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triarch Joseph, and their fortunes were traced for upwards of a thousand years, from the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, down to the fifth century of the Christian era. This narrative purported to be a record buried in the earth by Mormon, its last compiler, and was entitled “The Manuscript Found.' A manuscript, indeed, it seemed likely to remain. Its author vainly endeavoured to persuade the booksellers to undertake the risk of its publication. Nor does their refusal surprise us; for we do not remember, among all the ponderous folios which human dulness has produced, any other book of such unmitigated stupidity. It seems inconceivable how any man could patiently sit down, day after day, to weary himself with writing sheet after sheet of such sleep-compelling nonsense. Its length is interminable, amounting to above five hundred closely printed octavo pages. Yet, from the first to the last, though professing to be composed by different authors, under various circumstances, during a period of a thousand years, it is perfectly uniform in style, and maintains the dryness without the brevity of a chronological table. Not a spark of imagination or invention enlivens the weary sameness of the annalist; no incidental pictures of life or manners give colour or relief to the narrative. The only thing which breaks the prosaic monotony is the insertion of occasional passages from Scripture; and these are so clumsily brought in, that they would seem purposely introduced to show by contrast the worthlessness of the foil in which they are embedded. Nor is dulness the only literary offence committed by the writer of the book of Mormon. It is impossible to read three pages of it without stumbling on some gross violation of grammar, such as the following: -' ye wicked ones, hide thee in the dust.' It all were vain.' "We had somewhat
contentions. I should have wore these bands. Why per• secuteth thou the Church.' 'He has fell. The promises • hath been. Our sufferings doth exceed.' All things which
is expedient.' These blunders are so uniformly interspersed throughout the work, that they must be ascribed to its author, and not (as they have sometimes * been) to a subsequent interpolator. Yet this worthless book, which its writer could not even get printed in his lifetime, is now stereotyped in the
* This hypothesis has been resorted to because people cannot understand how an educated teacher of religion should be capable of such blunders. But in America the literary qualifications for ordination are necessarily reduced to a minimum. In our researches anong the Mormonite authors, we have found several examples of ci-devant Ministers, who not merely write bad grammar, but can. not even spell correctly.
chief languages of Europe, and is regarded by proselytes in every quarter of the globe as a revelation from heaven.
This extraordinary change of fortune was brought about by the successful roguery of a young American named Joseph Smith, the son of a small farmer in Vermont. From an early age this youth had amused himself by practising on the credulity of his simpler neighbours. When he was a boy of fourteen, there occurred in the town of Palmyra, where he then lived, one of those periods of religious excitement which are called in America Revivals. The fervour and enthusiasm which attends these occurrences often produces good effects. Many excellent men have traced the sincere piety which has distinguished them through life, to such an origin. But there is a danger that the genuine enthusiasm of some should provoke hypocrisy in others. So it happened on this occasion in Palmyra. Half the inhabitants were absorbed in the most animated discussion of their deepest religious feelings. Any extraordinary "experience' was sure to attract the eagerest interest. Under these circum
prevailing current, and fixing the attention of his pious friends upon himself, by an experience'more wonderful than any of theirs. He gave out that while engaged in fervent prayer, he had been favoured with a miraculous vision. 'I saw,' says he, • a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun, which de
scended gradually upon me. It no sooner appeared, than I • found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. - When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages whose • brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me
in the air.' He goes on in his • Autobiography' (from which we quote) to say that these heavenly messengers declared all existing Christian sects in error, and forbade him to join any of them. This statement, however, was no doubt an afterthought. At the time, he probably only proclaimed that his deliverance ' from the enemy' had been effected by a supernatural appearance.
Such precocious hypocrisy, however painful, is no extraordinary phenomenon. Probably every outburst of kindred excitement developes some similar instance of childish imposture. Examples will occur to those who are familiar with the early history of Methodism. And we remember lately to have seen a narrative published by a believer in the Irvingite' miracles, detailing a case where a boy of only seven years old pretended to inspiration, and kept up the farce for many weeks, duping all the while his infatuated parents, and having the impudence seriously to rebuke his old grandfather for unbelief. Children are flattered by the notice which they excite by such pretensions; and, if the credulity of their elders gives them encouragement, are easily tempted to go on from lie to lie. For there is perhaps no period of life more sensible than childhood to the delights of notoriety.
It was, probably, only a desire for this kind of distinction which originally led Joseph Smith to invent his vision. At first, however, he did not meet with the success which he expected. On the contrary, he complains that the story had
excited a great deal of prejudice against him among professors • of religion, and that it drew persecution' upon him. We may suppose that his character for mendacity was already so well known in his own neighbourhood as to discredit his assertions. At all events, he seems thenceforward to have laid aside, till a later period, the part of a religious impostor, and to have betaken himself to less impious methods of cheating. For some years he led a vagabond life, about which little is known, except that he was called “Joe Smith the Money-digger,' and that he swindled several simpletons by his pretended skill in the use of the divining-rod. In short, he was a Yankee Dousterswivel. Among the shrewd New-Englanders one would have thought such pretensions unlikely to be profitable. But it seems there were legends current of the buried wealth of buccaneers, and Dutch farmers possessing the requisite amount of gullibility; and on this capital our hero traded.
