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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the usual name of a religious sect which was founded in this country A.D. 1830, and claims to be called of God to gather within its fold the people of this universe, by authority of a new dispensation, which is to be the last given to man in his present existence. They style themselves " The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," or briefly, "Latter-day Saints," and object to the popular designation, Mormons, derived from the name eof one of their sacred books (i.e., The Book of Mormon). Though this word is derived from the Greek (μορμών ), and literally signifies a lamia, maniola, female specter (the mandrill for its ugliness was called Cynocephalus Mormon), the Saints, according to Joseph Smith, the first prophet and originator of Mormonism, treat its etymological origin thus extravagantly: "We say from the Saxon good, the Dane god, the Goth goden, the German gut, the Dutch goad, the Latin bonus, the Greek καλός, the Hebrew טוב, and the Egyptian mon. Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction mor, we have the word mormon, which means literally more good." According to anti-Mormons, the name Latter-day Saints was assumed in 1835 by the Mormons, at the suggestion of one of their leaders, Sidney Rigdon, and the word "Mormon" is more distasteful to them than is the word "Mohammedan" to the Muslim or "Jew" to the Hebrew. In accordance with our general practice to let each religious body speak for itself in these pages, we insert here the history of the organization of the Church of these "Saints" as furnished by their apostle Orson Pratt, the ablest living exponent of Mormonism, and George A. Smith, the first counsellor of president Brigham Young.
1. History. — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints was founded by Joseph Smith, who was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, December 23, 1805. When ten years old his parents, with their family, moved to Palmnyra, N.Y., in the vicinity of which he resided for about eleven years, the latter part in the town of Manchester. He was a farmer by occupation. His advantages for acquiring scientific knowledge were exceedingly small; being limited to a slight acquaintance with two or three of the common branches of learning. He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand, and had a very limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only literary attainments, while the rest of those branches so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States were entirely unknown to him.
When about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence; but how or in what way to prepare himself was a question as yet undetermined in his own mind: he perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of it. He saw that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it except by chance, and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance or uncertainty was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each pointed to its own particular tenets, saying, "This is the way — walk ye in it;" while at the same time the doctrines of each were in many respects in direct opposition to the rest. It also occurred to his mind that God was the author of but one doctrine, and therefore could acknowledge but one denomination as his Church, and that such denomination must be a people who believe and teach that one doctrine (whatever it may be) and build upon the same. He then reflected upon the immense-number of doctrines now in the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind was: If any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied in relation to this question he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man, and build his hopes upon them, without any knowledge of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast. To decide without any positive and definite evidence on which he could rely upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative that seemed left to him was to read the Scriptures and endeavor to follow their directions.
He accordingly began perusing the sacred pages of the Bible with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage: "If ally of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). From this promise he learned that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom, with the sure and certain expectation of receiving liberally, without being upbraided for so doing. This was cheering information to him — tidings that gave him great joy. It was like a light shining forth in a dark place to guide him to the path in which he should walk. He now saw that if he inquired of God, there was not only a possibility but a probability, yea more, a certainty, that he should obtain a knowledge which of all the doctrines was the doctrine of Christ, and which of all the churches was the Church of Christ. He therefore retired to a secret place in a grove but a short distance from his father's house, and knelt down and began to call upon the Lord. At first he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavored to overcome him; but he continued to seek for deliverance until darkness gave way from his mind, and he was enabled to pray in fervency of the spirit and in faith; and while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above, which at first seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and as it drew nearer it increased in brightness and magnitude, so that by the time that it reached the tops of the trees the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner.
He expected to see the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed as soon as the light came in contact with them; but perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hope of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending slowly until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system, and immediately his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded, and he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness. He was informed that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects which had for some time previously agitated his mind, namely, that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God as his Church and kingdom. He was expressly commanded not to go after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine — the fulness of the Gospel — should at some future time be made known to him; after which the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace indescribable. Some time after having received this glorious manifestation, being young, he was again entangled in the vanities of the world, of which he afterwards sincerely and truly repented. It pleased God, on the evening of September 21, 1823, again to hear his prayers; for he had retired to rest as usual, except that his mind was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire "to commune with some kind messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God," and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he thus continued to pour but his desires before the Father of all good, endeavoring to exercise faith in his precious promises, "on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room — indeed the first sight was as if the house were filled with consuming fire.
This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation that extended to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind and an overwhelming rapture of joy that surpassed understanding, and in a moment a personage stood before him." Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, "yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, yet it was of a pleasing, innocent, and glorious appearance — so much so that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul." "The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam." This glorious being declared himself to be an angel of God, sent forth by commandment to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel concerning their posterity was at hand to be fulfilled that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence — that the time was at hand for the Gospel in its fulness to be preached in power to all nations, that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness for the millennial reign of universal peace and joy.
