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I. Woodbridge Riley
The Founder of Mormonism

(NYC: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1903)

  • Title-Page   Preface   Contents
  • Chp. 1   Chp. 2
  • Chp. 3   Chp. 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapters 6-10
  • Appendices

  • Transcriber's Comments  

  • 1902 review  |  Daryl Chase Thesis (1931)  |  Fawn M. Brodie book (1945)
    Kessinger-Publishing reprint edition   (also on-line at Google Books)


    T H E   F O U N D E R   O F
    M O R M O N I S M












    [ iv ]

    Copyright, 1902



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    Introductory Preface

    THE rise and growth of Mormonism is one of the most remarkable phenomena of the nineteenth century. It is deserving of thorough investigation, whether the investigation be conducted from the point of view of the sociologist, the psychologist, or of the student of politics or of religion. But from whatever point of view it is regarded, a correct understanding of its origin and development can be gained only by the method which is applicable to all similar phases in the life of man; and this method may be descrived, although somewhat unsatisfactorily, as that of historical and comparative psychology. In Mormonism, as in all religions and religious communities we have to deal only with peculiar and complex combinations of the same ideas, motives and deeds, that are common to the entire human race.

    This essay of Mr. Riley is a conscientious and painstaking study of the founder of Mormonism, as one among not a few instances of the astonishing results that follow from the concurrent action of the individual man and favoring opportunity afforded


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    by the prevalwnt intellectual and social environment. Without Joseph Smith's personality being taken largely into the account, no account can be given of the rise and growth of the religious movement which he started. But Joseph Smith, under other conditions than those which actually surrounded him in the first third of the last century, or Joseph Smith under the conditions actually existing anywhere in the country in the last third of the same century, could not have become the founder of Mormonism. Man and environment were necessary for a new religion that should claim to be based upon a succession of revelations and miracles, recorded for the world to pass judgment upon, in the form of printed books. Hence the necessity for studying the man, not only in his own inheritance and personal characteristics and experiences, but also in his surroundings -- the people of his neighborhood and time.

    The material for this study in psychology has been somewhat peculiarly difficult to acquire and to handle. At the time when the subject of the study lived, there was little or no disposition or fitness for considering such manifestations of abnormal psychological development from the scientific point of view. And so far as I am aware no very thorough attempt at such a study of the personal sources of Mormonism has hitherto ever been made. This should


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    be borne in mind by the reader who is fitted to form an expert opinion upon the success of the author in his effort to explain the facts from points of view now somewhat firmly held by the modern student of physiology and psychology. There is plainly room for a justifiable difference of opinion as to the relative amounts of shrewd insight, self-deception, diseases of imagination and jusgment, and conscious, intentional fraud, which must be admitted. Undoubtedly, the mixture of all these factors varied greatly from time to time, -- as in the career of all men who at all resemble Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. I am sure, however, that no student of such phenomena can fail to appreciate the value of the services rendered by the author. The larger circle of readers, who make no claim to a special interest in abnormal psychology, even when it manifests itself within the sphere of man's religious life, will find much to interest and instruct them in this volume. I take pleasure, therefore, in thus briefly introducing Mr. Riley's essay to all classes of readers.


    Yale University, New Haven,
             May, 1902.


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    [ ix ]

    Author's Preface

    THIS study has been offered to the Philosophical Faculty of Yale University as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Materials I gathered at Salt Lake City in 1894 were utilized in 1898 for a Master of Arts thesis on the 'Metaphysics of Mormonism.' The sources employed in the present work, as given in the appended Bibliography, are, in the main, to be found in the Berrian collection of the New York Public Library.

    Beside rare first editions and Church publications suppressed by the Utah Saints, use is here made of some hitherto unpublished manuscripts. For these I am indebted to various correspondents, and especially to Mr. William Evarts Benjamin of New York City. For suggestions and criticisms my thanks are also due to Prof. William H. Brewer, of the Sheffield Scientific School, and to Prof. Charles J. Bartlett of the Yale Medical School.

    The aim of this work is to examine Joseph Smith's character and achievements from the standpoint


    x                                             PREFACE                                             

    point of recent psychology. Sectarians and phrenologists, spiritualists and mesmerists have variously interpreted his more or less abnormal performances, -- it now remains for the psychologist to have a try at them.

        New Haven, May, 1902.


    [ xi - xix ]



    1  Partisan Treatment of Joseph Smith's Character. -- Advantages of the Standpoint of Physiological Psychology. -- The Man in His Maturity Described by Eye-witnesses. -- 'A Phenomenon to be Explained,' -- Smith's Ability and His Absurdities. -- His Writings Supplemented by Suppressed Sources. -- The Origin of Mormonism. -- Its Impelling Forces in the Eighteenth Century. -- Joseph's Strange Ancestry. -- His Grandfather Mack's Narrative. -- The Latter's Life of Adventure and Hardship. -- The Old Soldier's Ailments and His Religious Experiences. -- He Sees Visions and Hears Voices. -- Similar Experiences of the Grandson. -- Mack's Belief in Faith Healing and Miraculous Cures. -- Erratic Tendencies Transmitted. -- The Prophet's Mother. -- Her Book, and its Works of Wonder. -- Her Revivalistic Dream. -- The Smith Pedigree Traced Back to 1666. -- The Prophet's Father, His Restlessness of Mind and Body. -- His Seven Dreams. -- Their Local Color. -- Their Incorporation Into the Book of Mormon. -- Their Mystic Interpretation. -- Their Physiological Basis. Elements of Illusion and Hallucination. -- They Reflect the Dreamer's Notions and Beliefs. -- Relation to the Visions of Joseph, Junior.


    37  Western New York in 1815. -- Backwardness of the Country. -- Mental Effects: Lack of Education, Scarcity of Books. -- Religious Literature Predominant. -- Some Rationalism, More Sectarianism. -- Fanatic Sects. -- Revivals, Their Unnatural Methods and Abnormal Results. -- The Young Bewildered From the Clash of Creeds, Depressed From the Sombre Theology. -- Joseph Smith's Account of His First Three Visions. -- The Psychology of Such Religion. -- Emotional Pressure and Resultant Hallucinations. -- Religious Hypnosis and the Abnormalities of Conversion. -- Parallel with John Bunyan. -- Joseph Smith's Greater Abnormalities Due to Heredity. -- His Neuropathic Ancestry. -- His Grandfather's 'Fits.' -- Neural Instability of the Second Generation. -- Joseph's Juvenile Ailments. -- Causes Provocative of His First Seizure. -- Intoxication and the Second Seizure. -- Psychophysical Description of the First Two 'Visions.' -- Melancholic Depression and Infernal Phantasms. Smith Neither Demented nor a Dissembler. -- His Condition Probably Epileptic. -- Its Non-discovery Due to Ignorance of His Parents. His Fanciful Explanations. -- The Symptoms Inadvertently Given in the Biographical Sketches and Elsewhere. -- Correlation of Ancestry and Progeny. -- Seizures Infrequent and Cure Spontaneous. -- After Effects on His Character. -- His Mental Ability and Emotional Instability. -- Interpretations of His Followers.


    77  An Alleged Indian Record in 'Reformed Egyptian.' -- The Psychological Problem Twofold. -- Belief in the Actuality of the 'Gold Plates.' -- Theory of Their Levitation. -- The So-Called Transcription. -- Its Transmission and Translation. -- Judgments of Early Critics. -- Pronounced Untranslatable. -- Analogous to Automatic Writing. -- A Home-made Production. -- Concealed Autograph. -- Joseph Smith a Crystal Gazer. -- Reversal of Signature. -- Unconscious Cerebration. -- The Visions of Moses. -- The Revised Translation of the Bible. -- Confidence in His Own Learning. -- His Interpretation of the Word Mormon. -- His Early Ignorance. -- His Use of Men, not Books. -- Sidney Rigdon. -- Joseph as a Linguist. -- The Book of Abraham. -- Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon. -- Changes in It and in the Printed Editions. -- The Cowdery Manuscript One of Several. -- The First Duplicate Copy. -- Disappearance of the First Original. -- Joseph's Three Scribes. -- Characteristics and Date of the Alleged Original. -- The Cowdery Copy Probably the Nearest to the Original. -- Proof from the Famous Anti-Polygamy Passage. -- The Author's Preface. -- Agreement with Joseph's Confession of Illiteracy


    105  Size and Aim of the Book. -- Contents According to the Prophet. -- Admission of Authorship. -- The Environment Suggests the Sources. -- A Scriptural Paraphrase. Biblical Borrowings. -- Biographical Hints. -- The Dream of Nephi and of Joseph Smith, Senior. -- Grammatical and Rhetorical Errors. -- Geography made Indefinite and History Obscure. -- Visions of America. -- Joseph's Imaginative Gifts. -- Lamanites are Modern Indians in Disguise. -- The Aboriginal Monuments of New York State. -- Theories of Indians being the Lost Tribes of Israel. -- Joseph's Summary. -- Parallels with Priest's American Antiquities. -- Local Sources of These Theories. -- Popular Errors in the Narrative. -- Joseph's Fanciful Explanations. -- Mental Habits of the Lamanites. -- Their Resemblance to Local Sects. -- The Speech of Nephi Traced to its Sources. -- Joseph's Dependence on Local Theology.


    139  Joseph's Imagination Stronger Than His Reason. -- His Theory of the Usefulness of Evil. -- His Emotional Revolt Against Calvinism -- Allusions to Baptist Doctrines. -- The Methodist Exhorter and the Speech of Amulek. -- The Mormon Hierarchy. -- The Clash of Creeds not Harmonized. -- Three Minor Movements Reflected. -- Tirades Against Romanism, Infidelity and Free Masonry. -- The Book of Mormon as a Criterion of Mental Habits. -- Joseph's Constructive Imagination; its Materials and Limitations. -- A Good Memory, but a Poor Judgment. -- Mixture of Sense and Nonsense. -- A Fanciful Family and an Emotional Environment. -- The Marks of the Book are the Marks of the Man. -- Mental Restlessness Characteristic of the West. -- A Comparison with Young Chatterton and the Rowley Myth. -- The Literature of Disguise in America. -- The Spaulding Theory Untenable. -- The Book of Mormon Authentic and Indigenous. -- The Gradual Evolution of the Work.


    175  This Title a Growth. -- Variety in Prophecies. -- Common Belief in the Predictive. -- The Millerites. -- Joseph's Indefinite Millennium. -- Some Timely and Untimely Warnings. -- The Personal Element. -- Prophecy of the Civil War. -- Joseph the Seer. -- His Crystal Gazing. -- The Prevalent use of ~ Seeing Stones.' -- Joseph as a 'Peeper' and as an 'Interpreter.' -- Methods of Auto-Hypnosis. -- How Joseph 'Translated.' -- Abnormalities in the Book of Mormon. -- Similarities to the Trance Medium. -- Automatic Writing. -- Joseph and His Scribes. -- Clairvoyant and Telepathic Embellishments. -- Self-deception and Conscious Duplicity. -- Methods of Concealment. -- The Ecstatic Condition. -- Joseph Applies to Others the Principles of Suggestion. -- Persecuted and Made Notorious. -- His Acts as a Revelator.


    209  The Testimony of Three Witnesses. -- Was it an Hypnotic Hallucination? -- Three Productive Factors. -- The Suggestibility of Cowdery.- -- His Expectant Attention Aroused by Smith. -- The Latter's Preparatory Successes. -- The Baptismal Vision. -- Whitmer's Persistent Belief. -- Hypnotism Suggested as a Cause. -- The Third Witness Less Susceptible. -- How Harris was Approached by Smith. -- The 'Eye of Faith' and Long Continued Prayer. -- Joseph's Account of the Vision of the Gold Plates. -- Pseudo-Explanations of Smith's Influence. -- Alleged Magnetic Influence. -- The Religious Leader's Captivation. -- Varieties of Hallucination. The Vision of the Plates Induced by Positive Suggestion. -- Loss of Extra-Mental Consciousness but not of Memory. -- Association of Ideas. -- Additional Incentives to the Psychic Mirage. -- The Testimony of Eight Witnesses. -- Various Theories. -- Collective Hypnosis. -- Epidemics of Hallucination. -- Scanty Historic Connection with Other Movements. -- Smith's Case Sporadic, His Achievements Empirical. -- Western New York an Occult Locality. -- Swedenborgianism. -- Mesmerism. -- Animal Magnetism. -- Spiritualism. -- Primitive Beliefs of the Minor Sects. -- Mormon Metaphysics. -- Smith a Crass Materialist. -- His Crude Explanations. -- His Tests for Evil Spirits. -- His Editorial on 'Try the Spirits.'


    245  'Great Manifestations of Spirits.' -- The Outward Signs of the Growth of Mormonism. -- Elements of Success. -- A Patriotic Bible. -- Profuse Revelations. -- The Book of Commandments. -- Its Relation to the Book of Mormon. -- A Book of Discipline, of Exegesis, and of Business. -- Revamped Into the Doctrine and Covenants. -- Its Canonization. -- The Latter-day Dispensation. -- Its Puny Beginnings. -- Sectarian Narrowness and Pride. -- Joseph's Opportunism. -- The First Miracle. -- Restoration of Primitive 'Gifts.' -- Newel Knight, the Demoniac. -- Devils 'Spiritually ' Viewed. -- Faith in Joseph Smith. -- The Coming of Sidney Rigdon. -- His Influence Over Smith. -- His Mental Unsoundness. -- His Frenzied Preaching. -- Revival Ecstasy in the Western Reserve. -- The Kirtland Frenzy. -- 'Gifts' of Tongues, of Interpretation, of Prophecy. -- The Philosophy of Religious Mania. -- Joseph's Theory of False Spirits. -- The Power of the Priesthood. -- Other 'Mighty Works.' -- Catalepsy and Obsession. -- Smith's Final Standpoint of Repression. -- The Mormon Missionaries and the Demoniacs. -- Hypnotic Suggestion and Unbelief. -- Collective Hysteria and 'Evil Spirits.' -- Witchcraft and Black Art. -- Mormon Demonology.


    283  Casting Out Devils Leads to Casting Out Diseases. -- Joseph 'Rebukes' the Cholera. -- His Followers Demand Miracles of Healing. -- His early Ignorance and Overconfidence. -- His Later Crude But Real Knowledge of Mental Healing. -- Mormon Medicine. -- The Doctrine of Signatures, and Indian Herb Remedier,. -- Joseph's Uncle, Jason Mack, an Alleged Faith Healer. -- The Irvingites and Miracles. -- The Faith Promoting Series. -- Holy Oil and Consecrated Flannels. -- The Insistence on Faith, and Mental Suggestion. -- Subjective Expectations. -- 'Silent Treatment.' -- The Mischief Done by the Missionaries. -- Public Opposition. -- Credulity of the Laity. -- Smith Recognizes Certain Limitations. -- Seven Lectures on Faith. -- The Approximation to Suggestive Therapeutics. -- Stress on the Mystical and Sacerdotal. -- The Variety in Joseph's 'Cures.' -- His Failures with Children. -- His Authority Over Adults. -- Ephemeral Results. -- One Authentic Success. -- Due to Simple or Hypnotic Suggestion ~ -- Joseph's Medieval Point of View. -- The Use of the Talisman. -- The Prophet's Impressive Manner. -- Favorable Conditions Among the Mormons. -- Wholesale 'Cures,' and Collective Hypnosis.