His gains, however, were but small; and he was struggling with poverty, when at last he lighted on a vein of genuine metal, which, during the remainder of his life, he continued to work with ever-growing profit. This was no other than the rejected and forgotten manuscript of poor Solomon Spalding, which had either been purloined by Smith's associate, Sidney Rigdon (who had been employed in a printing office where it was once deposited), or had been stolen out of the trunk of Mrs. Spalding, who lived about this time in the neighbourhood of Smith's father. In one way or another, it fell into Joseph's hands about twelve years after its author's death. The manuscript, as we have said, purported to have been buried by Mormon, its original compiler.* This easily suggested to the imagination of Smith, already full of treasure-trove, the notion
• The proofs that the Book of Mormon," published by Smith, is identical with Spalding's Manuscript Found,' are conclusive. The identity is asserted in the depositions of Spalding's widow, of Spalding's brother, and of Spalding's partner, Henry Lake, the two latter of whom swear to their acquaintance with Spalding's manuscript. (See Bennett, 115.).
of pretending that he had dug it up. At first, however, he seems to have intended nothing more than to hoax the members of his own family. He told them that an angel had revealed to him a bundle of golden plates, engraved with mysterious characters, but had forbidden him to show them to others. His hearers (to his surprise, apparently,) seemed inclined to beliere his story; and he remarked to a neighbour (whose deposition is published), that he had fixed the fools, and would have some .fun. But it soon occurred to him that his fabrication might furnish what he valued more than ‘fun.' He improved upon his first story of the discovery, by adding, that the angel had also shown him, together with the plates, 'two stones in silver
bows, fastened to a breast-plate, which constituted what is • called the Urim and Thummim. .... The possession and • use of which constituted Seers in ancient times, and God had
prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.' (Smith's Autobiography, XIV.) Furnished with this mysterious apparatus, he was commanded to translate and publisha these divine records. He might reasonably expect that the publication of Spalding's Manuscript, garnished with this miraculous story, would prove a profitable speculation : just as the unsaleable reams of Drelincourt on Death' were transmuted into a lucrative copyright by the ghost-story of De Foe. On the strength of these expectations, he obtained advances of money from a farmer named Martin Harris.* Concerning this man, as concerning most of the early associates of Smith, we must remain in doubt whether he were a dupe or an accomplice. His cupidity was interested in the success of the Book of * Mormon,' and therefore he may be suspected of deceit. On the other hand, he did not reap the profit he expected from the publication, which, as a bookselling speculation, was at first unsuccessful; and he was ruined by the advances he had made. Ultimately, he renounced his faith (real or pretended) in Joseph, who, in revenge, abused him in the newspapers as 'a white
skinned negro,' and a “lackey.' (M. Illust. 34.) This looks as if he had been a dupe, and not in possession of any dangerous secrets. It is certain that he consulted Professor Anthon at New York on the subject of the mysterious plates; and that he showed the Professor a specimen of the engravings, which Mr. Anthon describes as evidently prepared by some one who had • before him a book containing various alphabets, Greek and · Hebrew letters, &c.; the whole ending in a rude delineation
* • Our translation drawing to a close,' says Smith, 'we went to • Palmyra, secured the copyright, and agreed with Mr. Grandon to
print 5000 copies for the sum of 3000 dollars.' (Autob. XIV) This sum was supplied by Harris, in accordance with a 'revelation delivered in March, 1830, as follows:- I command thee that thou
shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the print‘ing of the “ Book of Mormon." .... Impart a portion of thy
property, yea, even part of thy lands . ... Pay the debt thou • hast contracted with the printer.' (D. C. sec. 44.)
of a circle decked with strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar given by Humboldt.'* Harris also stated his intention of selling his farm, to provide funds for the translation and publication of these plates. The Professor vainly remonstrated, regarding him as the victim of roguery. Not long after, early in 1830, the Book of Mormon was published, and Harris was employed in hawking it about for sale. He also signed a certificate, which is prefixed to the book, wherein he joins with two other witnesses in testifying the authenticity of the revelation, as follows: —
We declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes [sic] that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon.' Eight other witnesses also testify that they had seen the plates, but without the angel. If we are not to consider all these as accomplices in the fraud, we must suppose that Smith had got some brass plates made, and had scratched them over with · figures. No one else was allowed to see them; and Joseph informs us, that after he had ' accomplished by them what was
required at his hand,' ....'according to arrangements, the • messenger called for them, and he [the angel] has them in his
Although the 's day:' (Autob. ke [the angell hangements, the
Although the sale of the Book of Mormon' did not originally repay the cost of publication, yet it made a few converts. It was very soon revealed' that these proselytes were bound to consecrate their property to the support of Joseph. Thus we find in a revelation of February, 1831 :—. It is meet that my
servant, Joseph Smith, Junior, should have a house built in • which to live and translate.' (D. C. sec. 13.) And again : • If ye desire the mysteries of my kingdom, provide for him 'food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth.' (D. C. sec. 14.) And his love for idleness was gratified by a revelation which commanded it: — In temporal labours thou shalt 'not have strength, for that is not thy calling.' (D. C. sec. 9.) A singular announcement to be made by a prophet who soon after became the manager of a Bank, partner in a commercial
Mr. Anthon's letter to Mr. Howe, Feb. 17. 1834.