He was informed that he was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation. It was also made manifest to him that the "American Indians" were a remnant of Israel; that when they first emigrated to America they were an enlightened people, possessing a knowledge of the true God, enjoying his favor and peculiar blessings from his hand; that the prophets and inspired writers among them were required to keep a sacred history of the most important events transpiring among them, which history was handed down for many generations, till at length they fell into great wickedness. The greatest part of them were destroyed, and the records (by commandment of God to one of the last prophets among them) were safely deposited to preserve them from the hands of the wicked who sought to destroy them. He was informed that these records contained many sacred revelations pertaining to the gospel of the kingdom, as well as prophecies relating to the great events of the last days; and that to fulfil his promises to the ancients who wrote the records, and to accomplish his purposes in the restitution of their children, etc., they were to come forth to the knowledge of the people. If faithful, he was to be the instrument who should be thus highly favored in bringing these sacred things to light. At the same time he was expressly informed that it must be done with an eye single to the glory of God-that no one could be intrusted with those sacred writings who should endeavor to aggrandize himself by converting sacred things to unrighteous and speculative purposes (see Book of Mormon, chapter 4, § 2, page 510). After giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, which would be foreign to our purpose to mention here, he disappeared, and the light and glory of God withdrew, leaving his mind in perfect peace, while a calmness and serenity indescribable pervaded his soul. But before morning the vision was twice renewed, instructing him further and still further concerning the great work of God about to be performed on the earth. In the morning he went out to his work as usual, but soon the vision was renewed — the angel again appeared, and having been informed by the previous visions of the night concerning the place where those records were deposited, he was instructed to go immediately and view them.
Accordingly he repaired to the place, a brief description of which was best given by Oliver Cowdery [Joseph Smith's scribe and first follower by baptism], who shortly after this event visited the spot:
"As you pass on the mail-road from Palmyra, Wayne County, to Caanadaigua, Ontario County, New York, before arriving at the little village of Manchester, about four miles from Palmyra, you pass a large hill on the east side of the road. Why I say large is because it is as large, perhaps, as any in that country. The north end rises quite suddenly until it assumes a level with the more southerly extremity, and I think I may say an elevation higher than at the south a short distance, say half or three fourths of a mile. As you pass towards Canandaigua it lessens gradually, until the surface assumes its common level, or is broken by other smaller hills or ridges, watercourses, and ravines. I think I am justified in saying that this is the highest hill for some distance around, and I am certain that its appearance, as it rises so suddenly from a plain on the north, must attract the notice of the traveller as he passes by. The north end (which has been described as rising suddenly from the plain) forms a promontory, without timber, but covered with grass. As you pass to the south you soon come to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or wind; and a short distance farther left you are surrounded with the common forest of the country. It is necessary to observe that even the part cleared was only occupied for pasturage, its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plough of the husbandman with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second-mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top, down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830 there were several trees standing — enough to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass, which was also the case when the record was first found. How far below the surface these records were anciently placed I am unable to say; but from the fact that they had been some fourteen hundred years buried, and that, too, on the side of a hill so steep, one is ready to conclude that they were some feet below, as the earth would naturally wear, more or less, in that length of time. But being placed towards the top of the hill, the ground would not remove as much as at two thirds, perhaps. Another circumstance would prevent a wearing of the earth: is all probability, as soon as timber had time to grow the hill was covered, and the roots of the same would hold the surface. However, on this point I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion and form his own speculation; but, suffice to say, a hole of sufficient depth was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. At each edge was placed a large quantity of cement, and into this cement, at the four edges of this stone, were placed erect four others, their bottom edges resting in the cement, at the outer edges of the first stone. The four last named, when placed erect, formed a box; the corners, or where the edges of the four came in contact, were also cemented so firmly that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. It is to be observed, also, that the inner surfaces of the four erect or side stones were smooth. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breastplate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chestetc., from the arrows and weapons of their enemy. From the bottom of the box, or from the breastplate, arose three small pillars, composed of the same description of cement used' on the edges, and upon these three pillars were placed the records. This box containing the records was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being flat, and the upper crowning. When it was first visited by Mr. Smith on the morning of the 22d of September, 1823, a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface, while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass; from which circumstance it may be seen that however deep this box might have been placed at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth, so that it was easily discovered when once directed, and yet not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer-by. After arriving at the repository, a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light lever, brought to his natural vision its contents. While viewing and contemplating this sacred treasure with wonder and astonishment, behold in the angel of the Lord, who had previously visited him, again stood in his presence, and his soul was again enlightened as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the heavens were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring, the angel said, 'Look!' and as he thus spake he beheld the Prince of Darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, 'All this is shown — the good and the evil, the holy and the impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness — that you may know hereafter the two powers, and never be influenced or overcome by the wicked one. Behold, whatsoever enticeth and leadeth to good, and to do good, is of God; and whatsoever doth not, is of that wicked one. It is he that filleth the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest. You cannot at this time obtain this record, for the commandment of God is strict; and if ever these sacred things are obtained, they must be by prayer and faithfulness in obeying the Lord. They are not deposited here for the sake of accumulating gain and wealth for the glory of this world; they were sealed by the prayer of faith, and because of the knowledge which they contain; they are of no worth among the children of men only for their knowledge. On them is contained