    305  Last Proofs of Smith's Restlessness and Instability. -- Communism in Goods and in Wives. -- Joseph the Socialist. -- Communistic Societies in this Country. -- The Shakers, and Owen's New Harmony. -- How Smith Derived His Views.--Rigdon's Kirtland Common Stock Company. -- Smith's Biblical Embellishments. -- Tithing. -- Joseph the Financier. -- The Safety Society Bank and the Nauvoo House. -- Plans and Specifications for the New City of Zion. -- Smith's Various Commercial and Ecclesiastical Schemes. -- Joseph the Soldier. -- Mormondom a Military Church. -- Joseph the Agitator. -- His Strange Mastery of His Followers. -- How He Gained the Ascendancy. -- Excommunication of the Three Witnesses. -- Conflict Between Church and State. -- Mental Effects of these Vicissitudes. -- His Political Abnormalities. -- A Candidate for the Presidency. -- His Views on the Government. -- His Last Utterances. -- His Colossal Conceit. -- The Final question: Was He Demented or Merely Degenerate?




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    427    V. SUMMARY



    [ 3 ]



    TO read the flux of books on the founder of Mormonism, one might think there were no middle course between vilification and deification. To sectarians Joseph Smith appears an ignoramus, a fanatic, an impostor, and a libertine; to his followers --- a prophet, a seer, a vicegerent of God, and a martyr. 1 While two generations of writers have been presenting Smith's character in its mental and moral extremes, they have been ignoring the all-important physical basis of his personality. If a solution of his perplexing individuality is wanted, the pathological grounds must be examined. The state of his body goes far to explain the state of his

    1 Compare the early official Mormon organ, the 'Times and Seasons,' 6, 855: -- 'Joseph Smith. With his friends. -- God's vicegerent, a prophet of Jehovah, a minister of religion, a lieutenant general, a preacher of righteousness, a worshipper of the God of Israel, a mayor of a city, a judge upon the judicial bench. With his enemies. -- A tavern keeper, a base libertine, a ruler of tens of thousands and slave to his own base unbridled passions, a profane swearer, a devotee of Bacchus, a miserable bar-room fiddler, an invader of the civil, social and moral relations of men.'


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    mind, and his ancestry to explain both. Like the distorted views of his grandfather 'Crook-necked Smith' Joseph's mental abnormalities are to be connected with physical ills.

    Before getting at the roots of his ramigerous family tree and grubbing in the neural subsoil, it is well to obtain an idea of what the man was like in his maturity. Within a year of Smith's death and in the heyday of his power, four different persons visited Nauvoo, met the head of the Mormon Church, and wrote down what they saw. As outsiders their impressions are worth having. The first 2 said that General Smith was not a fool, but somewhat of a jockey; that his socialistic schemes were crude, but that he had a clear insight into the grosser principles of human nature. The next eyewitness was an Englishwoman, the sister of a Mormon convert. With feminine intuition she saw into the paradoxical nature of the man, and pictures

    2 'Universalist Union,' 9, 376. Interview of 'W. S. B.' August 20, 1843. 'Joe Smith is not a fool, though he is somewhat of a jockey. He has a clear insight into the grosser principles of human nature and adapts himself and his theories to a taste and disposition he finds common enough among men -- credulity and self interest. Assuming much for himself, and promising everything to his followers, he is able to draw around him a class of men who prefer being led to being starved... he sets up that he and his followers are superior to all other men.... Theirs is the crudest kind of socialism.'


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    him as sensual 3 and shrewd, boastful and popular, conceited and kind-hearted. If these descriptions are objected to as prejudiced, there remain two accounts which the Mormons quote with approval. The first was given by the legal counsel of the Saints in their Missouri troubles. He portrays Smith as of unprepossessing appearance, ordinary conversational powers, and limited education, and yet withal of indomitable perseverance, strange and striking views and great influence over others, enemies

    3 Joseph Smith is a large, stout man, youthful in his appearance, with light complexion and hair, and blue eyes set far back in the head, and expressing great shrewdness, or I should say, cunning. He has a large head and phrenologists would unhesitatingly pronounce it a bad one, for the organs situated in the back part are decidedly most prominent. He is also very round shouldered. He had just returned from Springfield, where he had been upon trial for some crime of which he was accused while in Missouri, but he was released by habeas corpus. I, who had expected to be overwhelmed by his eloquence, was never more disappointed than when he commenced his discourse by relating all the incidents of his journey. This he did in a loud voice, and his language and manner were the coarsest possible. His object seemed to be to amuse and excite laughter in his audience. He is evidently a great egotist and boaster, for he frequently remarked that at every place he stopped going to and from Springfield people crowded around him, and expressed surprise that he was so "handsome and good looking." He also exclaimed at the close of almost every sentence, "That's the idea!"... They say he is very kind hearted, and always ready to give shelter and help to the needy.' -- Charlotte Haven. 'A Girl's Letters from Nauvoo,' January 22 and February 13, 1843, in the Overland Monthly, December, 1890.


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    and followers alike. 4 Of all these pen portraits, the latest is probably the most impartial. As the church historian gives it only in part, 5 it is needful

    4 P. H. Burnett, 'Recollections of an Old Pioneer,' 1890, p. 66: -- 'Joseph Smith, Jr., was at least six feet high, well formed, and weighed about 180 pounds. His appearance was not prepossessing and his conversational powers were but ordinary. You could see at a glance that his education was very limited. He was an awkward but vehement speaker. In conversation he was slow, and used too many words to express his ideas, and would not generally go directly to a point. But, with all these drawbacks, he was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance, was a good judge of men, and deemed himself born to command and he did command. His views were so strange and striking, and his manner was so earnest, and apparently so candid, that you could not but be interested.... He had the capacity for discussing a subject in different aspects, and for proposing many original views, even of ordinary matters. His illustrations were his own. He had great influence over others.... In the short space of five days he had managed so to mollify his enemies that he could go unprotected among them without the slightest danger.'
    5 Contrast G. Q. Cannon, 'The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet,' p. 355, with Quincy, 'Figures of the Past,' PP. 376-399: -- 'It is by no means improbable that some future textbook, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet. And the reply, absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants. History deals in surprises and paradoxes quite as startling as this. The man who established a religion in this age of free debate, who was and is to-day accepted by hundreds of thousands as a direct emissary from the Most High, -- such a rare human being is not to be disposed of by


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    to sum up the whole. In May, 1844, forty-three days before his assassination, Smith was visited at his headquarters by Josiah Quincy, who left

    pelting his memory with unsavory epithets. Fanatic, impostor, charlatan, he may have been; but these hard names furnish no solution to the problem he presents us.... The most vital questions Americans are askiiig each other to-day have to do with this man and what he has left us.'

    *   *   *   *   *   *

    'General Smith proceeded to unfold still further his views upon politics. He denounced the Missouri Compromise as an unjustifiable concession for the benefit of slavery. It was Henry Clay's bid for the presidency. Dr. Goforth might have spared himself the trouble of coming to Nauvoo to electioneer for a duellist who would fire at John Randolph but was not brave enough to protect the Saints in their rights as American citizens. Clay had told his people to go to the wilds of Oregon and set up a government of their own. Oh yes, the Saints might go into the wilderness and obtain justice of the Indians, which imbecile, time-serving politicians would not give them in the land of freedom and equality. The prophet then talked of the details of government. He thought that the number of members admitted to the Lower House of the National Legislature should be reduced. A crowd only darkened counsel and impeded business. A member to every half million of population would be ample. The powers of the President should be increased. He should have authority to put down rebellion in a state without waiting for the request of any governor; for it might happen that the governor himself would be the leader of the rebels. It is needless to remark how later events showed the executive weakness that Smith pointed out, -- a weakiness which cost thousands of valuable lives and millions of treasure ; but the man mingled Utopian fallacies with his shrewd suggestions. He talked as from a strong mind utterly unenlightened by the teachings of history.'


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    him 'a phenomenon to be explained.' The general was described as 'a man of commanding appearance; capacity and resource were natural to his stalwart person; and left an impression of rugged power.' But there were not only high lights in the picture. Smith gave the impression of kingly power, but his talk was garnished with forcible vulgarisms; he had a statesmanlike prevision in advocating the buying of slaves, eleven years before Emerson advocated that scheme, but with it all betrayed unexampled absurdities in showing off his museum, containing Egyptian mummies and the autograph of Moses. 'The man,' says Quincy in conclusion, 'mingled Utopian fallacies with his shrewd suggestions. He talked as from a strong mind utterly unenlightened by the teachings of history.'

    Personal interviews furnish as good a way as any to get at a solution of 'the enigma of Palmyra.' Since these are few and fragmentary, recourse must be had to information furnished by the prophet under his own name. But, again, since Smith's writings have all the defects of personal interviews of an author with himself, there is need of considerable reading between the lines. This is fortunately supplied by various early works, which were so strongly apologetic that they were ultimately suppressed. For example, Smith's Journal


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    and his Hisiory, 6 are supplemented by Thompson's

    6 Compare H. H. Bancroft, 'History of Utah,' p. 109: -- 'The most complete history of the early Mormon church is the Journal of Joseph Smith, extracts from which were made by himself, so as to form a consecutive narrative, under title of History of Joseph Smith, and published in "Times and Seasons" beginning with Vol. III. No. 10, March 15, 1842, and ending February 15, 1846, after the prophet's death. The narrative would fill a good-sized 12mo volume. It is composed largely of revelations, which, save in the one point of commandment which it was the purpose specially to give, are all quite similar. Publication of the "Times and Seasons" was begun at Commerce, afterwards called Nauvoo, Illinois, November, 1839,and issued monthly. The number for May, 1840, was dated Nauvoo. Later it was published semi-monthly, and was so continued till February, 1846. It is filled with church proceedings, movements of officers, correspondence of missionaries, history, and general information, with some poetry....'

    'At the organization of this church, the Lord commanded Joseph the prophet to keep a record of his doings in the great and important work that he was cominencing to perform. It thu sbecame a duty imperative. After John Whitmer and others had purloined the records in 1838, the persecution and expulsion from Missouri soon followed. When again located, now in Nauvoo, Illinois, and steamboat loads of emigrants were arriving from England via New Orleans, the sound thereof awakened an interest in the country that led Hon. John Wentworth, of Chicago, to write to the prophet, Joseph Smith, making inquiries about the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, the origin of this work, the "Book of Mormon," the plates from which the record was translated, etc.; and it is the answer to this letter contained in "Times and Seasons," March 1, 1842, that precedes or prefaces the present history of Joseph Smith, which is the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This request of Mr. Wentworth's seemed to forcibly remind the prophet of the importance of having the history of his wonderful work restored to such a condition that correct information could be given to editors, authors, publishers, and any or all classes of inquirers that might


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    Evidences 7 and Lucy Smith's Biographical Sketches, the latter being a sort of homeopathic antidote to her son's unctuous autobiography. 8 So much for the sources, now for the movement and the man.

    apply, and he undertook with his clerks, recorder, and all available aid from private journals, correspondence, and his own indelible memory, and made it a labor to get his own history, which was indeed that of the church in all the stages of its growth, while he remained with his people, compiled and written up to date, which with his own current journal enabled the historian to complete the history to the time of his assassination, with the utmost fidelity to facts as they occurred. Our method of verification, after compilation and rough draft, was to read the same before a session of the council, composed of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles, and there scan everything under consideration.' Richards' 'Bibliography of Utah,' MS., 2-6.

    7 Charles Thompson, 'Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon,' p. 186. 'Let us here enumerate all the accusations against him: "a money digger, a fortune teller, intemperate, a profane swearer, quarrelsome, a liar and a deceiver."'

    8 The History of Joseph Smith, as given in the 'Times and Seasons,) 3, 326-945, is conveniently reprinted in the 'Pearl of Great Price.' The opening paragraphs, as here quoted, are followed by the accounts of the three Visions (See Chapter II Environment and Visions).

    'Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil designing persons in relation to the rise and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church, and its progress in the world, I have been induced to write this history, so as to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts as they have transpired in relation both to myself and the Church so far as I have such facts in possession.

    In this history I will present the various events in relation to this Church, in truth and righteousness, as they have transpired, or


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    Mormonism began before its founder. However strange was the appearance of this new prophet, whose 'creed was singular and wives plural,' there were preparatory influences back of him. The cult was no more peculiar than its causes. It was in western New York that the son of an obscure farmer gazed in his magic crystal, automatically wrote 'a transcription of gold plates,' dictated the Book of Mormon, and after strange signs and wonders, started his communistic sect. The movement arose between 1820 and 1830; its impelling forces began two generations before. Joseph Smith dreamed dreams, saw visions, and practiced healing by faith; so did his father, his mother and his maternal grandfather. It is with the latter that the investigation properly begins, for there are extant hitherto unused materials antedating the Revolutionary War. About 1810, Solomon Mack, a

    as they at present exist, being now the eighth year since the organization of the said Church.

    I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, an the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, State of Vermont, My father, Joseph Smith, senior, left the State of Vermont, and moved to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) County, in the State of New York, when I was in my tenth year. In about four years after my father's arrival at Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester, in the same county of Ontario. His family consisted of eleven souls, namely: my father, Joseph Smith, my mother, Lucy Smith (whose name previous to her marriage was Mack)....'


    12                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    broken down old soldier, put forth a pamphlet with this suggestive title: --

    A Narrative of the Life of Solomon Mack, containing an account of the many severe accidents he met with during a long series of years, together with the extraordinary manner in which he was converted to the Christian Faith. To which is added a number of Hymns, composed on the death of several of his relations. Windsor: Printed at the expense of the author. 9

    In this rare Yankee chap-book there earliest appears the proneness of the Smith tribe to illusions of the mind. These are described, towards the close of the book, with an air of simple belief. But before that there are two-score ill-spelt pages, which throw a flood of light on the life of one of the dependent classes a hundred years ago. Yet along with its quaint fancies and pleasing humors, Mack's little work discloses three poor traits of the writer's descendants, -- their illiteracy, their restlessness and their credulity. Lucy Mack, daughter of the fighting beggar-man and mother of the prophet, in her own book smoothed the style and corrected the grammatical errors of the Narrative. Lest the raciness and air of truth be left out, it is well to return to the original. The author opens with a quaint appeal

    9 Of the two reputed copies, the one in the Berrian Collection, is here used.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                           13

    to the piety of his hearers and recounts the hardships of an apprentice bound out to farm work: --

    'My father went to the door to fetch in a back-log, and returned after a fore-stick and instantly droped down dead on the floor. You may see by this our lives are dependant on a sumpreme and independent God.... My Master was very careful that I should have little or no rest. From labour he never taught me to read or spoke to me at all on the subject of religion.... My mistress was afraid of my commencing a suit against them, she took me aside and told me I was such a fool we could not learn you. I was never taught even the principles of common morality, and felt no obligation with regard to society; and was born as others, like the wild ass's colt. I met with many sore accidents during the years of my minority.' 10

    The writer next gives an instance of his practical cleverness, but adds thereto a confession of his lack of book learning. Recounting his adventures in the French and Indian war, near Fort Edward in 1757, he says:

    'I espied at about thirty rods distance, four Indians coming out of the wood with their tomma-hawks, scalping knives and guns. I was alone, but about twenty rods behind me

    10 'Narrative,' pp. 3-4.


