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I. The CAREER AND CHARACTER OF Joseph Smith, THE REPUTED FOUNDER OF THE SYSTEM, first solicits our attention.
This pseudo-prophet was born Dec. 23, 1805, at Sharon, in Windsor county, Vermont, where his father had a farm. Neither of his parents was educated or religious, and in Joseph's tenth year, they, with nine other children, six sons and three daughters, made one of those long emigrations not uncommon in the United States, removing into the western part of New York, where they resided eleven years, first at Palmyra, and afterwards at the village of Manchester. Growing up here, he followed bis father's occupation, never gaining much skill in reading, writing, or arithmetic.
In 1821, when he was fifteen years of age, a “ revival” began in Manchester, under which his mother, three brothers, and one sister, joined the Presbyterian church; but Joseph remained unattached to any body of christians, professing his inability to decide which was right and which was wrong. Up to this time, and it is said beyond it, the reputation of himself and his family connections was exceedingly low, all notoriously spending much time "in digging for money which they pretended had been hidden during the revolutionary war !"* One of his zealous partizans, Mr. Orson Pratt, who was once stationed at Liverpool, and is one of the “ twelve apostles of the church of Joseph Smith,”+ claims for his leader the honour of enjoying at this period a supernatural manifestation of resplendent light, and of "two glorious personages” who announced the forgiveness of his sins and promised a more copious revelation at another season. But Mr. Pratt confesses that “being young, he was again entangled in the vanities of the world”-a discreet confession,-since during 1823, 4 he was following his money-digging trade with the pretence that a curious stone, (found in 1822 by a person named Chase, from whom Smith obtained it), enabled him to discover where treasures had been hid! The mode of divination used by the adept was to put the stone into bis hat, and then to do the same with his face. At this childish game of " I can see what you can't," Joseph Smith continued for some years -being hired in the meantime, in company with his father and others (Sep. 1823) to dig for a silver mine at Harmony on the borders of Pennsylvania and New York. According to Mr. Pratt, Smith was honoured with another “manifestation" in the evening of Sep. 21, 1823, consisting of a gorgeous illumination, and the appearance of “ a personage," who revealed many strange things, among which were these, that the American Indians were a remnant of Israel, and that certain records composed by their inspired writers, and which had been long concealed, were now to be divulged, preparatory to Messiah's second coming. The vision was twice ces the early publication of a work entitled “Celestial Marriage, or the Peopling of Worlds." Mr. Pratt holds the nominal office of a Professor in Deseret University; and at the Special Conference in August 1852, was raised to the presidency of the 'Church' in the United States, and British Provinces of North America. Should he survive Young, the present prophet, he will certainly become first man, if ability is chiefly considered in the election.
* See Appendix B
+ Mr. Pratt is now on a mission at Washington U. S., and has commenced a monthly paper called “THE SEER". He also announ
renewed, and a third time in the morning, when the angel, correcting a previous oversight, “ instructed him to go immediately and view the secret records :" this he did, and having dug out and opened the strong stone box in which they were encased, its contents lay before him. But, “ behold! the angel who had previously visited him" again made himself visible and placed his interdict upon their present acquisition. So it is to be inferred that they were restored to their hill-side sepulchre, and Smith, (in obedience to the angel's summons to prayer and faithfulness,) relapsed to his digging and divining tricks,
While at Harmony, he lodged in the house of a hunter named Hale, a respectable person, who testifies to Smith's being at the head of the money-diggers, whose cupidity he encouraged until his stone or "looking-glass," as he facetiously termed it, ceased to act, and in 1825 the gang was broken up. Smith returned to Manchester, but having fallen in love with the daughter of his late landlord, he adopted a series of deceptions which ended in his elopement and clandestine marriage with the young lady, and in his procuring their conveyance to Manchester at the expense of a credulous Dutchman, whom he deluded with the tale of a cave in which was a bar of gold as thick as his leg, and about three or four feet long." During this time Mr. Pratt requires us to believe that Mr. Smith was "frequently receiving instruction from the mouth of the heavenly messenger;" and on the morning of Sep. 22, 1827, the records were delivered into his hands—a month after he had re-visited Mr. Hale to gain his wife's
property, telling the old gentleman he had abandoned "glass-looking," and was expecting to work hard for a living. But a curious story here intervenes ; for a person nained Ingersol has deposed on oath that Smith acquaiuted him that after his return to Manchester, he passed off upon his family a quantity of fine white sand wrapped in his frock, as the “Golden Bible.” Putting his records (sand bag) into a pillow-case, and this into a wooden box, he allowed all persons to handle it, but not to inspect them. At this time a patron and tool sprang up in the person of Martin Harris, a religious weathercock, and a man of strong passions, to whom Smith presented a scroll covered over with uncouth strokes, “the whole ending in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac"; which he vouched as a transcript of part of the “golden plates.” On this assurance, Harris advanced fifty dollars, and at Smith's request made a journey to the city of New York, where he submitted the mystical paper to Professor Anthon, who says he “soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick-perhaps a hoax."* This suspicion he communicated to the farmer who for a short time seemed inclined to quit the crazy enterprize : but before he reached home the disease again attacked him, and induced him to follow Smith to Harmony, whither that schemer had betaken himself by the help of Harris's fifty-dollar gift. There the work of " translation" progressed, though Smith affirmed that the plates themselves were buried in the woods because of his father-in-law, who would not allow the box to remain in his house unless he wero admitted to an optical demonstration of its auriferous contents. But a Urim and Thummim (formed, we are told, of “two transparent stones, clear as crystal," and found with the plates), overcame this difficulty; and stationed behind a blanket, Smith dictated to Harris who stood, on the outside of course, writing down the sublime narration! But his Urim, though “used in ancient times by persons called seers," did not enable Smith to foresee the plot devising by Harris's wife, who having secured a hundred and sixteen pages of this manuscript, refused to deliver them up, asserting that since they were produced by miracle they could be as easily re-produced by the same infallible method: but Joseph was now fore-sighted enough, and he refused to fall into the snare. Another scribe was employed, a schoolmaster named Cowdery, between whom and Smith so close an intimacy was formed that, according to Smith, they were visited by a heavenly messenger who gave his name as John the Baptist, and ordered them to be baptized, which they were by mutual deed on the 15th of May, 1829. No mishap recurring during the second translating" effort,
* The Mormons exult greatly over the fact that some years after this transaction, several glyphs (engraved tablets) were discovered in Mexico, similar in design to the figures on the scroll presented to Professor Anthon. But the inference they deduce in favour of the "golden plates" is more positively insisted on than logically conclusive. The size of the curious stone” found by Chase is not stated --may it not have been such a glyph ? Or in his vagrant diggings it is not impossible that Smith may have discovered an antiquity of the kind; and one or other of these suppositions is rendered the more probable as the Mormons have themselves published an account of the disinterment at Kinderhook, in 1843, of six plates of brass covered with ancient characters. A wood-cat of one of these is given in the Illustrated History of Mormonism (p. 279), and nearly resembles the scrawl supplied to Harris by Smith as described by the learned professor of Columbia College. If this be granted, we see Smith's shrewdness in advising Harris to take it to New York and shew it to some learned man whose favourable opinion, it was expected, would blind Harris completely to the forgery