the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his people on this land; and when it shall be brought forth by the power of God it shall be carried to the Gentiles, of whom many will receive it, and after will the seed of Israel be brought into the fold of their Redeemer by obeying it also. Those who kept the commandments of the Lord on this land desired this at his hand, and through the prayer of faith obtained the promise that if their descendants should transgress and fall away a record should be kept, and in the last days come to their children. These things are sacred, and must be kept so, for the promise of the Lord concerning them must be fulfilled. No man can obtain them if his heart is impure, because they contain that which is sacred... By them will the Lord work a great and marvellous work; the wisdom of the wise shall become as naught, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid; and because the power of God shall be displayed, those who profess to know the truth but walk in deceit shall tremble with anger; but with signs and with wonders, with gifts and with healings, with the manifestations of the power of God and with the Holy Ghost shall the hearts of the faithful be comforted. You have now beheld the power of God manifested, and the power of Satan: you see that there is nothing desirable in the works of darkness — that they cannot bring happiness — that those who are overcome therewith are miserable; while, on the other hand, the righteous are blessed with a place in the kingdom of God, where joy unspeakable surrounds them. There they rest beyond the power of the enemy. of truth, where no evil can disturb them. The glory of God crowns them, and they continually feast upon his goodness and enjoy his smiles. Behold, notwithstanding you have seen this great display of power, by which you may ever be able to detect the Evil One, yet I give unto you another sign, and when it comes to pass, then know that the Lord is God, and that he will fulfil his purposes, and that the knowledge which this record contains will go to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people under the whole heaven. This is the sign: When these things begin to be known — that is, when it is known that the Lord has shown you these things — the workers of iniquity will seek your overthrow. They will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life; but remember this, if you are faithful, and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth; for in due time he will give you a commandment to come and take them. When they are interpreted, the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands. Then will persecution rage more and more; for the iniquities of men shall be revealed, and those who are not built upon the Rock will seek to overthrow the Church; but it will increase the more opposed, and spread farther and farther, increasing in knowledge till they shall be sanctified and receive an inheritance where the glory of God will rest upon them; and when this takes place, and all things are prepared, the ten tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season; and when this is fulfilled will be brought to pass that saying of the prophet, "And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord." But notwithstanding the workers of iniquity shall seek your destruction, the arm of the Lord will be extended, and you will be borne off conqueror if you keep all his commandments. Your name shall be known among the nations, for the work which the Lord will perform by your hands shall cause the righteous to rejoice and the wicked to rage; with the one it shall be had in honor, and with the other in reproach — yet with these it shall be a terror, because of the great and marvellous work which shall follow the coming forth of this fulness of the Gospel. Now go thy way, remembering what the Lord hath done for thee, and be diligent in keeping his commandments, and he will deliver thee from temptations and all the arts and devices of the wicked one. Forget not to pray that thy mind may become strong, that when he shall manifest unto thee thou mayest have power to escape the evil and obtain these precious things."' The above quotation is an extract from a letter written by elder Oliver Cowdery, which was published in one of the numbers of the Latter-day Saints' Messenger and Advocate.
Although many more instructions were given by the mouth of the angel to Mr. Smith, for which we have not space here, yet the most important items are contained in the foregoing relation. During the period of the four following years he frequently received instructions from the mouth of the heavenly messenger. On the morning of the 22d of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into his hands. These records were engraved on plates which had the appearance of gold. Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin. They were filled on both sides with engravings in Egyptian characters (see Book of Mormon, Mormon, chapter 4:§ 8, page 515), and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole. This volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters or letters upon the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, as well as much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found "a curious instrument, called by the ancients the Urim and Thummnim, which consisted of two transparent stones, clear as crystal, set in the two rims of a bow. This was in use in ancient times by persons called seers. It was an instrument by the use of which they received revelation of things distant or of things past or future." (See Biogr. Sketches, page 101; Book of Mormon, Ether, chapter 1, § 7-11, p. 520 sq. See also Nephi, § 20, page 5 sq.) In the mean time the inhabitants of that vicinity, having been informed that Mr. Smith had seen heavenly visions, and that he had discovered sacred records, began to ridicule and mock at those things. After having obtained those sacred things, while proceeding home through the wilderness and fields, he was waylaid by two ruffians, who had secreted themselves for the purpose of robbing him of the records. One of them struck him with a club before he perceived them; but being a strong man and large in stature, with great exertion he cleared himself from them and ran towards home, being closely pursued until he came near his father's house, when his pursuers, for fear of being detected, turned and fled the other way. Soon the news of his discoveries spread abroad throughout all those parts. False reports, misrepresentations, and base slanders flew as if upon the wings of the wind in every direction. The house was frequently beset by mobs and evil-designing persons. Several times he was shot at, and very narrowly escaped. Every device was used to get the plates away from him. Being continually in danger of his life from a gang of abandoned wretches, he at length concluded to leave the place and go to Pennsylvania; and accordingly packed up his goods, putting the plates into a barrel of beans, and proceeded upon his journey. He had not gone far before he was overtaken by an officer with a search-warrant, who flattered himself with the idea that he should surely obtain the plates; after searching very diligently, he was sadly disappointed at not finding them. Mr. Smith then drove on, but, before he got to his journey's end he was again overtaken by an officer on the same business, and after ransacking the wagon very carefully, he went his way as much chagrined as the first at not being able to discover the object of his research. Without any further molestation Smith pursued his journey until he came into the northern part of Pennsylvania, near the Susquehanna River, in which part his father-in-law resided. Having provided himself with a home, he commenced translating the record, as he himself tells us in his Autobiography, "by the gift and power of God, through the means of the Urim and Thummim;" and being a poor writer, he was under the necessity of employing a scribe to write the translation as it came from his mouth. (See, for criticism, editorial appendix below, and Stenhouse, page 23.)