    14                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    there was a man by the name of Webster. I saw no other way to save myself only to deceive them by stratagem -- I exclaimed like this -- Rush on! rush on! Brave Boys, we'll have the Devils! We'll have the Devils -- I had no other weapon only a staff; but I ran towards them and the other man appearing in sight, gave them a terrible fright, and I saw them no more but I am bound to say the grass did not grow under my feet.'

    *   *   *   *   *   *

    'In the spring, 1754, I set out on another campaign. I went to Crown Point, and there I set up a sutler's shop which I kept two years, by means of a clerk I employed for that purpose, not knowing myself how to write, or read, to any amount, what others had written or printed.' 11

    After giving the author's further experiences as a backwoodsman in Connecticut, an artilleryman in the American army, a sailor from Liverpool to Mount Desert and a privateersman in Long Island Sound, the Narrative is taken up with an Iliad of woes, a list of sufferings and accidents doubtless lengthened out to create sympathy and make the little book sell. In Mack's catalogue of fever sores, smallpox, and broken bones there is little of really vital interest, until mention is made of falling fits.

    11 'Narrative,' pp. 5, 9. Table of Errata in Appendix makes the date 1754 to be 1759.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                           15

    These are causally connected with the seizures which afflicted his descendant sixty years later. The case leads like epilepsy; at any rate, thus early appear those symptoms, which go far to explain the 'visions and revelations' and other abnormalities of grandfather and grandson alike. But to resume the story at a later point: With his bodily sufferings in old age, Solomon's religious experiences begin and there are blended with these certain chracteristic mental hallucinations the narrator continues: --

    'In the 76th year of my age, I was taken with the Rheumatism and confined me all winter in the most extreme pain for most of the time. I under affliction and dispensation of providence, at length began to consider my ways, and found myself destitute of knowledge to extole me to enquire. My mind was imagining, but agitated. I imagined many things; it seemed to me that I saw a bright light in a dark night, when contemplating on my bed which I could not account for, but I thought I heard a voice calling to me again. I thought I saw another light of the same kind, all which I considered as ominous of my own dissolution. I was in distress that sleep departed from my eyes and I literally watered my pillow with tears that I prayed eagerly that (lod would have iiiercy on me.' 12

    12 'Narrative,' p. 19.


    16                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    Psychologically these phenomena will demand closer scrutiny, historically they are by no means unique. From the bishop of Hippo to Jonathan Edwards, such visions and voices have had mystic interpretation. 13 The fantasies of the simple minded Revolutionary soldier may be connected with the past, their real significance lies with a coming generation. To the grandfather these impressions are vague, inchoate and hard to explain; to the grandson they are clear manifestations with a definite purpose, -- they are messages of the angel Nephi announcing the Mormon dispensation.

    The last pages of the Narrative are of interest as disclosing an almost medieval way of looking at peculiar mental experiences. This New Englander of the eighteenth century felt and thought like the English Puritan of the sixteenth. Mack's confession, for example, intimately resembles Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. There bodily ailments are followed by mental apparitions, but the two are scarce conjoined; it did not occur to the inspired tinker, that his physical hardships on Hounslow Heath were a cause of his imaginary fights with Apollyon in Bedford Gaol. So is it here, -- the physical cause is stated, but the religious interpretation is predominant: --

    13 Compare 'Revue Philosophique,' 44, 636, -- H. Joly, 'Psychologie des Saints.'


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                           17

    'Another night soon after I saw another light as bright as the first, at a small distance from my face, and I thought I had but a few mpments to live, nod not sleeping nights, and reading, all day I was in misery; well you may think I was in distress, soul and body. At another time, in the dead of the night I was called by my Christian name, I arise up to answer to my name. The doors all being shut and the house still, I thought the Lord called and I had but a moment to live.... I have often thought that the lights which I saw were to show me what a situation I was in.... The calls, I believe, were for me to return to the Lord who would have mercy on me.' 14

    It is this referring of everything unnatural to the supernatural that continued as a mark of Joseph's family during three generations; dreams are warnings, visions are messages from on high. Even more characteristic is the belief in healing, by prayer. The prophet constantly practiced this on his followers; his mother gave several instances; while his grandfather cited his own case at the end of his life: --

    'All the winter I was laid up with the rheumatism.... I thought like this as I was setting one evening by the fire, I prayed to the Lord, if he was with me that I might know it by this token -- that my pains might all be eased

    14 'Narrative.' p. 22.


    18                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    for that night; and blessed be the Lord, I was entirely free from pain that night.' 15

    There remains one more incident which clearly displays the heights to which a persistent credulity may go, for the tale is repeated by Joseph Smith's mother. The old man gives in his appendix the following curious story: --

    'Quite a mericle of my daughter in the town of Sunderland in the State of Massachusetts, the wife of Joseph Tuttle. She was sick about one year.... For three days she eat only the yolk of one egg -- she was an anatomy to appearance. Her friends were often weeping around her bed expecting every moment to be her last.

    The day before her recovery, the doctor said it was as much impossible to raise her, as it would one from the dead. The night following she dreamed a dream; it was that a sort of wine would cure her; it was immediately brought to her, and she drank it. The next morning she awoke and called to her husband to get up and make a fire -- he arose immediately, but thought she was out of her head; but soon he found to the contrary; quickly she arose up on end in the bed (said the Lord has helped body and soul) and dressed herself.... Soon after the same morning she went to the house of her father-in-law, (which was about ten rods) and back again on her feet her eyes and countenance appeared lively and bright as ever it was in her past life.' 16

    15 'Narrative,' p. 12.

    16 'Narrative,' pp. 42, 43. -- A psychological explanation of this incident would puzzle a member of the Society for Psychical Research. It miglit be labelled a symptomatic dream, such as when the somnambulist,


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                           19

    The study of the Mormon leader's ancestry is more than a study in atavism: nature has not skipped a generation. The erratic tendencies in Joseph's mind appear constitutional because they are continuous. His mother acknowledges as much in her Biographical Sketches 17 of her son, which, at

    or the deep sleeper, is alleged to diagnose the disease and to prescribe the remedy. This theory is based on the fanciful induction that, inasmuch as states of the internal organs are prevocatives of dreams, the dream-desires have value as curative instincts. But over against this theory is the fact, that, even in the waking condition, there is but a vague consciousness of the seat of organic sensations. The incident, nevertheless, has value. It throws light on the mental development of both Solomon and his daughter, for reliance on the health-prescriptions of dreamers was a superstition of the middle ages. -- Compare Du Prel, 'The Philosophy of Mysticism,' Volume 1, Chapter 5 'Dream a Physician.' Contrast Sully, in Encyclopaedia Brittannica, 7, 459.

    17 The full title reads: 'Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors for many generations.' The book's authenticity is undeniable. Published in Liverpool in 1853 for Orson Pratt, it was put forth with a flourish of approbation and publicly commended in the official foreign organ of the Mormons. The Millennial Star, XV. 169, 682, gives these two notices: 'The manuscripts containing this information, with the exception of the portion relating to his martyrdom, were written by the direction and under the inspection of the prophet.... Being written by Lucy Smith, the mother of the prophet, and mostly under his inspection, will be ample guarantee of the authenticity of the narrative.'

    Orson Pratt's preface to the book begins: -- 'The following pages... were mostly written previous to the death of the prophet, and under his personal inspection. Most of the historical items and occurrences related have never before been published. They will therefore be exceedingly interesting to all Saints, and sincere inquirers after the truth.'


    20                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    first, had a wide circulation as 'Mother Smith's History,' but has since been discredited by the Utah Mormons, for it tells too plain a story. 18 From this now scarce work, Joseph's mental outfit is seen to be largely a matter of inheritance. In his maternal grandfather there is disclosed an unthinking credulity, in his mother a positive hankering after the supernatural. She notes with relish every detail of her husband's seven dreams, as well as all the omens, visions and faith cures of her seven brothers and sisters. This book is all important as a source, yet a question of historic validity arises. If it was written 'under the inspection of the prophet,' may not its facts have been garbled? It was the practice of Joseph, as head of his church, to work over and amend his earlier writings; such are the grammatical corrections in the Book of Mormon and the doctrinal changes in the Book of Commandments. The doubt as to validity is legitimate, but the solution is at hand. In these Biographical Sketches there are published 'historical items and occurrences' -- of such a kind that Joseph the wonder-seeker did not want them changed. The book teems with dreams, visions and miraculous cures. These were, in truth, 'events of infinite importance' to one who was not wont to distinguish between subjective illusions and objective realities.

    18 A. T. Schroeder, 'The Origin of the Book of Mormon,' p. 55.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          21

    If, then, the book has not been seriously tampered with, because its subject-matter exactly suited the mind of the prophet, some plain facts about this 'remarkable family' may be extracted from it. To begin with, the education of Lucy Mack was of the most meagre sort. 19

    Closely related to the partial illiteracy of the mother is her entire credulity. She too believes in miraculous recovery, and in dreams as heavenly admonitions. Her version of her sister's unexpected upraising is more sensational than the parallel account of Solomon. Mrs. Tuttle being bedridden for two years, suddenly exclaims: 'The Lord has healed me, both soul and body -- raise me up and give me my clothes. I wish to get up.' Connected with this recovery is the inevitable vision. The patient gives the recital of the strange circumstance in the crowded church, and addresses the audience as follows: 'I seemed to be borne away to the world of spirits, where I saw the Saviour, as through a veil, which appeared to me about as thick as a spider's web,

    19 'The Narrative'of her father discloses this. 'In 1761,' Solomon Mack is made to say, 'we moved to the town of Marlow. When we moved there, it was no other than a desolate and dreary wilderness. Only four families resided within forty miles. Here I was thrown into a situation to appreciate more fully the talents and virtues of my excellent wife; for, as our children were deprived of schools, she assumed the charge of their education, and performed the duties of an instructress.'


    22                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    and he told me that I must return again to warn the people to prepare for death... that if I would do this my life would be prolonged.' 20

    It was on these fables of the family and tales of a grandfather that the incipient prophet was fed. 21 But this is only a beginning of the signs and wonders among Joseph's people. His mother also hears a supernal voice and has a miraculous recovery. Sick of a hectic fever and meditating upon death, she heard a voice saying: 'Let your heart be comforted.' From that time, she asserts, she became quite well as to bodily health, but her mind was considerably disquieted. It was naturally in this period, when there was only a 'faint glimmer of light beyond the gloom,' that the author's most notable psychic experience took place. A condensed extract will give the spirit of the dream: --

    'While we were living at Tunbridge, my mind became deeply impressed with the subject of religion. I began to attend Methodist meetings and, to oblige me, my husband accompanied me; but when this came to the ears of his father and eldest brother they were displeased. I was considerably hurt by this; after praying some time I fell asleep and had the following dream:

    20 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 25, 26, 47.

    21 Compare 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 108. In 1827 Joseph takes a 'hint from the stratagem of his Grandfather Mack.'


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          23

    I thought that I stood in a large and beautiful meadow , a pure and clear stream of water ran through the midst of it. I discovered two trees standing upon its margin. I gazed upon them with wonder and admiration and I saw that one of them was surrounded with a bright belt that shone like burnished gold. Presently, a gentle breeze passed by, and the tree encircled with this golden zone, bent gracefully before the wind. I turned my eyes upon its fellow, which stood opposite but it was not surrounded with the belt of light as the former, and it stood erect and fixed as a pillar of marble. I wondered at what I saw, and said in my heart, What can be the meaning of all this? And the interpretation given me was, that these personated my husband and his oldest brother, Jesse Smith; that the stubborn and unyielding tree was like Jesse; that the other, more pliant and flexible, was like Joseph my husband; that the breath of heaven, which passed over them, was the pure and undefiled Gospel, which Gospel Jesse would always resist, but which Joseph, when he was more advanced in life would hear and receive.' 22

    Already there is disclosed a threefold resemblance between Lucy Mack and her father: each heard voices, saw visions and believed in miraculous cures. And there is another element which was transmitted to the daughter. Solomon his his religious doubts,

    22 'Biographical Sketches,' pp, 56, 57.


    24                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    but they are of a simple and personal kind; Lucy is afflicted with a more complex depression of spirits. 23 This melancholia, allied with a positive intolerance of the sects, was destined to exert an important influence on the young son's mind. In the case of the mother, at any rate, it led to a marked aloofness from denominationalism. A Methodist exhorter and a Presbyterian minister both attempted to gain her adherence, but she maintained her religious independence throughout. 'At length I considered it my duty to be baptized, and, finding a minister who was willing to baptize me, and leave me free in regard to joining any religious denomination, I stepped forward and yielded obedience to this ordinance; after which I continued to

    23 Again while at Tunbridge, Vt., she writes: 'The grief occasioned by the death of Lovina was preying upon my health... I was pensive and melanclioly, and often in my reflections I thought that life was not worth possessing. In the midst of this anxiety of mind, I determined to obtain that which I had heard spoken of so much from the pulpit -- a change of heart. To accomplish this, I spent much of my time in reading the Bible, and praying; but, notwithstanding my great anxiety to experience a change of heart, another matter would always interpose in all my meditations -- If I remain a member of no church, all religious people will say I am of the world; and if I join some one of the different denominations, all the rest will say I am in error. No church will admit that I am right, except the one with which I am associated. This makes them witnesses against each other; and how can I decide in such a case as this, seeing they are all unlike the Church of Christ as it existed in former days!' -- 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 27.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          25

    read the Bible as formerly, until my eldest son had attained his twenty-second year.' 24

    The book now takes up the pedigree of Joseph, senior, whose ancestors originally came from England. His line is traced back through seven generations to first Samuel Smith, born 1666 in Essex County, Massachusetts. The education of the husband was not so defective as that of his wife, since at one time he eked out his living by teaching school. How much knowledge this Would imply is conjectural. The course of study in a Vermont district school at the beginning of the last century did not consist of much more than reading, writing and arithmetic. 25 At any rate with this equipment of the three R's, Joseph's father as Patriarch of the Mormon Church in the Middle West, was authorized to dispense written blessings to the Saints at a moderate tariff. If Joseph, senior, was, strictly, not illiterate, he still resembled his father-in-law in his restless habits. His occupations were varied, even for a Connecticut Yankee. He first owns a farm at Tunbridge, Vermont; he then moves to Royalton and then to Randolph and keeps a store. In the meanwhile he hunts for 'gensang' root for

    24 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 48, 49.

    25 Z. Thompson, 'History of Vermont,' p. 212. 'The founders of Vermont were able to read, write and compute, but few were versed in the rules of grammar.'


    26                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    the China trade. He next rents a farm in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, but soon moves to Lebanon, New Hampshire; after that he migrates to Norwich, where his crops fail; and finally, when the boy Joseph was eleven years old, he takes up a land claim at Palmyra, Seneca County, New York. About this time he is described, by an eyewitness, as of gaunt and haggard visage, with the rusty clothes of a vagabond. 26

    During these years of wandering Joseph, senior, was visited with a panorama of visions. They started about the year 1811, and were completed only with the mystic number of seven. The first two must be examined later, for the vision of the Magic Box gives the clue for the young prophet's discovery of the Golden Plates, and the vision of the Fruit Tree is substantially reproduced in the Book of Mormon.

