the whole is a romantic account of the migration from Palestine to America, in the reign of Zedekiah, of Lehi and his sons and daughters-in-law, by whom the new Continent was peopled, the Nephites becoming a settled community, and the Lamanites, the copper-coloured Indians. A tedious account is given of their wanderings, dissensions, leagues, wars, and degeneracy, until about the year 400, A.D., both races fight a pitched battle, which ends in the slaughter of 230,000 Nephites. Mormon and his son Moroni are preserved by flight; but the former dying of his wounds, entrusts all the golden plates to his son, who deposits them in the hill Camorali, whence, after an interval of 1427 years, they were disinterred by Joseph Smith !
The story-part of the book is to be attributed to the pen of Solomon Spaulding, an invalid clergyman, who occupied his leisure time in composing it, and reading it in fragments to his neighbours, who when the Book of Mormon was published, at once recollected the incidents and names. In May 1839, Mrs. Davison, Mr. Spaulding's widow, issued a blighting
exposure of the forgery. With the legendary story, however, of Mr. Spaulding, either Smith or some other person had intermingled dreary prophecies, and re-arranged the whole. Who did the interpolating part is still uncertain. Smith's own ability is supposed by some to have been incompetent even to this poor task ; while the flagrant blunders,—scientific, historical, chronological, philological, and grammatical, which repeatedly occur, prove the mechanist to have been a bungling ignoramus.* The fact that the additions coincided with the peculiar sentiments advocated at that time by Rigdon, gives colour to the theory that (figuratively speaking) he was behind the blanket assisting Joseph in his “translations," although not avowedly known to him till the book was printed. As to evidence of the reality of the golden plates, it is a sorry affair. The three original witnesses were Harris, Cowdery, and Whitmer, who testified that “an angel came down from heaven, and brought and laid the plates before their eyes, so that they beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon;" but of what value their attestation is will be seen from several facts. When Harris was afterwards pressed whether he saw them with his bodily eyes, just as he saw a pencil-case held up before him, he answered, “I did not see them As I do that pencil-case ; yet I saw them with the eye of faith. I saw them just as distinctly as I see
* One of these nods-hut not homeric !-is too amusing to be omitted. Mention is made of the mariner's compass, in this erudite history, as existing 2000 years before its discovery ; and this haying been alleged to a Mormon elder against the authenticity of Mormon's record, the charge was gravely parried by a reference to Acts xxviii. 13,“ We fetched a compass!"--from which passage no doubt the Prophet borrowed his.