Mr. Smith continued the work of translation, as his pecuniary circumstances would permit, until he finished the unsealed part of the records. The part translated is entitled the Book of Mormon, which contains nearly as much reading as the Old Testament. This volume purports to be a history of ancient America, from its early settlement by a colony who came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion of languages, to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian sera. By these records we are informed that America, in ancient times, was inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first, or more ancient race, came directly from the great Tower, being called Jaredites. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ, being Israelites, principally the descendants of Joseph. The first nation, or Jaredites, were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country.
The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remaining remnant, having dwindled into an uncivilized state, still continue to inhabit the land, although divided into a "multitude of nations," and are called by Europeans the "American Indians." We learn from the same history that at the confusion of languages, when the Lord scattered the people upon all the face of the earth, the Jaredites, being a righteous people, obtained favor in the sight of the Lord, and were not confounded. Because of their righteousness, the Lord miraculously led them from the Tower to the great ocean, where they were commanded to build vessels, in which they were marvellously brought across the great deep to the shores of North America. The Lord God promised to give them America, which was a very choice land in his sight, for an inheritance; and he swore unto them in his wrath that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them, and they were fully ripened in iniquity. Moreover, he promised to make them a great and powerful nation, so that there should be no greater nation upon all the face of the earth. Accordingly in process of time they became a very numerous and powerful people, occupying principally North America; building large cities in all quarters of the land, being a civilized and enlightened nation. Agriculture and machinery were carried on to a great extent. Commercial and manufacturing business flourished on every hand; yet, in consequence of wickedness, they were often visited with terrible judgments. Many prophets were raised up among them from generation to generation, who testified against the wickedness of the people, and prophesied of judgments and calamities which awaited them if they did not repent, etc. Sometimes they were visited by pestilence and plagues, and sometimes by famine and war, until at length (having occupied the land some fifteen or sixteen hundred years) their wickedness became so great that the Lord threatened by the mouth of his prophets to utterly destroy them from the face of the land. But they gave no heed to these warnings; therefore the word of the Lord was fulfilled, and they were entirely destroyed-leaving their houses, their cities, and their land desolate; and their sacred records also, which were kept on gold plates, were left by one of their last prophets, whose name was Ether, in such a situation that they were discovered by the remnant of Joseph, who soon afterwards were brought from Jerusalem to inherit the land. This remnant of Joseph were also led in a miraculous manner from Jerusalem, in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. They were first led to the eastern borders of the Red Sea; then they journeyed for some time along the borders thereof, nearly in a south-east direction; after which they altered their course nearly eastward, until they came to the great waters, where, by the command of God; they built a vessel, in which they were safely brought across the great Pacific Ocean, and landed upon the western coast of South America. In the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, at the time the Jews were carried away captive into Babylon, another remnant were brought out of Jerusalem, some of whom were descendants of Judah. They landed in North America, soon after which they emigrated into the northern parts of South America, at which place they were discovered by the remnant of Joseph, something like four hundred years after. The same records inform us that this remnant of Joseph, soon after they landed, separated themselves into two distinct nations. This division was caused by a certain portion of them being greatly persecuted, because of their righteousness, by the remainder. The persecuted nation emigrated to the northern parts of South America, leaving the wicked nation in possession of the middle and southern parts of the same.