    Two things are noticeable in the whole series: first, that they arose in times of mental agitation, and, second, that the stuff the dreams were made of was largely derived from every-day waking experience. On the one hand the phantasms began, when the dreamer's mind 'was much excited upon the subject of religion.' 27 On the other

    26 Editorial in Norwich, N. Y. Union, April 28, 1877, by W. D. Purple, who took notes at the trial of Joseph Smith, senior, on a charge of vagrancy before Justice of Peace Albert Neeley.

    27 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 56.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          27

    hand, the details are commonplace; the language is scriptural, but the color is local. For example, besides the vision of the Meeting House, there is that of the Magic Box, which is discovered in a wilderness of 'dead fallen timber'; and of the Fruit Tree which spread its branches 'like an umbrella, and 'bore a kind of fruit in shape much like a chestnut burr.' The third vision is that of the Twelve Images which bow in deference to the father of the coming prophet, like the sheaves of Joseph's brethren of old. Here the dreamer enters a flower garden with 'walks about three and one-half feet wide, which were set on both sides with marble stones.' 28 In the sixth vision there is more than a reproduction of the ordinary sights of a new New England village and more than a repetition of an Old Testament story. The conflict between the claims of Mercy and justice is an echo of the theology of the day, an effort of the sleeper's mind to harmonize a nightmare with a doctrine of Calvinism. This dream is worth quoting at length: --

    I thought I was walking alone; I was much fatigued, nevertheless I continued travelling. It seemed to me that I was going to meeting, that it was the day of judgment, and that I was going to be judged. When I came in sight of the meeting house, I saw multitudes of people

    28 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 71.


    28                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    coming from every direction, and pressing with great anxiety toward the door of this great building; but I thought I should get there in time, hence there was no need of being in a hurry. But, on arriving at the door, I found it shut; I knocked for admission, and was informed by the porter that I had come too late. I felt exceedingly troubled, and prayed earnestly for admittance. Presently I found that my flesh was perishing. I continued to pray, still my flesh withered upon my bones. I was almost in a state of total despair, when the porter asked me if I had done all that was necessary in order to receive admission. I replied, that I had done all that was in my power to do. "Then," observed the porter, "justice must be satisfied; after this, mercy hath her claims."' 29

    Examining the next dream critically, it is clear that the higher mental activity of conception, not of mere reproduction, has a beginning but is not carried out. Evidently some involuntary muscular movement of the sleeper's body was made and the train of thought was interrupted. Says Joseph, senior: --

    'I dreamed that a man with a pedlar's budget on his back, came in, and thus addressed me: "Sir, will you trade with me to-day? I have now called upon you seven times, I have traded with you each time, and have always found you

    29 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 72.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          29

    strictly honest in all your dealings. Your measures are always heaped, and your weights overbalance; and I have now come to tell you that this is the last time I shall ever call on you, and that there is but one thing that you lack, in order to secure your salvation." As I earnestly desired to know what it was that I still lacked, I requested him to write the same upon paper. He said he would do so. I then sprang to get some paper, but, in my excitement, I awoke.' 30

    This seventh and last vision was 'received' in 1819, but the family habit was not interrupted. In the following year Joseph, junior, began his operations, and in twenty-three years was vouchsafed those four hundred octavo pages of 'revelations,' found in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

    As has been suggested, the dreams of the elder Smith have evidently undergone a process of redaction; the smooth and unctuous style points to the corrective hand of Joseph. For all that, their general validity may be accepted; -- as they are recorded, so they happened. They could scarcely have been made out of whole cloth by the prophet in his later days of deception, for the Vision of the Fruit Tree was incorporated into the first edition of the Book of Mormon. To accuse Joseph of making

    30 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 74.


    30                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    up this vision and that of the Magic Box at the age of twenty-five, is to make him a juvenile forger rather than an unwitting plagiarist. As the case stands, it is damaging enough to the Saints, instead of being 'a divinely inspired record written by the fore-fathers whom we call Indians,' 31 the Book of Mormon is disclosed as a home-made product of infant industry. Of the authenticity of the dreams, 32 whether in or out of the Record, there is abundant evidence, -- those commonplace and homely details which crop out from amid the flowery language. But as regards inward significance they reflect the ideas and opinions of the persons concerned. They first tell how the Smith tribe interpreted their thoughts of the night. 33 From the comparative ethnic point of view their theory was an intermediate one: 34 they did not, like primitive man, look on nocturnal experiences as of equal reality with those of the day;

    31 Charles Thompson, 'Evidences in proof of the Book of Mormon,' 1841, p. 192, Compare James E. Talmage, 'Divinity of the Book of Mormon,' Salt Lake City, 1901.

    32 A negative proof of authenticity is found in Lucy's statement, p. 72, regarding her husband that 'He received two more visions, which would probably be somewhat interesting, but I cannot remember them distinctly enough to rehearse them in full.'

    33 For the principles here applied consult James Sully, 'Illusions,' New York, 1897 ; and his article on Dream in the EncyclopediaBrittannica, 9th edition; also Carl Du Prel, 'Philosophy of Mysticism,' Volume 1, Chapter 2.

    34 Compare Herbert Spencer, 'Principles of Sociology,' New York, 1892, Volume I, Chapter 10.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          31

    much less did they give them a material and physical explanation. Theirs was the mystic view: dreams are warnings from on high, visions are symbolic messages sent to guide the soul. Three stages in the conception of dreams are exemplified in the history of Joseph and his progenitors: first, personification, -- to Joseph the deity sends a messenger or angel of radiant form; second, communication, -- to Solomon Mack the divine message is heard by the dreamer, not by means of a material figure, but as an external voice; third, objectivation, -- to Lucy and her spouse a symbolic picture is unrolled, with or without interpretation.

    Inasmuch as the Smiths insisted on the supernaturalness of their dreams, it remains to give their natural conditions and causes. A difficulty arises at the start: if the physiolooical explanation is attempted, the data are either entirely lacking, or are wanting in exactness. Mother Smith's work is meant to be a faith-promoting handbook; and shed wells with delight on supernatural remedies and miraculous cures. When she does go in for morbid anatomy, the ailments and diseases are given obsolete and indeterminate names. 35 In one place, however,

    35 Lucy's own comforting dream fits in with her hectic fever, but the typhus which afflicted her offspring was probably typhoid. References to the epidemics of influenza, typhus, etc., in Vermont, during the first decade of the nineteenth century are of no avail, for Lucy herself generally neglects to give the date of the sicknesses which so


    32                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    nervous depression is given as a precondition of a dream. Immediately before her vision of the Two Trees, Lucy states that she had attended a Methodist meetiiig, when she returned to the house, much depressed in spirit, which state of feeling continued until I retired to my bed.' 36

    Turning to the psychic correlations, a tentative use may now be made of the two ordinary forms of dreams, namely: -- the illusion, or imitation of a sense perception, and the hallucination, or projection of a mental image outwardly. The latter is exemplified in Solomon Mack, when he saw a bright object at a small distance from his face. To him this seemed an extra-mental reality; to the physiologist the apparent patch of flame is due to changes of blood pressure on the eyeball. The brightness and apparent nearness of the light would appear to upold the theory that, if the nerve excitation arises in the organ of sight, the structure of the retina is reproduced perceptibly. 37 Although it is contended that the psychologist has nothing whatever to do with the physiology of the

    often preceded the visions. Moreover the local historian talks like a horse doctor. Compare Z. Thompson, 'History of Vermont,' 1842, p. 221: '1800, Typhus prevalent. 1802-3, Canker rash or throat distemper. 1807, Influenza in Vermont and throughout the United States.'

    36 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 54.

    37 Du Prel, p. 203: Scherner's theory.


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          33

    retina, 38 yet this experience of Mack's fulfils three out of the five general causes of hallucination given by the physiologist. There was no specific statement as to local diseases of the organ of sense, nor to drugs, but there was exhaustion of body and mind, a morbid emotional state of fear and outward calm and stillness. 39 As the old man's statement runs: -- being confined with rheumatism, he was not sleeping well, was in misery and distress soul and body, and, at the dead of night, when the house was still, the 'lights' came. 40

    Returning to the illusion, or incitation of a sense-perception, the actions of the senses are variously illustrated in the dream series. The lower senses, as usual, here play little part. There is possibly a single case of an illusion of smell in the reference to delicate flowers; yet there are two instances of illusory taste, as when the dreamer starts to eat the

    38 E. W. Scripture, 'The New Psychology,' 1897, p. 384.

    39 Sully, p. 115, quoting Griesinger.

    40 The theory that disease brings much dreaming is not upheld in the history of Joseph's parents. Lucy's health was 'preyed upon by the death of her sister,' and she I suffered from a hectic fever, which threatened to prove fatal,' yet in these troublous times she had only one dream, while her sturdy vagabond of a husband had seven. Regarding the visions of Joseph, as will be seen, -- there were other and more specific causes of hyperideation. The only pertinent conclusion, from the story of his progenitors, is that Joseph inherited front his male progenitors, on both sides, the dreamy diathesis. See 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 37, 46,


    34                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    contents of the Magic Box, and when he scoops up 'by double handfuls' the white particles of the Fruit-Tree. The tactual element is also to be found, as when the dreamer is much fatigued in walking or seems to go lame. The auditory illusions are general, -- the guide, or attendant spirit, audibly commands. Finally the visual element is universal, all the dreams were counted visions. The exciting causes of these phantasms are more or less conjectural. 41 When the new settler had the nightmare of 'beasts, horned cattle and roaring animals bellowing most terrifically,' was the cause digestive discomfort, or did the sleeper dimly hear some commotion in the barnyard? Whether the stimulation came from without or within is a physiological question: there yet remain varieties of brain excitation,

    41 How the illusions of smell should arise, is here, as elsewhere, indeterminable. That of taste is explicable only by negation, -- fasting causes dreams, the hungry wanderer longs for rich feasts. Illusions of touch or pressure are attributable to the condition of the muscles, -- Joseph, senior, in his search for a home, had traveled from Vermont to the Genesee valley and had there cleared thirty acres of land. As to sight and touch, it is hard to determine whether the excitation was peripheral or central. It is here that the hard and fast distinction between illusion and hallucination is seen to be untenable ; for the latter like the former may arise inwardly. There appear to be dream-images due to direct central stimulition, -- the brain, in and of itself, producing 'stars,' 'lights,' 'waving hands' -- the last being exemplified in Lucy's dream of the tree with the golden zone and with branches dancing as lively as a sunbeam.'


                              ANCESTRY  AND  DREAMS                          35

    which may be more pertinently expressed in terms of psychology. Direct excitations are presentative and are connected with the immediate present; indirect excitations are representative, and are connected through the law of association with the past, -- the brain merely reviving impressions previously received.

    The point of interest in all this is that the dreams of Joseph's progenitors hold the mirror up to nature, reflect their innermost notions, beliefs and modes of thought. Thus Solomon Mack connects those midnight flames with 'the horrible pit of sin in which he lay'; Lucy interprets 'the breath of heaven' which passed over the two trees as the 'pure and undefiled gospel'; and Joseph, the elder, attributed the 'withering of the flesh upon his bones' to the demands of Justice over Mercy.

    The dreams of Joseph's ancestors are, at the best, but a dim avenue into their brains. In his own case there is more profit in reversing the process, -- in studying the source of his phantasm, before the fantastic in his character. Without a knowledge of his environment, his visions are inexplicable.


    [ 36 ]

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    [ 39 ]



    WHEN the Smith family moved to central New York in 1815, the country was by no means settled. Only the year before, the Holland Land Company had bought up the tract west of Seneca Lake, originally held in speculation by Phelps and Gorham, and was now offering special inducements to settlers. 1 Joseph Smith, senior, joining in this emigration from New England, and taking up his claim in Ontario County, 2 found that his farm had literally to be burned out of the woods. The land was called the western wilderness and there was a spice of danger in the life. Rochester consisted of not more than two or three log houses, and the Indians but two years before had desolated the whole Niagara frontier. 3 President Timothy Dwight in his Travels draws a vivid picture of the

    1 E. H. Roberts, 'The Planting and Growth of the Empire State,' 2, 458.

    2 J. H. Hotchkin, 'A History of the Purchase and Settlement of Western New York,' 1848, p. 375: -- Palmyra was number 12 in the second and third ranges of Phelps and Gorham's purchase.

    3 Hotchkin, p. 94.


    40                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    region. He has a keen eye for the lonely forests and the traces of the red man; he mentions the packs of wolves which drive the wayfarer to the trees; in his journey over the military route he carefully enumerates the expansions of mud, in their order, and asserts that in all this tract there was nothing, which may be called a town except Geneva and Canandaigua. 4

    To this locality, remote and unfriended, Lucy Smith brought her family. She followed the state road, opened from the Mohawk to the inner lakes, by which even a post rider took two weeks between Albany and the Genesee valley. 5 It was not for a decade that the canal was completed between the Hudson and Lake Erie, 6 and, by the time the Book of Mormon was in circulation, the journey from New York city to the centre of the state was a slow pilgrimage by stage coach, canal boat, and horse railroad. 7

    The physical environment had its mental effects. Owing to the wretched means of communication and the rudeness of the country, the education obtainable by the Smith children, whether at Palmyra or Manchester, was necessarily meagre. If

    4 President Timothy Dwight, 'Travels in New England and New York,' 1822, Letters II and III.

    5 Roberts, p. 453

    6 Roberts, p. 537.

    7 A. B. Hart, 'American History told by Contemporaries,' 3, 566.


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          41

    one of his own disciples complained of the prophet's inability to read long words, 8 the cause for such illiteracy was obvious. He had attended school for less than a year in his native state. 9 There the educational provisions of the state constitution had as yet not been fulfilled, 10 while of the founders of Vermont it was said that few were versed in the rules of grammar. 11 A like state of affairs existed on the frontiers of New York where the average school attendance was but three months 12 in the year and where, at the time of the writing of the Book of Mormon, there were not two academies to a county. 13 Moreover in their toils in the backwoods the boys were needed at home; one prominent Mormon is not loath to confess that at sixteen he had his last schooling for many years. 14

    8 Interview with David Whitmer in the Missouri Times, n. d.

    9 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 60.

    10 Report of Commissioner of Education, 1868, p. 90. The Vermont Constitution of 1793, Article 41 reads: 'A competent number of scholars ought to be maintained in each town for the convenient instruction of youth... and one or more grammar schools in each county.'

    11 Z. Thompson, 'History of Vermont,' 1842, p. 212.

    12 Report of Commissioner of Education, 'Early Common Schools in New York, etc.,' 1897, p. 224: -- 'Up to the revision of the state constitution in 1822, each school district had $20 from the state. A three months' term of common schooling was secured by state and local taxation.'

    13 Roberts, p. 554.

    14 P. P. Pratt, 'Autobiography,' 1888, p. 18.


    42                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    Another reports, with a humorous touch of truth, the local saying that 'none of them Smith boys ever went to school, when he could get out of it.' 15 As the prophet himself said in later years: 'I am a rough stone. The sound of the hammer and chisel was never heard on me until the Lord took me in hand. I desire the learning of heaven alone.' 16

    Along with these shortcomings in education went an equal scarcity of books. Every house had its Bible, 17 but of general reading there was a woful lack. If at this time it cost a day's wages to carry a letter from Boston to Cincinnati, 18 books could not have been widely circulated by mail. Moreover the state library was not founded at Albany until 1818 and local libraries were rarer than Indian reservations. It is reported by an adverse critic that Joseph had a special fondness for Captain Kidd's Life and for the Memoirs of Stephen Burroughs. 19 The latter is not improbable, for the book was published in Albany in 1811 and its author hailed from Hanover, New Hampshire, one of the abiding places of

    15 Elder Edward Stevenson, 'Reminiscences of the Prophet,' 1893, p. 680.

    16 G. Q. Cannon, 'Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet,' 1888, p. 496.

    17 A. De Tocqucville, 'Democracy in America,' 1833, 1, 406: -- 'The Backwoodsman penetrates into the wilds of the New World with the Bible, an axe, and some newspapers.'

    18 Roberts, p. 676.

    19 J. H. Kennedy, 'Early Days of Mormonism,' 1888, p. 13.


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          43

    the Smiths. At any rate, this strange adventurer's description of himself betrays a certain prophetic affinity to his young reader. He was educated 'in all the rigors of sectarianism, which illy suited his volatile and impatient temper of mind.' 20 However large the list of books that the prophet read and recorded in his later days of self-education, there is no positive evidence as to his youthful literary pabulum. His mother said of him in his nineteenth year that he 'had never read the Bible through in his life; he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children.' 21 Nevertheless the classes of books available to the backwoods boy may be fairly conjectured. One Mormon emigrant from Otsego County to Ohio mentions taking with him McKenzie's Travels in the Northwest and Lewis and Clarke's Tours on the Mississippi and Colorado. 22 But the very books of adventure had a religious tinge. Burrough's autobiography discloses a sanctimonious sinner; Lewis and Clarke's volume contains speculations as to the American Indians being the lost ten tribes of Israel. 23 The wide currency of this peculiar belief will be examined later in its bearings on Joseph's own writings.

    20 'Memoirs of Stephen Burroughs,' Albany, 1811, p. 5.

    21 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 84.

    22 Pratt, p. 27.

    23 'The Travels of Lewis and Clarke,' London, 1809, p. 228.


    44                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    Meanwhile, it is evident that the books which chiefly influenced him were of a religious cast. 24 There yet survived, after the Puritan fashion, accounts of memorable providences and ponderous controversial treatises. 25 If the Smiths possessed any native Vermont books they would have borne such titles as these: Baylies' Free Agency, Burnap's Etherial Director, Hopkin's Primitive Creed. 26 Of such tomes their mere bulk, the force of their gravity, was an incubus on young minds.

    There was need for a change; but when a new stir of thought reached the masses it was anything but a message of sweetness and light. French rationalism furnished the main intellectual stimulus, 27 and 'Tom' Paine was the popular representative of brains. An enormous edition of the Age of Reason was printed in France and shipped to America, to be sold for a few pence the copy, or distributed

    24 De Tocqueville, 2, 65, notes the 'Enormous quantity of religious works, Bibles, sernions, edifying anecdotes, controversial divinity and reports of charitable societies.' Compare G. W. Fisher, 'Early History of Rochester,' p. ii: of the two earliest Rochester papers, one bore the title of the Gospel Luminary. Compare also Rochester Daily Advertiser, August 31, 1832. In a bookseller's advertisement of that date, religious works take up the largest share of the list.

    25 Henry Ferguson, 'Essays in American Literature,' 1894, p. 65.

    26 Z. Thompson, 'History of Vermont,' 1842, p. 173: Books issued from the Press of Vermont.

    27 Noah Porter, Appendix to Ueberweg's, 'History of Philosophy,' 2, 451.


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          45

    gratis. 28 Thus, by the time that Clubs of Free Thinkers sprang up in western New York, 29 the Mormon prophet's mind was set, and he could see nothing in free thought, but rank infidelity. Later there may be found a few interesting hints of the Deistic controversy in the Book of Mormon, but the greatest force in the author's early mental environment was not rationalism but religiosity. He grew up in a perfect maze of sectarianism. In a denominational encyclopedia, to which Joseph Smith, as head of his church, contributed a characteristic article, there were set down forty-three sects of standing in the United States. The multiplying of religious bodies was particularly noticeable in Joseph's formative period. For example, in the sixteen years between the moving to Palmyra and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, four schisms occurred in the Methodist body alone. 30 This reckless process of scission was one reason for the rise of Mormonism. Another was the length to which sectaries went in their beliefs and practices. Smith's native state had its share of fanatical bodies, and there was

    28 Timothy Dwight, 'Religion of New England, in Travels,' 4, 380.

    29 Hotchkin, p. 26.

    30 I. D. Rupp, 'He Pasa Eklclcsia, or Religious Denominations in the United States,' 1849, passim: 'The Reformed Methodists' started in 1814; the 'Methodist Society' in 1820; the 'True Wesleyan Methodist Church' in 1828 and the 'Methodist Protestants' in 1830.


    46                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    one which appeared as a strange prototype of the Mormon movement. The 'Pilgrims' were a vagabond swarm in the south of Vermont. Sickness had rendered the founder visionary; he asserted that he was a prophet and claimed immediate inspiration from heaven. Property was held in common and the leader controlled all the affairs of his followers from marriages to punishments. This band, in its search for the 'promised land,' attempted to combine with the Shakers, passed through central New York and disappeared in the West. 31

    Although the larger denomination and not the petty sects held sway in Joseph's locality, their influence was abnormal. The pioneer churches had been founded by the missionary boards of New England, but the methods of work were borrowed from the Southwest. The doctrines were Calvinistic, the means of grace revivalistic. The camp-meeting had originated in Kentucky in 1799, and strange phenomena were seen, when thousands fell in convulsions and 'the formal professor, the deist, the intemperate were collected and laid out in order on the meeting house floor.' 32 The methods of wholesale conversion spread from the West eastward, and it is significant that, in New York State,

    31 Thompson, p. 203.

    32 H. Howe,'Historical Collections of the Great West,' Cincinnati, 1857, p. 216.


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          47

    the Great Revival began in Joseph's own town. A letter of an itinerant evangelist of the Connecticut Missionary Society thus describes the movement: 'The seriousness began at Palmyra. The youth and children seem to be roused up to inquire, What must we do to be saved? A few drops from the cloud of glory have fallen upon Pittstown. There is uncommon attention to public worship in Canandaigua. It has been difficult during the winter to get places large enough to accomodate, or even contain the people. The countenances of many show how anxious their minds are to know how they may flee from the wrath to come.' 33 The other side of the picture may be here given and from a Mormon standpoint. A brother of Brigham Young gives this fragment of experience: 'A Methodist revival occurred, and religious excitement ran so high that it became fashionable to make a profession of religion. Every young person but myself professed to receive a "saving change of heart." Meetings were held nightly. It was the custom to request those who were "seeking religion" to come forward to some seat reserved for that purpose, to be prayed for.... When I failed to come to the "anxious seat" Elder Gilmore told me I had sinned away the day of grace and my damnation was sure.' 34

    33 Hotchkin, pp. 36, 37. [excerpt from New York Missionary Magazine, Jan. 1800]

    34 Lorenzo D. Young, 'Fragments of Experience,' 1882, p. 25.


    48                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    The psycho-physical effect of all this may be judged from the experience of another Mormon. He says that in one of the protracted meetings 'a continual stream of glorious truths passed through my mind, my happiness was great, and my mind so absorbed in spiritual things that all the time the meeting lasted, which was about fifteen days, I scarcely ate or drank anything.... The spirit of the Lord so operated on my system that I felt full at the time, and had no desire to eat or partake of anything.' 35 The unnatural exaltation, here portrayed, was not such an evil result as the morbid depression. Even if the bodily effect was not at once manifested, there was an immediate and baleful influence on the mind. Mental bewilderment and melancholia were the accompaniments of youthful conversion. Confused by the practices of rival sectaries, one young 'seeker' wondered why the Presbyterians only sprinkled water in the face, while the Baptists immersed, and why the Methodists did not baptize for remission of sins but demanded an 'experience.' So Parley Pritt maintains that he went West to escape the wrangling about sects and creeds and doctrines. 36

    The converse of the proposition, that confusion in thought, in turn, propagated new sects is one of

    35 Benjamin Brown, 'Testimonies for the Truth,' 1853, P. 5.

    36 'Autobiography,' 1888, pp. 23, 26.


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          49

    the problems in the founding of the Church of Latter-day Saints. But in the case of the individual, mental bewilderment passes over into an abhorrence of the doctrines taught. Benjamin Brown, the same boy who had experienced an undue exaltation of spirits, was of Quaker parentage. Living on a farm in Washington County, he had gained, in his isolation, a strong faith in the Bible. Moving to the town, where the sects warred, the jarrings and uncertainties of the new ideas shook his simple faith. 'There,' he relates, 'the Universalist system appeared most reasonable; the horrible hell and damnation theories of most of the other parties, being in my idea inconsistent with the mercy and love of God.' 37

    The accounts of the Mormon perverts are borne out by the report of the very missionary who started the Palmyra revival. He observes: -- 'The doctrines to awaken and convince sinners are Calvinistic, -- the doctrines of man's entire depravity of heart by nature and alienation from God; his inability while remaining in this state to do anything acceptable to God; man's particular obligation to do the whole law of God; (and) the particular election of a select number of the human family to final salvation.' 38 How such doctrines could have been privately believed and publicly set forth, has

    37 'Testimonies,' pp. 3, 4.

    38 Hotchkin, p. 39.


    50                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    been but lamely explained. It is alleged that the itinerant preacher traveling from month to month through the gloom of almost sunless forests acquired a 'pensive turn of thought.' 39

    If the cause is conjectural, the effect is not; a sombre theology brought an intense melancholy, -- I as the exhorters grew enthusiastic, the people were much exercised over their sinful condition.' 40 Now such were the preconditions of young Joseph Smith's peculiar psychic experiences, of which he gives the following account: --


    Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place
    39 Howe p. 303.

    40 H. Caswell, 'The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet,' 1888, p. 34.

    41 'Pearl of Great Price,' pp. 84-98, extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, written by himself in 'Times and Seasons,' Volume III. There is also Joseph's parallel account written to the Chicago Democrat in 1842. Compare 'Handbook of Reference,' pp. 9, 10: -- 'When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon enquiring upon the plan of salvation, I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society, they referred me to one plan, and another to another, each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection. Considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church, it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way,


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          51

    where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion.... I was at this time in my fifteenth year.... During this time of great excitement, my mind was called up to
    and administer in one set of ordinances, I-le would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed. Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord. While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light, which eclipsed the sun at noon-day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to "go not after them"; at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.'

    Orson Pratt gives a third account of Joseph's first vision in his book entitled 'Remarkable Visions,' 1841. It is a paraphrase, and, yet being written a year before the Chicago Democrat version, may contain some first-hand information: --

    '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, be 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


    52                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often pungent, still I kept myself aloof from all those
    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 have seen 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. And he was expressly commanded to go not after them: and he received a promise that the true doctrine -- the fulliess 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.'

    *   *   *   *   *   *

    On the evening of the 21st Of September, A. D., 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture, on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room; indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. The appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body. In a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded,'


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          53

    parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit....

    It was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

    After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction, not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such a marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being. Just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the Sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.


    54                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me.... When I came to myself again I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.'


    I continued to pursue my common avocations of life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision.

    During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision, and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three, (having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends, and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored, in a proper and affectionate manner, to have reclaimed me,) I was left to all kinds of temptations, and mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the corruption of human nature, which I am sorry to say led me into divers temptations to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God. In consequence of these things I often felt condemned for my weakness


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          55

    and imperfections; when on the evening of the above mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God, for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I had previously had one.

    While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in the room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

    *   *   *   *   *   *

    While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly, that I knew the place again when I visited it.

    After this communication, I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so, until the room was again left dark, except just around him, when instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended up till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.


    56                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    I lay musing on the singularity of the scene, and marveling greatly at what had been told me by this extraordinary messenger, when, in the midst of my meditation, I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bed-side. He commenced, and again related the very same things which he had done at his first visit, without the least variation. But this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard; but what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and beard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before... almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me the third time, the cock crew, and I found that day was approaching, so that our interview must have occupied the whole of that night.


    I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual went to the necessary labors of the day, but, in attempting to labor as at other times I found my strength so exhausted as rendered me entirely unable. My father, who was laboring along with me, discovered something to be wrong with me, and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house, but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the


                             ENVIRONMENT  AND  VISIONS                          57

    field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything. The first thing that I can recollect, was a voice speaking unto me calling me by name; I looked up and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light, as before. He then again related unto me all that he bad related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father, and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received. I obeyed, I returned back to my father in the field and rehearsed the whole matter to him.' 42
    42 These three visions as well as the rest of the series are to be gathered from various sources. They are here collated for the first time in order to determine Smith's psycho-physical state. For a technical discussion of the subject and for the authorities referred to in the text, see Appendix II. It is to be noticed that mother Smith alone gives the series complete. To begin with the third vision, supplying the dates so far as obtainable. 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 81-105, (September 24, 1823.) 'The next day, my husband, Alvin, and Joseph, were reaping together in the field, and as they were reaping Joseph stopped quite suddenly, and seemed to be in a very deep study. Alvin, observing it, hurried him, saying, I We must not slacken our hands or we will not be able to complete our task.' Upon this Joseph went to work again, and after laboring a short time, he stopped just as he had done before. This being quite unusual and strange, it attracted the attention of his father, upon which he discovered that Joseph was very pale. My husband, supposing that he was sick, told him to go to the house, and have his mother doctor him. He, accordingly, ceased his work, and started, but on coming to a beautiful green, under an apple-tree, be stopped and lay down, for he was so weak he could proceed no further. He was here but a short time,


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    Were these early visions of Joseph entirely due to his religious environment and revivalistic experiences? The question is partially answered by

    when the messenger whom he saw the previous night, visited him again, and the first thing he said was, I Why did you not tell your father that which I commanded you to tell him?' Joseph replied, 'I was afraid my father would not believe me.' The angel rejoined, 'He will believe every word you say to him.' Joseph then promised the angel that he would do as he had been commanded. Upon this, the messenger departed, and Joseph returned to the field, where he had left my husband and Alvin; but when he got there, his father had just gone to the house, as he was somewhat unwell.... The ensuing evening, when the family were all together, Joseph made known to them all that he had communicated to his father in the field, and also of his finding the Record, as well as what passed between him and the angel while he was at the place where the plates were deposited. Sitting up late that evening, in order to converse upon these things, together with over-exertion of mind, had much fatigued Joseph.'

    (September 22, 1824) 'Joseph again visited the place where he found the plates the year previous. In the moment of excitement, Joseph was overcome by the powers of darkness, and forgot the injunction that was laid upon him. Having some further conversation with the angel on this occasion, Joseph was permitted to raise the stone again, when he beheld the plates as he had done before. He immediately reached forth his land to take them, but instead of getting them he was burled back upon the ground with great violence. When he recovered, the angel was gone, and he arose and returned to the house, weeping for grief and disappointment.'

    (September(?) 1825 and 1826.) That further visions occurred about this time is implied in Joseph's statement: 'According as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews.'