The former were called Nephites, being led by a prophet whose name was Nephi. The latter were called Lamanites, being led by a very wicked man whose name was Laman. The Nephites had in their possession a copy of the Holy Scriptures, viz. the five books of Moses and the prophecies of the holy prophets down to Jeremiah, in whose days they left Jerusalem. These Scriptures were engraved on plates of brass in the Egyptian language. They themselves also made plates soon after their landing, on which they began to engrave their own history, prophecies, visions, and revelations. All these sacred records were kept by holy and righteous men, who were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and were carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation. The Lord gave them the whole continent for a land of promise, and he promised that they and their children after them should inherit it, on condition of their obedience to his commandments; but if they were disobedient they should be cut off from his presence. The Nephites began to prosper in the land, according to their righteousness; and they multiplied and spread forth to the east, and west, and north-building large villages, cities, synagogues, and temples, together with forts, towers, and fortifications to defend themselves against their enemies. They cultivated the earth, and raised various kinds of grain in abundance. They also raised numerous flocks of domestic animals, and became a very wealthy people, having in abundance gold, silver, copper, tin, iron, etc. Arts and sciences flourished to a great extent. Various kinds of machinery were in use. Cloths of various kinds were manufactured; swords, scimitars, axes, and various implements of war were made, together with head-shields, arm-shields, and breastplates to defend themselves in battle with their enemies. In the days of their righteousness they were a civilized, enlightened, and happy people. But, on the other hand, the Lamanites, because of the hardness of their hearts, brought down many judgments upon their own heads; nevertheless they were not destroyed as a nation; but the Lord God sent forth a curse upon them, and they became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people. Before their rebellion they were white and exceedingly fair, like the Nephites; but the Lord God cursed them in their complexions, and they were changed to a dark color; and they became a wild, savage, and ferocious people, being great enemies to the Nephites, whom they sought by every means to destroy. Many times they came against them with their numerous hosts to battle, but were repulsed by the Nephites and driven back to their own possessions, not, however, generally speaking, without great loss on both sides; for tens of thousands were very frequently slain, after which they were piled together in great heaps upon the face of the ground, and covered with a shallow covering of earth, which will account for these ancient mounds, filled with human bones, so numerous at the present day both in North and South America.
The second colony, which left Jerusalem eleven years after the remnant of Joseph left that city, landed in North America, and emigrated from thence to the northern parts of South America; and about four hundred years after they were discovered by the Nephites, as stated above. They were called the people of Zarahemla. They had been perplexed with m-any wars among themselves, and having brought no records with them, their language had become corrupted, and they denied the being of God. At the time they were discovered by the Nephites they were very numerous, and only in a partial state of civilization; but the Nephites united with them and taught them the Holy Scriptures, and they were restored to civilization, and became one nation with them. In process of time the Nephites began to build ships near the Isthmus of Darien, and launch them forth into the western ocean, in which great numbers sailed a great distance to the northward, and began to colonize North America. Other colonies emigrated by land, and in a few centuries the whole continent became peopled. North America at that time was almost entirely destitute of timber, it having been cut off by the more ancient race who came from the great Tower at the confusion of languages; but the Nephites became-very skilful in building houses of cement; also much timber was carried by the way of shipping from South to North America. They also planted groves and began to raise timber, that in time their wants might be supplied. Large cities were built in various parts of the continent, both among the Lamanites and Nephites.
The law of Moses was observed by the latter. Numerous prophets were raised up from time to time throughout their generations. Many records, both historical and prophetical, which were of great size, were kept among them; some on plates of gold and other metals, and some on other materials. The sacred records, also. of the more ancient race who had been destroyed were found by them. These were engraved on plates of gold. They translated them into their own language by the gift and power of God, through the means of the Urim and Thummim. They contained a historical account from the creation down to the Tower of Babel, and from that time down until they were destroyed, comprising a period of about thirty-four hundred or thirty-five hundred years. They also contained many prophecies, great and marvellous, reaching forward to the final end and consummation of all things, and the creation of a new heaven and new earth. The prophets also among the Nephites prophesied of great things. They opened the secrets of futurity- saw the coming of Messiah in the flesh — prophesied of the blessings to come upon their descendants in the latter times — made known the history of unborn generations-unfolded the grand events of ages to come — viewed the power, glory, and majesty of Messiah's second advent — beheld the establishment of the kingdom of peace — gazed upon the glories of the day of righteousness — saw creation redeemed from the curse, and all the righteous filled with songs of everlasting joy. The Nephites knew of the birth and crucifixion of Christ by certain celestial and terrestrial phenomena, which at those times were shown forth in fulfilment of the predictions of many of their prophets. Notwithstanding the many blessings they had received, they had fallen into great wickedness, and had cast out the saints and the prophets, and stoned and killed them. Therefore at the time of the crucifixion of Christ they were visited in great judgment: thick darkness covered the whole continent the earth was terribly convulsed — the rocks were rent into broken fragments, and afterwards found in seams and cracks upon all the face of the land — mountains were sunk into valleys, and valleys raised into mountains — the highways and level roads were broken up and spoiled — many cities were laid in ruins; others were buried up in the depths of the earth, and mountains occupied their place; while others were sunk, and waters came up in their stead; and others still were burned by fire from heaven. Thus the predictions of their prophets were fulfilled upon their heads. Thus the more wicked part, both of the Nephites and Lamanites, were destroyed. Thus the Almighty executed vengeance and fury upon them, that the blood of the saints and prophets might no longer cry from the ground against them.