    The next vision is described by Lucy, (January (?) 1827)'Joseph... the next January returned with his wife, in


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    applying the principles of the modern psychology of religion, as derived from cold-blooded statistics. According to these tests, Joseph's conversion occurring

    good health and fine spirits. Not long subsequent to his return, my husband had occasion to send him to Manchester, on business. As he set off early in the day, we expected him home at most by six o'clock in the evening, but when six o'clock came, he did not arrive; we always had a peculiar anxiety about him whenever he was absent, for it seemed as though something was always taking place to jeopardize his life. But to return. He did not get home till the night was far spent. On coming in, he threw himself into a chair, apparently much exhausted. -- My husband did not observe his appearance, and immediately exclaimed, "Joseph, why are you so late? has anything happened to you? We have been much distressed about you these three hours." As Joseph made no answer, he continued his interrogations, until, finally, I said, "Now, father, let him rest a moment, he is very tired." The fact was I had learned to be a little cautious about matters with regard to Joseph, for I was accustomed to see him look as he did on that occasion, and I could not easily mistake the cause thereof. Presently he said, "I have taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life... it was the angel of the Lord; as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel met me."'

    (September 22, 1827.) 'Joseph started for the plates... secreted about three miles from home.... Joseph coming to them.... placed them under his arm and started for home. After proceeding a short distance, he thought it would be more safe to leave the road and go through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind it, and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him down, then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further he was attacked again in the same manner as before; be knocked this man down in like manner as the former, and ran on again; and before he reached home he was assaulted the third time. In striking the last one he dislocated his thumb, which,


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    a year before the average, and therefore shows a not uncommon emotional development, but the accompanying visions put him in the rarer third of youth who have dreams and hallucinations.

    however, he did not notice until he came within sight of the house, when he threw himself down in the corner of the fence in order to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he arose and came to the house. He was still altogether speechless from fright and the fatigue of running.... When the chest came, Joseph locked up the Record, then threw himself upon the bed, and after resting a little, so that he could converse freely... be showed them his thumb, saying, 'I must stop talking, father, and get you to put my thumb in place, for it is very painful."'

    Compare with the above official accounts the following collateral evidence: Historical Magazine, May, 1870, p. 305. Fayette Lapham in an interview with Joseph Smith, senior, narrates: -- 'Joseph, senior, was a firm believer in witchcraft and other supernatural things.... In the course of a year Joseph aided by some supernatural light found the treasures. Before he could get hold of them he felt something strike him on the breast, which was repeated a third time, always with increased force, the last such as to lay him upon his back. As he lay there and looked up his vision was repeated. (Soon after joining the church he had a singular dream.) Next year (after his marriage) -- a host of devils began to screech and to scream and to make all sorts of hideous yells for the purpose of terrifying him.... As he returned and was getting over the fence, one of the devils struck him a blow on his side, where a black and blue spot remained three or four days.... At this point the interview came to an end ; and my friend and myself returned home, fully convinced that we had smelt a large mice.'

    Compare also, Tiffiny's Monthly, May, 1859. Interview with Martin Harris, January, 1859: -- 'When Joseph got the plates, on his way home, be was met by what appeared to be a man who struck him with a club on his side, which was all black and blue.'


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    Nevertheless with him, as with all, there were antecedent causes leading up to conviction, -- months of high mental tension compounded of emotional pressure from other religionists and the demands of established institutions. Again, his experiences at conversion were not unusual: others have felt a shock in the body, a feeling of strangling, a load on the shoulders, have seen rays of light and glory and heard imaginary sounds. With others, likewise, there have been the same after effects, -- confusion, dejection and the sense of sin, followed by joy and exultation, lightness of heart and clarified vision.

    The point of consideration in these common experiences is that they may be put in terms of psychic functioning, and may be largely explained by the influences of suggestion and hypnotism. just as the so called spontaneous awakenings are the fructification of the convert's previous longings and strivings, so the ecstatic state is the result of the abnormal methods of revival leaders. Such are insistence on faith and the monotonous repetition of prayers, unconscious suggestion and the laying on of hands. If these means for the religious hypnosis are viewed in pairs, they present a twofold, a psycho-physical aspect. Hence the abnormalities of conversion can be further expressed in terms of nervous functioning. The exhaustion and helplessness, the falling to the ground and unconsciousness


    62                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    are attributable to 'decentralization': the higher cerebral centres losing control, there is a consequent lessening power of rational self-restraint. This lack of inhibitory force accounts for the fact that chronic religious excitement may be followed by sensual excesses, conveniently covered by the revivalistic term 'backsliding,' -- or, as Joseph Smith expressed it, the being 'entangled again in the vanities of the world.'

    In the attempt to construe these visions, a former parallel may be of avail. In his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, John Bunyan recounts analogous experiences. Formerly, it has been said, these have been referred to mere theological associations and ideas, or to somewhat abnormal, but loosely-defined hallucinatory delirium. 43 Only recently has Bunyan's story been read in its psychological aspects, -- how as a child he showed some of the familiar signs of a sensitive brain -- how he was possessed with nocturnal terrors of devils and waking fears of the day of judgment; how the period of melancholic depression and undue elation was finally passed over, and Bunyan's reasoning power was left formally unaffected. 44 This rough outline holds true of Joseph Smith; but the visionary of Manchester alone has a family history in

    43 Compare T. B. Macaulay, reviewing the 'Pilgrim's Progress.'

    44 Josiah Royce, 'Studies of Good and Evil,' 1898.


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    which there is positive evidence of serious hereditary weakness. A reexamination of Joseph's ancestral line discloses a paradox: marked longevity, but also a strange heritage of fleshly ills. Of his grandmother, Mary Duty Smith, nothing is known; but his grandmother, who lived until eighty, had a well-nigh fatal illness at forty-seven. His grandfather, Asahel Smith, at the age of eighty-six, was described as 'just recovering from a severe fit' and of 'weak mind.' In early manhood he was nick-named 'Crook-necked Smith,' and with the twist in his body there went a twist in his mind. 45 However, if three-fourths of the first generation is counted a negligible quantity, there is a sufficient reason for the young Joseph's terrifying seizures. Whatever they may turn out to be, they took place on an already prepared ground; the Cadmean seed was sown by his maternal grandfather. Solomon Mack's abnormal mental experiences have already been described; of his physical vicissitudes the most

    45 Nehemiah Cleaveland. 'An Address at Topsfield, Massachusetts,' New York, 1851, p. xxv , Asahel Smith removed about 1793, to Tunbridge, in Vermont. This man, like "Ammon's great son, one shoulder bad too high;" and thence usually bore the significant and complimentary designation of " CROOK-NECKED SMITH." He was so free in his opinions on religious subjects, that some regarded his sentiments as more distorted than his neck. When he went to Vermont, a son, Joseph, then eight or ten years old, accompanied him.'


    64                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    notable were his 'fits.' 46 The time of these was not in his senile infirmity -- described by an eyewitness 47 -- but in the prime of his manhood; their cause was not his self-admitted intoxication as a sailor; it was after he was injured in the head, by the falling of a tree that the 'fits' came. Furthermore, although this affliction of the grandsire was accidental, its connection with the grandson was not.

    The inference is obvious; Joseph Smith, junior, inherited through his mother, what may be called for the present a liability to neural instability. So far as the records go, Lucy Mack has given disproportionately fewer details of her own state of health, than of her seven brothers and sisters. She had her mental delusions, but her physical constitution was strong, -- judging from the amount of work she did to support her young family. Her

    46 'Narrative,' pp. 10, 18: -- 'I afterwards was taken with a fit, when traveling with an axe under my arm on Winchester hills, the face of the land was covered with ice. I was senseless from one until five p. m. When I came to myself I had my axe still under my arm, I was all covered with blood and much cut and bruised. When I came to my senses I could not tell where I had been, nor where I was going; but by good luck I went right and arrived at the first house, was under the doctor's care all the winter.... At another time I fell in a fit at Tunbridge (Vt.), and was supported for the benefit of my soul and others.'

    47 Historical Magazine, November, 1870: -- 'Solomon Mack... an infirm old man, who used to ride around on horseback on a side-saddle.'


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    shiftless husband deserves little notice, except that his 'excitement upon the subject of religion' was followed by an annual vision. Until his death, at three score and ten, he seems to have fallen ill but twice. Now in any hunt for neuropathic antecedents, it is alleged that the collaterals are of importance, especially on the female side. It is, then, significant that Joseph's uncles were robust men, but that his aunts were a morbid and unhealthy lot. Lovisa Mack, 'cured by a mericle,' died two years after of consumption; Lovina succumbed to the same disease, after lingering three years.

    Coming down to the third generation, Lucy Mack Smith's ten children ran the Usual gauntlet of juvenile ailments. There are but too exceptions: Sophronia recovered of a 'typhus, through prayer'; the first-born, Alvin, was 'murdered' by a doctor through an overdose of calomel. Concerning the ailments of the incipient prophet no details are omitted, and it is in giving these that the mater-familias inadvertently lets go the truth. In describing the boy's nervous disposition, and the ravages of an infectious fever at the age of six, and also the ancestral ulceration calling for a painful surgical operation, most pluckily borne, the fond mother piles up the preconditions for that 'strange and unusual' something which afflicted her offspring. Besides the remote causes, the exciting causes of the


    66                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    seizures were equally marked. Chronic religious excitement at the age of fourteen was brought to a head by a bad fright from the discharge of a gun, and this was followed by what was known as Joseph's first vision.

    Taken by itself this initial abnormality may be attributed to a sense illusion, such as affected the grandfather. But the second vision demands more specific description, and also a more specific exciting cause. The latter has been supplied by the prophet himself in a suspiciously enigmatic form. What took place between the first and second visions was described by Joseph as the 'weakness of youth, foolish errors, divers temptations and gratifications of appetites offensive in the sight of God.' Stripped of verbiage this means, for one thing, -- drunkenness. Concerning this unpleasant fact no reliance is to be placed in the multiplied affidavits of jealous neighbors, who swore on oath that there was much intoxication among the Smiths; people in those days had the affidavit habit. The sources here used are provided by the Saints. Martin Harris one time said that, 'Brother Joseph drank too much liquor while translating the Book of Mormon'; upon pressure from the church council, he modified this charge to the assertion that 'this thing occurred previous to the translating.' 48

    48 'Times and Seasons,' 6, 992.


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    For this statement the Mormon Thersites was reprimanded, yet his evidence was not quashed. But the most pertinent item is to be found in an early apologetic, 49 which was naturally suppressed for its ingenuousness; the author grants that the prophet was intoxicated twice, but asks the reader if he would have done any better, -- if he had lived in those bibulous days. This acknowledgment has much to do with the case, -- alcoholism is first in the

    49 Charles Thompson, 'Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon,' Batavia, New York, 1841. ('Brigham Young called in all the copies that the Saints hid.' Mrs. Pond, Nauvoo, Illinois, May, 1887. -- Pencil note on fly leaf ). Pp. 184-5: 'To what extent was he intemperate? D. P. Hurlburt obtained upwards of eighty names in Ontario County, signed to documents against Smith's character, and published in "Mormonism Unveiled," and yet but bare two instances could all these men name where they saw him intoxicated; and even then, he was capable of attending to his own business. And now I ask, who there is that has lived thirty years in this world and at a time when it was fashionable for all people to make use of ardent spirits as a beverage, and have not as much as twice drank too much? But it is said that "he was quarrelsome when intoxicated." Well, this is not very strange.'

    The following statement is conveniently definite, but is the sort of testimony to be especially avoided. Some uncritical reviewer in the Inter Occan, March, 12, 1899, quotes L. B. Cake, 'Old Mormon Manuscript Found -- Peep Stone Joe exposed,' New York, 1899: -- ' Reed Peck who was an officer of the Danite Band, who delivered Joe Smith over to the state troops just in time to avert a bloody battle narrates: "September 21, 1823, Joe is drunk. He claims God sent an angel to him that day, while he was in bed, and the angel makes revelations about the plates. Next morning, September 22, he goes to the hill of Cumorah, finds the stone box, looks at the gold plates, sees the angel, has a struggle with imps of the air."'


    68                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    list of causes prevocative to those seizures which afflicted Joseph.

    But briefly to interpret the first two visions. They may be put in psycho-physical terms, for the apparent objective manifestations were actually subjective symptoms. It bespeaks a good memory on the part of Smith, that the theophanic portions of his visions are precisely what occur in a certain form of visual disturbance akin to vertigo. The parallel is exact in both the variety and the sequence of the phenomena. It is told how a patient, experiencing this symptom for the first time, describes it as a dimness or blindness. followed by a dazzling comparable to that of the sun. A second time -- as in the second vision -- a more exact description is given: -- 'the luminous ball of fire enlarges; its centre becomes obscure; gradually it passes beyond the limits of the visual field above and below, and the patient sees only a portion of it, in the form of a broken luminous line, which continues to vibrate until it has entirely disappeared.'

    Up to this point, Joseph's first two visions may be put in the technical terms of ophthalmic migraine. Further explanation is needed of his additional statements that 'I was seized upon by some power... as to bind my tongue.... I was ready to sink into despair.... I saw two


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    personages... one of them spake unto me.' It may be said that these phrases are the prophet's way of stating the symptoms of a certain form of melancholic depression; -- in this the patient manifests a sudden terror, violent palpitations of the heart, difficulty in breathing and, along with these physical indications, hallucinations of seeing faces and hearing voices. No small psychological interest lies in Joseph's luminous phantasms and in the apparitions of known or imaginary beings, with whom converse was held. There are examples from Mohammed to Swedenborg of persons, who have similarly taken themselves for prophets, have conversed with the Deity, received predictions and commandments. But with the latter-day prophet the hallucinatory progression is more complex and more serious. The thrice-repeated vision of glory is succeeded by terrifying visions and the delirium of persecution. His father said that Joseph heard the devils shriek and felt their blows; his mother reports that the very angel of light turned and chastised him.

    Thurlow Weed, when first Joseph submitted to him the Book of Mormon, said that he was either crazy or a very shallow impostor. There is no call for so harsh a judgment: the visionary seizures were not consequent on dementia, nor were they feigned. There is a truer and, at the same time,


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    more charitable explanation, -- it is, in a word, that Joseph Smith, junior, was an epileptic. Previous non-discovery of this condition is no disproof of its validity. The boy's parents were entirely ignorant of natural causes: his father believed in witchcraft, his mother was more conversant with demons than with diseases. For all that, both suspected that something was the matter. In the third visitation, Joseph's pallor and his vacant expression attracted the attention of his father. After the sixth visitation, from which he returned home exhausted and speechless, his mother admitted: 'We always had a peculiar anxiety about him whenever he was absent, for it seemed as though something was always taking place to jeopardize his life.' The mother also said she had 'learned to be a little cautious about matters in regard to Joseph,' but the father was persistently credulous; in the last vision, when Joseph was knocked down by assassins, he 'went in pursuit of those villains.'

    Steeped in ignorance and superstition, it was not to be expected that the parents could diagnose the case. It required keener eyes than theirs to locate the trouble, inasmuch as veritable epileptic fits may be so slight and transitory, that bystanders do not notice them, and the patient himself underrates them. Moreover in Joseph's case there was a special limitation: with but one exception, his


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    'visits from the angels' took place away from observation, -- at night, or far from home. Yet the very fact that the first seizures were nocturnal, and that the severest attacks occurred in his all-day wanderings, furnish cumulative evidence of true epileptic convulsions. In the flight of epileptics, it is asserted, the patient hastily leaves his domicile and commits acts which are often strange and incoherent. So here: Joseph is away all day, on returning he gives fanciful explanations of his self-inflicted injuries. While at the hill Cumorah, hunting for the gold plates, he is hurled back upon the ground, or chastised by an angel, or assaulted by assassins. He returns home, late at night, exhausted or speechless with fright, with a bruised body or a dislocated thumb. 50 This violent flexure of the

    50 For legendary accretions compare 'Times and Seasons,' 5. 635: -- 'Joseph Smith was knocked down by a handspike near the hill Cumorah;' also, ' The Martyrs,' p. 15: -- 'As Joseph stood by the sacred deposit "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 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.


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    thumb into the palm is one of those seemingly trifling symptotms, which -- occurring paroxysmally -- are said to deserve careful analysis.

    But to pass on to the more obvious things. The abrupt onsets described by mother Smith are variously connected with bodily injury, loss of consciousness and protracted stupor. On the contrary the first two visions, as described by the prophet, are little more than psychic paroxysms. Was there any ulterior motive behind this limitation? Granting that Joseph did not manage to forget what was best to forget and that 'in later life he believed what he asserted,' 51 the visions, as they stand, furnish evidence of epilepsy. The first, as a sensorial migraine, may be considered the equivalent of a convulsive paroxysm; while the second, which followed intoxication, furnishes just those symptoms premonitory of the real seizure next day. In the night the boy had a sense-illusion of dazzling flame and consuming fire; the next morning he found his strength exhausted, and, starting to cross a fence, fell helpless to the ground and for a time was quite unconscious of anything. In recounting the all-night interview with the angel, the narrator furnishes

    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."

    51 G. Q. Cannon, 'Life of Joseph Smith,' p. 335.


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    the very sensation warnings of epilepsy; it remains for his mother to supply the further tell-tale particulars. It is more than a coincidence that the boy's strange actions, while working in the field, precisely correspond to one of those epileptic attacks designated vacuity. 52 Elsewhere is given a fuller examination of the rest of Joseph's seizures. 53 The psychic premonitions and the physical after-effects, from the deliriuim of persecution to the dislocation of the thumb, -- all are accounted for under the supposition of epilepsy. It is no forced analogy; the details attach themselves to the scheme as naturally as barnacles to a rock.

    To explain Joseph's more abnormal experiences, one must rest content with epilepsy as a working hypothesis. Yet, as such, it binds together a further series of otherwise irrelated facts: through it both ancestry and progeny fall in line. Looking backward to the first generation there is antecedent probability in the grandfather's 'fits' on Winchester Hills; looking forward there is corroboration in the

    52 According to Dutil, 'Traite de Medecine,' this attack is limited to loss of consciousness with temporary pallor. 'Immovable, with his eyes fixed, and a strange air, he remains as if unconscious, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, in a sort of ecstasy. It all lasts only several seconds. The patient shortly returns to himself, takes up the conversation at the point where he had left off or returns to his work.'

    53 See Appendix II.


    74                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    circumstance that 'fits' have reappeared in the fifth generation. But confining attention to the life of the prophet: although he stood midway in the atavistic line of neuropathics, that was no bar to later health and strength. The long intervals between his seizures, and their cessation at about twenty-one, point to one of the more favored cases of spontaneous cure. Of his mental robustness the same may be said. It is going too high to cite the tradition of epileptics such as Caesar and Napoleon, since epilepsy vulgarly and commonly may exist in an absolutely healthy state of mind. Contrary to the opinion of some alienists, there is statistical proof that epilepsy does not always lead to mental disorders. So on the one hand, the attenuated form of Joseph's case and the infrequency of his youthful attacks, and on the other his many successful enterprises, especially the management of his cantankerous followers, preclude the idea of absolute mental deterioration.

    As to moral deterioration the psychologist is not obliged to pass judgment, except to note that the psychiatric definition of the epileptic fits the prophet to a dot. 54 Yet this one persistent mental trait should

    54 Compare R. V. Krafft-Ebing, 'Psychiatric,' 1897, S. 470: 'Armen Epileptiker, welche das Gebetbuch in der Tasche, den lichen Gott auf der Zunge und den Ausbuiid von Canaillerie im Leibe tragen.' (Saint.)


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    be noted: in youth Joseph was secretive and distrustful, after the first impulsive delirium at Cumorah he spoke of 'the necessity of suppressing these things;' 55 in maturity he said 'no man knows my history; I cannot tell it.' 56 In the same way there is psychological connection between his early emotional instability and those private practices which led up to the 'Revelation on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant, Including the Plurality of Wives.' But not to peer into this murky and disagreeable corner of his character, it remains to be said that the words of his friends speak louder than his own actions, that his self-disclosures are not so damaging is the apologies of his followers. Thus his ever-faithful scribe Cowdery says: I While young, I have been informed, he was afflicted with sickness.... You will remember that I said two invisible powers were operating upon the mind of our brother while going to Cumorah. In this, then, I discover wisdom in the dealings of the Lord: it was impossible for any man to translate the Book of Mormon by the gift of God, and endure the afflictions, the temptations and devices of Satan, without being overthrown, unless he had been previously benefited with a certain round of experience.'

    But to leave this anatomy of melancholy and turn

    55 Biographical Sketches,' p. 84.

    56 'Times and Seasons,' 5, 617.


    76                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    to a less irksome task, -- the Book of Mormon, its documents, its sources, and its author's mentality. To one who has waded through this sea of swash there will occur the words of Doctor Johnson concerning young Chatterson, 'This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge. It is wonderful how the whelp has written such things.'


    [ 79 ]



    THE Book of Mormon is unique in Americana. John Eliot translated a bible for the Indians, Joseph Smith translated a bible of the Indians. In asserting their belief that this 'record of the forefathers of our western tribes' 1 was 'filled with Egyptian characters and hieroglyphics,' 2 the Mormons have offered a regular psychological puzzle in credulity. Yet the nut is not so hard to crack by literary methods, and the fiction is mixed with enough fact to warrant study.

    The problem of the original materials of the Book of Mormon has two aspects: one theoretical, as to the 'gold plates,' the other practical, as to the state of the extant manuscripts. The Mormons still profess

    1 Times and Seasons,' 5, 707.

    2 Orson Pratt, 'Remarkable Visions,' title page. Pratt's mental calibre is shown by his attempts at 'fonetik refawrm.' Compare: -- 'The Deseret Second Book, by the Regents of the Deseret University. Printed in the Deseret alphabet, invented by Orson Pratt and W. W. Phelps, to be used in the Mormon Literature.' 74 pp. 1868.


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    belief in the actuality of the plates, written, as they say, by the hand of Mormon, about 300 A. D.; hid up in the hill Cumorah in New York State and found by Joseph Smith, junior, in these latter days. 3 To account for the final disappearance of these 'engravings of old records which are ancient,' they have evolved a theory of levitation. 4 The so-called transcription of the alleged gold plates is still in existence. 5 It is proved the authentic document from a comparison with the characteristic signature of Joseph Smith, junior, 6 and also from the directness of transmission. It was long in the possession of David Whitmer, 7 the second of the three witnesses

    3 The apologetic works on the 'Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon' are endless. The most characteristic are Orson Pratt's 'Remarkable Visions,' 1841; Thompson's 'Evidences,' 1841; Reynolds' 'The Story of the Book of Mormon,' 1888; James E. Talmage, 'Divinity of the Book of Mormon.' 1901.

    4 While in Salt Lake City in June, 1894, I heard of some alleged squeezes of the gold plates. On inquiry at the Deseret Museum, a curator informed me they had been 'levitated.' I asked him how he believed that. He replied, 'By faith.'

    5 In the possession of Mr. William Evarts Benjamin, of New York City, through whose courtesy I am enabled to present a photographic reproduction, reduced by one-fourth.

    6 As shown in the following document, also in the possession of Mr. Benjamin: 'License issued to Christian Whitmer, signifying and proveing that he is a Teacher of this Church of Christ. (Signed) Joseph Smith, Jr., first elder; Oliver Cowdery, second elder. Fayette, N. Y., June 9th, 1830.'

    7 David Whitmer, 'Address,' 1887, p. 11. -- 'I have in my possession the original paper containing some of the characters transcribed from one of the golden plates, which paper Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon, of New York, for him to read "the words of a book that is sealed."'


    [facing 80]

    (view enlargement of image)


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            81

    to the Book of Mormon, and from him passed to his grandson. 8

    On the opposite page there is given a photographic reproduction of the 'Caractors as curiously written by young Smith. He says that, in December, 1827, he commenced copying the characters of the plates, and by means of the Urim and Thummin he translated some of them. 9 Their genesis is thus given by the prophet's mother: 'After bringing home the plates... Joseph began to make arrangements to accomplish the translation of the Record. The first step that he was instructed to take in regard to this work, was to make a facsimile of some of the characters, which were called reformed Egyptian, and to send them to some of the most learned men of this generation and ask them for the translation thereof.' 10 The 'facsimile' was first submitted to a local pundit, by Martin Harris, Joseph's financial backer; the former described it as 'a slip of paper which contained three or four lines of characters, as unlike letters or

    8 Mr. George W. Schweich, of Richmond, Missouri, writing, March 7, 1899, described the slip of paper containing the 'caractors' as 'the supposed or alleged transcription or tracing taken by Martin Harris to Professor Anthon, of Amherst College, from the gold plates then in the hands of the promoters.'

    9 'Pearl of Great Price,' p. 103

    10 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 107, 109.


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    hieroglyphics of any sort as well could be produced were one to shut up his eyes and play off the most antic movements with his pen upon paper.' 11 In February, 1828, Harris took a secondary copy of this document to Professor Anthon of New York city.' 12 He pronounced it 'a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters, inverted or placed sideways, were arranged ancl placed in perpendicular columns.' 13

    11 J. A. Clark, then at Palmyra, N. Y. His book 'Gleanings by the Way' gives one of the few reliable early accounts of Mormonism.

    12 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 107, 109.

    13 Letter of February 17, 1834, in New York Independent. In a letter of April 3, 1841, in the Church Record, Professor Anthon said that the characters were a 'singular medley of Greek, Hebrew and all sorts of letters, more or less distorted either through unskilfulness or design, and intermingled with sundry delineations of half moons, stars and other natural objects and the whole ending in a rude representation of the Mexican Zodiac, evidently copied from Humboldt, but in such a way as not to betray the source.' Note that this tail piece belonged to a secondary copy which is thus described in Mormon fashion by F. G. Bishop, 'Address,' p. 48: -- 'The characters on these plates, as seen through the Interpreters, have the appearance of Hieroglyphics, or something resembling pictures of a great variety of shapes. On the last plate is a circle with rays proceeding from it resembling the sun, as commonly sketched, and around this circle are twenty-four circles more composed of figures resembling stars and half-moons.'


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            83

    A garbled account of this interview was afterwards published by the prophet. 14 In this the scholar is made to assert that the untranslated characters from the plates were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic, but that he could not read that part of

    14 Pearl of Great Price,' pp. 103-4. 'Some time in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows:

    I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic, and he said that they were the true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

    He then said unto me, "Let me see that certificate." I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him, he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them; he replied, "I cannot read a sealed book." I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.'


    84                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    the plates which was sealed, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, that the learned could not read the words of a book that was sealed. 15

    At the time, young Smith doubtless believed in the supernatural origin of his transcript. The reason for this was that it was written under more or less unconscious conditions. The man who first saw it almost hit the nail on the head when he said such characters could be produced if one were to shut up his eyes. As will be seen, the paper bears marks of being written under the influence of veritable crystal gazing. In that self-induced, trance-like state Joseph's involuntary scratchings would appear to him occult, mysterious, true revelations from heaven. For a scientific explanation of the matter there is no need to call in the activities of a 'second personality,' 16 but merely those of the subconscious self. The scrawl is analogous to the scribblings of the undeveloped automatically-writing hand, 17

    15 Whitmer Address,' p. 11.

    16 Proceedings of the 'Society for Psychical Research,' 12, 318. The bulk of automatic writings, including the first scrawls of the planchette, are not indications of the formation of the second personality.'

    17 Taine, 'De l' Intelligence,' third edition, pp. 16, 17, cites the case of a woman who, while conversing, wrote with a handwriting different from ordinary style; the fingers were stiff, the movement automatic; the writing finished with the signature of a deceased person and bore the impress of secret thoughts, -- of a mental background which the author was not inclined to divulge.


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            85

    such as is found even among the uncivilized.' 18 If the ultimate solution of this document is a problem for abnormal psychology, its make up is no great mystery. As the contents of the Book of Mormon can be traced to indigenous sources -- the ideas which Joseph picked up in the Indian country where he lived -- so it is with these characters. The more elaborate resemble the picture writing of the aborigines, such as would interest a boy. 19 It is going too far to hunt for Greek and Hebrew letters, for the tables of foreign alphabets had not yet appeared in current dictionaries. 20 The job is home-made: if Joseph had not taken the matter so seriously, this might be considered an amusing burlesque on a farmer's almanac, for he has only half concealed the signs of the Zodiac and those cabalistic aspects and nodes which may go with the planting of potatoes.

    That which betrays the puerility, and, at the same time, the genuineness of the document, is the curious fact that the youth's own name appears twice in a sort of cryptogram. His neighbors called him 'peep-stone Joe,' his mother said that he was 'given

    18 AIbert Moll, 'Hypnotism,' London, 1901, p. 267.

    19 Imitation of Indian glyphics are also to be seen on various tombstones in Joseph's native state, commemorating the Indian raids of 1754.

    20 Noah Webster's Dictionary of this date has only tables of moneys, weights and measures. Thus the pound sterling sign occurs in the top line of the 'caractors.'


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    to deep meditation and study,' he himself described his 'Interpreters' as crystals, -- all this, taken in connection with his manner of 'translating,' furnish the clue to this original autograph. As his scribe, Martin Harris, affirmed: 'Brother Joseph knew not the contents of the Book of Mormon until it was translated.' 21 As is elsewhere shown, Joseph's condition, under the influence of his 'Urim and Thummim,' was semi-hypnotic. 22 Now it is a commonplace of experiment that while in this state, which is hardly more than reverie, the subject often writes back-handed, or backwards, or even left-handed with the right hand. 23 Now if the transcription be turned over and read through from the back there may be deciphered towards the right end of the third line, below 'Caractors,' first, the letters J O E, backhand and rather indistinct; and, second, the letters

    21 'Times and Seasons,' 6, 992.

    22 The only previous suggestion of this has been put in terms of clairvoyance; it is that 'Joseph gazed upon that Urim and Thummim until his mind became psychologized, and the impressions that he received he dictated to his scribe.' T. B. H. Stenhouse, 'Rocky Mountain Saints,' p 551. This book is the most suggestive of any of the works of apostates. Stenhouse had lived abroad but evidently knew nothing of the continental psychology. Compare his works written before he left the church: La Reflecteur, a Mormon paper, published at Geneva, and, 'Les Mormons et leurs Ennemis,' at Lausanne.

    23 compare Binet and Fere, 'Animal Magnetism,' New York, 1898, figures 13 and 14, p. 298.


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            87

    SOJ, more upright and better formed. 24 In other words, the youth, without knowing it, wrote his nickname entire and half of his given name in reverse.