Those who survived these terrible judgments were favored with the personal ministry of Christ; for after he arose from the dead, finished his ministry at Jerusalem, and ascended to heaven, he descended in the presence of the Nephites, who were assembled round about their temple in the northern parts of South America. He exhibited to them his wounded hands, side, and feet; commanded the law of Moses to be abolished; introduced and established the Gospel in its stead; chose twelve disciples from among them to administer the same; instituted the sacrament; prayed for and blessed their little children; healed their sick, blind, lame, deaf, and those who were afflicted in any way; raised a man from the dead; showed forth his power in their midst; expounded the Scriptures, which had been given from the beginning down to that time; and made known unto them all things which should take place down until he should come in his glory, and from that time down to the end, when all people, nations, and languages should stand before God to be judged, and the heaven and the earth should pass away, and there should be a new heaven and a new earth. These teachings of Jesus were engraved upon plates, some of which are contained in the Book of Mormon; but the greater part are not revealed in that book, but hereafter are to be made manifest to the saints. After Jesus had finished ministering unto them, he ascended into heaven; and the twelve disciples whom he had chosen went forth upon all the face of the land preaching the Gospel, baptizing those who repented for the remission of sins, after which they laid their hands upon them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Mighty miracles were wrought by them, and also by many of the Church. The Nephites and Lamanites were all converted unto the Lord, both in South and North America, and they dwelt in righteousness above three hundred years; but towards the close of the fourth century of the Christian sera they had so far apostatized from God that he suffered great judgments to fall upon them. The Lamanites at that time dwelt in South America, and the Nephites in North America. A great and terrible war commenced between them, which lasted for many years, and resulted in the complete overthrow and destruction of the Nephites. This war commenced at the Isthmus of Darien, and was very destructive to both nations for many years. At length the Nephites were driven before their enemies a great distance to the north and north-east; and having gathered their whole nation together, both men, women, and children, they encamped on and round about the hill Cumorah, where the records were found, which is in the State of New York, about two hundred miles west of the city of Albany. Here they were met by the numerous hosts of the Lamanites, and were slain, hewn down, and slaughtered, both male and female the aged, middle-aged, and children. Hundreds of thousands were slain on both sides; and the nation of the Nephites were destroyed, excepting a few who had deserted over to the Lamanites, and a few who escaped into the south country, and a few who fell wounded, and were left by the Lamanites on the field of battle for dead, among whom were Mormon and his son Moroni, who were righteous men.
Mormon had made an abridgment from the records of his forefathers upon plates, which abridgment he entitled the Book of Mormon; and (being commanded of God) he hid in the hill Cumorah all the sacred records of his forefathers which were in his possession; except the abridgment called the Book of Mormon. which he gave to his son Moroni to finish. Moroni survived his nation a few years, and continued the writings, in which he informs us that the Lamanites hunted those few Nephites who escaped the great and tremendous battle of Cumorah until they were all destroyed, excepting those who were mingled with the Lamanites, and that he was left alone, and kept himself hid, for they sought to destroy every Nephite who would not deny the Christ. He furthermore states that the Lamanites were at war one with another, and that the whole face of the land was one continual scene of murdering, robbing, and plundering. He continued the history until the four hundred and twentieth year of the Christian aera, when (by the commandment of God) he hid the records in the hill Cumorah, where they remained concealed until by the ministry of an angel they were discovered to Mr. Smith, who, by the gift and power of God, translated them into the English language by the means of the Urim and Thummim, as stated in the foregoing. (See editorial criticisms below.)
After the book was translated the Lord raised up witnesses to bear testimony to the nations of its truth, who at the close of the volume send forth their testimony, which reads as follows:
"Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the Tower of which hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare, with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ that we beheld and hear record that these things are true, and it is marvellous in our eyes; nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we learn testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God: Amen.
Then follows the testimony of eight witnesses: "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto whom this work shall come, that Joseph Smith, Jr., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names into the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen; and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
PETER WHITMER, JR.,
JOSEPH SMITH, SR.,
SAM. H. SMITH."
In the year 1829, Mr. Smith and Mr. Cowdery, having learned the correct mode of baptism from the teachings of the Savior to the ancient Nephites, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, had a desire to be baptized; but knowing that no one had authority to administer that sacred ordinance in any denomination; they were at a loss to know how the authority was to be restored; and while calling upon the Lord with a desire to be informed on the subject, a holy angel appeared and stood before them, and laid his hands upon their heads, and ordained them priests of the order of Aaron, and commanded them to baptize each other, which they accordingly did. In the year 1830 a large edition of the Book of Mormon first appeared in print. "As some began to peruse its sacred pages, the spirit of the Lord bore record to them that it was true; and they were obedient to its requirements, by coming forth humbly repenting before the Lord, and being immersed in water for the remission of sins, after which, by the commandment of God, lands were laid upon them in the name of the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And on the 6th of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty, the ‘ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' was organized in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, State of New York, North America. Some few were called and ordained by the spirit of revelation and prophecy, and began to preach and bear testimony, as the spirit gave them utterance; and although they were the weak things of the earth, yet they, were strengthened by the Holy Ghost, and gave forth their testimony in great power, by which means many were, brought to repentance, and came forward with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and were immersed in water confessing their sins, and were filled with the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and saw visions and prophesied. Devils were cast out, and the sick were healed by the prayer of faith and the laying on of hands. Thus was the word confirmed unto the faithful by the signs following. Thus the Lord raised up witnesses to bear testimony of his name, and laid the foundation of his kingdom in the last days. And thus the hearts of the saints were comforted and filled with great joy."
Editorial Appendix and Criticisms. — Mr. Pratt's account stops with the organization of the Saints as an ecclesiastical body. We supplement it with the later history. Joseph Smith seems at first to have had vague and confused ideas as to the nature and design of the Church he was about to establish until he found a convert in Sidney Rigdon, an able Campbellite preacher, then residing in Ohio. He was inclined to teach Millenarianism and bring his flock over to the new faith. This settled Smith, and together they worked out a sort of Millenarian faith, in which at that time Western New York was largely interested. It was by these two religionists declared that the millennium was close at hand, that the Indians were to be speedily converted, and that America was to be the final gathering-place of the Saints, who were to assemble at New Zion or New Jerusalem, somewhere in the interior of the American continent. With the Book of Mormon as their text and authority, they began to preach this new gospel; and Smith's family and a few of his associates, together with some of Rigdon's former flock, were soon enough in numbers to constitute a Mormon Church, which, as we have learned from Mr. Pratt's account, was organized April 6, 1830, at Fayette, N.Y. Though exposed to ridicule and hostility, the Saints continued to gather disciples. The publication of the Book of Mormon, and some alleged miracles and prophecies, attracted the people to the preaching of Smith and his companions, and at the first Conference of the Church, June 1, 1830, held at Fayette, N.Y., thirty members were present. Missionaries were now set apart, and every member was utilized, and in consequence the Saints were soon met with everywhere. Their missionaries were full of zeal, and converts gathered rapidly. Among them were Brigham Young, the two brothers Pratt. and Sidney Rigdon, the Campbellite preacher, who all became most efficient workers in Mormondom. Churches also were established in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and even so far west as Indiana and Illinois. But with their growth persecution intensified, and the Saints finally turned their eyes westwards for a permanent home. In the beginning of 1831 they established their head-quarters at Kirtland, Ohio, and everything pointed to it as the seat of the "New Jerusalem." Indeed, Smith advised the Saints to gather there. In a short time, however, opposition was strengthening also at Kirtland, and Smith urged the people to pray to the Lord "that he would in due time reveal unto them the place where the New Jerusalem should be built, and where the Saints should eventually be gathered in one." Smith's eyes were now turned to the far West to the region of the great prairies — hoping there to work out his religious system in peace and freedom. In the autumn of 1831 a successful work was inaugurated at Independence, Jackson County, Missouri; and shortly after the revelation came that "it was appointed by the finger of the Lord" that a colony of the Saints should be established in that part of Missouri, it being "the land of promise and the place for the city of Zion." In a very short time nearly 1200 persons gathered in the place "where Christ would shortly reign in person." Land was largely bought; preaching was vigorously carried on; a printing-press was established; a monthly periodical (The Morning and Evening Star) and a weekly newspaper (The Upper Missouri Advertiser) were started to propagate the doctrines of the new sect; and it is only fair to the Mormons to state that a spirit of industry, sobriety, order, and cleanliness was everywhere visible. Account for it how we may, the Mormons were in many important respects, morally, socially, and industrially, far in advance of their neighbors. Smith himself, with such of the Saints as preferred to stay in Ohio until forced from it, continued to reside there, though, as we shall see presently, he was by no means stationary there, and was now in Ohio, now in Missouri, as the state of affairs required. In 1838 unsuccessful financial speculations obliged the Prophet also to withdraw, after having besides encountered persecutions from mobs.
In Missouri also the Mormons early engendered opposition. Secret societies were formed a short time after their settlement to expel them from that region; their periodicals were stopped, their printing-press confiscated, their ministers tarred and feathered, and numberless other outrages were committed. Finally, in 1833 the hapless Saints were compelled to flee across the Missouri River, and men, women, and children had to encamp in the open wilderness on a winter night (see Parley P. Pratt, Hist. of the Missouri Persecutions). The cruelty with which they were treated is a disgraceful page in American colonization history, and every true man has reason to regret the outrages perpetrated against these religionists. They subsequently settled in Clay County, in the same state. Smith, when informed of these outrages, at once set out for Missouri; and now assumed, besides the role of "prophet, seer, revelator, and translator," that of military leader of his people. A lengthened revelation was given in February, 1834, to raise " the strength of the Lord's house," and go up to Missouri to redeem Zion, and the Prophet became, by the election of a council of elders, "commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel." With a band of 150 men, the "Prophet," set out from Kirtland for Missouri. By the time he reached Missouri the little band had increased to 205; but they were intercepted by the settlers before they could effect a junction with the Saints in Clay County, and were so badly defeated in their schemes that the few faithful ones who were left, together with the Prophet himself, gladly enough returned to their home at Kirtland. Here, while recruiting from the trials of this warfare, Smith determined upon a more perfect organization of his adherents. In 1833 he had published for their spiritual guidance The Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and in May, 1834, had adopted as the formal title of his ecclesiastical body "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints." He now instituted the hierarchical organization to which the Mormons owe in so large a measure their success and perpetuity. As heads of the Church he appointed a presidency of three (and this remains the practice of the Mormons), assigning to himself the first place, and associating with himself the Rigdon of whom we have had occasion to speak before, and one Frederick G. Williams, a "revelation" from the Lord having declared that the sins of Rigdon and Williams were forgiven, " and that they were henceforth to be accounted as equals with Joseph Smith, jun., in holding the keys of his last kingdom." His own superiority the Prophet had declared to his followers as early as 1830 by special "revelation," which, after appointing him "seer, translator, prophet, apostle of Jesus Christ, and elder of the Church," also demands that "the Church shall give heed to all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you; for his word shall ye receive as if from my own mouth, in all patience and faith." On February 4, 1835, Smith selected his high council of twelve, and delegated these his apostles — ‘ to go unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to preach the Gospel of the New Covenant." They departed into the Eastern States, and later into Europe; the first in 1837 to England, where the first Conference of converts was held at Preston, Lancashire on December 25th of that year. Everywhere the Saints now gained adherents. In March 1836, when the Temple at Kirtland was dedicated, over 1000 Mormons were gathered in that little town to witness the "sacred ceremony," and "to receive great blessings."
The year 1837 was a most auspicious one for the Saints, though for a time it threatened their very life as an ecclesiastical body. In Ohio they lost the confidence and support of their "Gentile" associates by the mismanagement of mercantile affairs, so that the Prophet laid himself open to the suspicion of deceit, double-dealing, and fraud. They also sustained several important apostasies from their ranks, one seceder being one of Joseph's councillors, and three others apostles in the "kingdom." But while these trials awaited them at their own "Zion," the New Covenant was rapidly spreading in England, under the preaching of the apostles Orson Hyde and Heber C. Kimball, and the Saints received large accessions to their numbers, especially from the masses in the great manufacturing and commercial towns — Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow; and above all from the mining districts of South Wales, where Mormonism, in some places, almost competed for popularity with Methodism itself. Since then they have extended their strange evangelization to the East Indies, Australia, the islands of the Pacific, Egypt, Palestine, Turkey, and almost every country on the continent of Europe. In 1838 Kirtland was finally altogether abandoned, for, luckily for the Prophet, just at the moment of his indictment for swindling, etc., a new "revelation" ordered his immediate departure for Missouri, which he promptly obeyed, with all the more alacrity as internal disorders had painfully manifested themselves also in Missouri, resulting in the expulsion of several influential members, among them David Whitmer, the second witness to the Book of Mormon, and Oliver Cowdery, the first convert by baptism. Smith's presence soon healed all internal disorders. but the conflict between the Saints and the other Missourians became daily fiercer. The organized religionists, though guilty of fanatical extravagance in their faith, were yet so perfectly united in all their material undertakings as to make their prosperity almost a necessity, and this success annoyed the other settlers to such a degree that a constant warfare was maintained. The rapid increase of the Saints made them, moreover, a subject of suspicion, especially as they had declared it to be their intention to take Missouri as their earthly portion for an "everlasting possession."
The Prophet, it was said, had declared that he would yet trample on the necks of his enemies, and these had therefore every reason to fear his growing strength. Besides, it was known that a band of men had secretly organized to defend the first presidency by any means, fair or foul; and it is therefore not to be wondered that there was constant quarrelling and fighting between Saints and Gentiles, until the contest amounted to civil war, and called for the interference of the state authorities. That such a step was really necessary became clearly apparent when on October 24, 1838, Thomas B. March, himself the president of the Mormon Apostolical College, and Orson Hyde, one of the twelve apostles, and now (1875) again a faithful "Saint," made before a justice of the peace in Ray County, Missouri, an affidavit in which it is declared that "They (i.e. the Mormons under Smith) have among them a company consisting of all that are considered true Mormons, called the Danites, who have taken an oath to support the heads of the Church in all things that they say or do, whether right or wrong... The plan of said Smith, the Prophet, is to take this state; and he professes to his people to intend taking the United States, and ultimately the whole world. This is the belief of the Church, and my own (i.e., March's) opinion of the Prophet's plan and intentions. The Prophet inculcates the notion, and it is believed by every true Mormon, that Smith's prophecies are superior to the law of the land. I have heard the Prophet say that he would yet tread down his enemies and walk over their dead bodies; that if he was not let alone he would be a second Mohammed to his generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean." Coming from the Saints' own fellow- worshippers, this statement was of course credited by the "Gentiles." It was, moreover, confirmed by the published utterances of Sidney Rigdon, who, in a sermon on July 4, 1838, preached at Far West, had said: "We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ to come on us no more for war. The man or the set of men who attempts it does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between them and us a war of extermination, for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us. For we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed." Near the close of 1838 the state militia was finally called out, nominally to establish peace, really to crush the Mormons. After much loss and suffering, especially at a place called Hawn's Mill, where several Mormons were massacred, the Saints were driven in the depth of winter across the Mississippi into Illinois. The Prophet, his brother Hyrum, and other leading Mormons, we
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mormons'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​m/mormons.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.