    That unconscious cerebration played a large part in the evolving of the gold plate scheme is not improbable. The youthful prophet's self-obfustication is likely from an antecedent heritage of credulity. There may not have been continuous faith in his continuous revelations, but there was, throughout his life, a naive confidence in his own learning. As Voltaire said of Habbakuk, he was

    24 Exactly how this scrawl was written is immaterial. The probability that the reversal of the script was due to a general abnormal condition is only increased by the prophet's later explanation, that it was Hebraic in character. This was a clever afterthought, borrowed either from Sidney Rigdon, who owned a Hebrew Lexicon, or from a polyglot Bible which Joseph somehow obtained. Compare 'Times and Seasons,' 5, 614, also Littlefield, 'The Martyrs,' p. 21. In relation to the title of the book, Joseph says, in his history: 'I wish to mention here, that the title page of the "Book of Mormon" is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left-hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or any other man's who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title page of the English version of the "Book of Mormon" which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the original "Book of Mormon," as recorded on the plates --


    An account written by the hand of Mormon, upon Plates, taken from the Plates of Nephi,'


    88                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    capable de tout. In April, 1829, he translated a 'parchment written and hid up by John the beloved disciple.' 25 As soon as the Book of Mormon was on the market, he started on the Visions of Moses; six months later there were revealed the Writings of Moses. 26 In March, 1833, the prophet was told not to translate the Apocrypha, for it was 'mostly translated correctly.' 27 In July, 1834, he

    25 'Book of Commandments,' Chapter VI.

    26 'Pearl of Great Price,' pp. 1-6; 8-49. In these curious biblical paraphrases Joseph seems dimly to reproduce his own abnormal experiences: 'And it came to pass that Moses looked and beheld the world upon which he was created, and as Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created of the same, he greatly marveled and wondered. And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself, now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed; but now mine eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.'

    27 'Revelation given through Joseph, the Seer, at Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio, March 9th, 1833.

    Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha, there are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly;

    There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.

    Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            89

    had completed a 'Revised Translation of the Old and New Testaments;' as he said: 'it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.' 28 In 1842, as editor of the notable third volume of the Times and Seasons, he published a 'Translation of some Ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the Catacombs

    Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit, shall obtain benefit therefrom; And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited,therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen.' 28 'Times and Seasons,' 5, 592. Compare Smith's second Lecture on Faith; 'Doctrine and Covenants,' p. 13: --

    'We next proceed to present the account of the direct revelation which man received after he was cast out of Eden, and further copy from the new translation --

    After Adam had been driven out of the garden, he 'began to till the earth and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, as I the Lord had cormmanded him.' And be called upon the name of the Lord, and so did Eve, his wife, also. 'And they heard the voice of the Lord, from the way towards the garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw Him not, for they were. shut out from His presence; and He gave unto them commandments that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.

    'And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying, "Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?" And Adam said unto him, "I know not; save the Lord commanded me."

    'And then the angel spake, saying, "This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, who is full of grace and truth. And thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son for evermore." And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son.'


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    of Egypt, the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon Papyrus.' 29 Six months before his death the prophet said: 'I combat the error of ages and I solve mathematical problems of universities WITH TRUTH, diamond truth.' 30 On August 20th, 1843, he told a visitor at Nauvoo that, relying on the 'gift of tongues,' he could 'read Greek as fast as a horse can run.' 31 Finally he promulgated his famous refutation of the stateiment, that the word Mormon is borrowed from the Greek word, signifying a bugbear or hobgoblin: --

    I may safely say that the word Mormon stands independent of the learning and wisdom of this generation. Before I give a definition, however, to the word, let me say that the Bible in its widest sense, means 'good,' for the Saviour says, according to the Gospel of St. John, 'I am the good shepherd,' and it will not be beyond the common use of terms to say that good is amongst the most important in use and, though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, Good; the Dane, God; the Goth, Goda; the German, Gut; the Dutch, Goed;
    29 'Pearl of Great Price,' pp. 49-69.

    30 'Times and Seasons,' November 13, 1843.

    31 'Universalist Union,' 9, 376; interview of 'W. S. B.' on AuguSt 20th, 1843.


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    the Latin, Bonus; the Greek, Kalos; the Hebrew, Tob; the Egyptian, Mon; hence with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word Mormon, which means literally, more good.'

    To the followers of the prophet, all this was very wonderful; it satisfied their greed for the unknowable, and was proof of the supernaturalness of his wisdom. To clinch the matter, the apologists for the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, lay stress on the author's early lack of education. One gives him but a limited understanding of the three rudiments; 32 another calls attention to the misspelling of the word 'Caractors.' 33 Where then did he get his esoteric linguistics? To the faithful it is a mystery: the stream rises higher than its sources. It is here that extremes meet, the devout exaggerate their founder's ignorance to heighten the wonder of his writings, the profane to prove that his works were another's. Neither considers the possibilities of his

    32 T. Horton, 'A True History,' Geneva, N. Y., 184-, p. 3. 'He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the ground rules of arithmetic.'

    33 Stevenson, 'Reminiscences,' p. 33. 'It was well known that Joseph was not learned, and claimed to be only a farmer's boy without the opportunities for a scholastic education.... Permit me to offer some striking evidence to show that the prophet was not learned, by the word directly over the lines of characters. "The Seven Lines of Characters" are headed "Caractors."'


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    mentality, -- that along with what he called a 'fearful imagination,' 34 he had an adhesive memory, and that whatever fell in his way stuck fast. It is true that he had little use for books, 35 but he utilized men. The learning of his contemporaries was poor but he made it his own. His absorptive acts were many and various. He was directed by revelation to 'study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.' So the Visions and Writings of Moses came out with the appearance on the scene of Sidney Rigdon the peripatetic prodigy of the Western Reserve. 36 Again Joseph began publicly to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures, some time after 'Messrs. Peixotto and Noah' had been impressed into the 'department of Hebrew in the University of Nauvoo.' 37 But in the biblical tongues he apparently

    34 'Times and Seasons,' 6, 1121.

    35 Smith read at least the following, the 'Book of Martyrs,'Smith's Dictionary of the Bible,' the 'United States Constitution.' He also, later, had access to his partner Rigdon's library, which 'was a very good student's collection, Hebrew, Greek and Latin lexicons and readers, stray volumes of Shakespeare, Scott, Irving's works and a number of other valuable books.' Overland Monthly, December, 1890, letter of Charlotte Haven from Nauvoo, March 26th, 1843.

    36 'Book of Commandments,' Chapter 39. 'A Revelation to Joseph and Sidney,' December, 1830, -- 'It is not expedient that ye should translate any more until ye shall go to the Ohio.'

    37 'Joseph the Seer,' p. 84. Compare also the prospectus in 'Times and Seasons,' Volume 3, where Sidney Rigdon has charge of the 'Department of Belles Lettres.'


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            93

    got no further than this: 'I will make a comment on the very first sentence of the history of creation in the Bible, Berosheit.' Finally before his polyglot audiences 38 he flourished a polyglot Bible, and 'preached a little Latin, a little Hebrew, Greek and German.' 39

    All this the Saints believed came as the result of a revelation to Joseph to study the languages. But Smith's linguistic masterpiece was the Book of Abraham. Joseph announced this to be 'a translation of Some Ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt;' 40 an Egyptologist pronounced it to be an account of the Resurrection of Osiris. 41 But the Frenchman took the Yankee Tartuffe more seriously than he took himself. Josiah Quincy said there was an unmistakable wink in Smith's eye after showing off 'the Egyptian Mummies, and the autograph of Moses.' 42

    38 'Times and Seasons,' 2, 496: In the city of Nauvoo were to be found 'the enterprising Englishman, the hardy Scotchman, the warm hearted son of Erin, the Pennsylvania Dutchman, and the honest Canadian.' For the mixture of races in Mormonism compare also the various translations of the 'Book of Mormon' into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh, etc.

    39 'Times and Seasons,' 5, 614, report of Smith's Conference Sermon, April, 1833.

    40 'Times and Seasons,' 3, 704.

    41 Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley, 'A Journey to Great Salt Lake City,' 2, 536.

    42 'Figures of the Past,' p. 384.


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    It is a relief to find this single gleam of humor in the dreary stretch of seriousness. But that the prophet anticipated Artemus Ward in the show business would hardly be allowed by the Saints. Of the evolution of the Book of Abraham, 43 the official Mormon account is as follows: -- 'July 3d, 1835, Michael H. Chandler came to Kirtland to exhibit four Egyptian mummies and two or more rolls of papyrus, covered with hieroglyphic figures and devices. They were afterwards purchased by some

    43 'Pearl of Great Price,' p. 59, gives 'a facsimile from the "Book of Abraham."' The explanation of the cut shows that even Joseph's imagination could suffer from over straining:

    Fig. 1. Kolob, signifying the first creation, Dearest to the celestial, or residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day, in Kolob, is equal to a thousand years, according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians jah-oh-eh.

    Fig. 5. Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob.

    Fig. 6. Represents the earth in its four quarters.

    Fig. 7. Represents God sitting upon his throne revealing through the heavens, the grand Key-Words of the Priesthood; as also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove.

    Fig. 8. Contains writing that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to he had in the Holy Temple of God.

    Fig. 9. Ought not to be revealed at the present time.


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            95

    of the Saints, and Joseph Smith, junior, translated some of the characters on the rolls. One was found to contain the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph in Egypt.' 44

    To return to the writings of the latter day Joseph in America, and to take up the practical question of the state of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. The printed editions furnish no exact information: they only serve to give a hazy idea of the immense number of successive corrections. The Mormon preaching of continuous revelation is like the Mormon practice of continuous emendation. Comparing a late with the earliest edition, two thousand changes have been counted. 45 But the publishers themselves admit editorial corrections. While the title page of the third edition 46 reads, -- 'Carefully revised by the translator,' the preface of the second edition" is more frank as to the possibility of variations: --

    'Individuals acquainted with book printing, are aware of the numerous typographical errors which always occur in manuscript editions. It is only necessary to say, that the whole has been carefully reexamined and compared with the original manuscripts, by elder Joseph Smith, junior, the translator
    44 'Handbook of Reference,' P. 45.

    45 Lamoni Call, 'Two Thousand Changes in the Book of Mormon,' 1898.

    46 Nauvoo, Illinois, 1840.

    47 Kirtland, Ohio, 1837.


    96                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    of the Book of Mormon, assisted by the present printer, brother O. Cowdery, who formerly wrote the greatest portion of the same, as dictated by brother Smith.' 48

    There is further, definite, first-hand information and from Mormon sources. The typesetter of the first edition said that he supplied all the punctuation, but did not change the spelling of more than one or two words. 49 In fine, from extant testimony, 50 it is hard to show that the changes in the

    48 Compare also 'Times and Seasons,' 6, 800, joint letter of Smith, Rigdon and Williams to W. W. Phelps June 25, 1833: -- 'As soon as we can get time, we will review the manuscripts of the "Book of Mormon."'

    49 George Reynolds, 'The Myth of the Manuscript Found,' pp. 58-9. Interview with John Gilbert, March, 1881: --'I am the party that set the type from the original manuscript for the "Book of Mormon." I would know that manuscript to-day if I should see it. The most of it was in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting. Some in Joseph's wife's; a small part though.... We had a great deal of trouble with it. It was not punctuated at all They did not know anything about punctuation, and we had to do that ourselves... We never changed it in the least. I believe that I did change the spelling of one, and perhaps two (words), but no more.' Compare 'American Bookseller,' 4, 617, quoting an interview in the Detroit Tribune of December 2, 1877, in which J. H. Gilbert the typesetter avers that the 'Book of Mormon,' was written on foolscap in a good clear hand; the handwriting was Oliver Cowdery's; there was not a punctuation mark in the whole manuscript; it took eight months to set up and print.

    50 Pomeroy Tucker of Palmyra, New York, who did the presswork, is reported to have had in his possession the first sheets, with printer's corrections, which he pulled off himself.


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    Book of Mormon are of more than secondary importance.

    To take up the more important question of origins and the vicissitudes of the original document, in the handwriting of Joseph's scribes. Its fate has been compared to that of young McPherson's Ossianic documents, which were never forthcoming. 51 The case is hardly analogous: so late as 1887, David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses, claimed to have in his possession the very original, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery and others. 52 This Cowdery manuscript is now in New York City, having been transmitted to the present possessor, 53 through Whitmer's grandson. 54 That this is close to the original, is to be surmised from the interest taken in it by the Utah Mormons. It is contended that Whitmer did not sell it, fearing interpolation in the pages containing the condemnation

    51 For the Ossianic controversy, compare The Academy, 46, 205; Edmund Gosse, 'History of Eighteenth Century Literature,' pp. 335 337; Macmillan's Magazine, 24, 113; H. A. Beers, 'History of English Romanticism,' pp. 306-338; Shairp, 'Aspects of Poetry,' p. 228.

    52 'Address,' p. 11.

    53 Mr William Evarts Benjamin, through whose courtesy the following data were obtainable.

    54 Mr. George W. Schweich, of Richmond, Missouri, who writes, January 27, 1902, that he still has in his possession the manuscript history of the early Church by John Whitmer. The latter was 'set apart by revelation as historian of the Church,' March 8, 1831. The Saints claim that these records were purloined in 1838.


    98                           THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                          

    of polygamy. 55 There is some ground for believing that Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith considered the manuscript genuine. In view of the Mormon's handling of the alleged Spaulding prototype of the Book of Mormon, their critical opinion is worthless.

    To examine the document in question. There are three bits of external evidence, which imply the existence of a number of first hand copies. The second edition uses the plural, -- 'original manuscripts;' Whitmer himself mentions another partial transcription 56while at the same time, he asserts

    55 Jacob T. Child writes to George W. Schweich, August 28, 1896: --'I was present when Elders Orson Pratt and Smith, from Salt Lake City, called on your grandfather in regard to the manuscript of the "Book of Mormon," and upon it being shown to them Elder Pratt recognized the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery and Mrs. Smith. After some conversation Elder Pratt asked Mr. Whitmer if he would dispose of the manuscript, stating that he would give anything in reason for it, as the archives of the Church were incomplete without it. There was no fixed sum named but your grandfather was afraid that if he parted with it that they might interpolate.' Compare affidavit of Jacob T. Child, April 8th, 1902: 'The authenticity of the manuscript of the "Book of Mormon," owned by David Whitmer and falling to George W. Schweich, his grandson, is exactly as it was placed in the hands of the printer;... (this) can be easily seen from the "takes" and finger-marks.... I also have a copy the Palmyra edition in which David Whitmer asserted that this is a true and correct printed copy of the original manuscript.'

    56 'Address,' p. 32. -- 'In August, 1829, the 'Book of Mormon,' was still in the hands of the printer, but my brother, Christian Whitmer, had copied from the manuscript the teachings and doctrine of Christ, being the things which we were commanded to preach.'


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            99

    that his copy is the original. But the promoters themselves furnish considerable information. The most definite statement is that regarding a commandment, received by Joseph soon after June 11, 1829, when the book was copyrighted. It was to the effect that Oliver Cowdery should transcribe the whole manuscript and that he should take but one copy at a time to the office, so that if one copy should get destroyed, there would still be a copy remaining. 57

    That the original has disappeared, and that the manuscript in hand is the secondary Cowdery copy, remains to be proved. Negatively, the state of the manuscript does not agree with the statements of the author. Joseph employed three scribes in dictating the translation of the Record. These were, in order, his wife, Emma Hale; a schoolmaster, Oliver Cowdery; and a farmer, Christian Whitmer. 58

    57 'Biographical Sketches,' 142-3. An earlier revelation, April, 1829, speaks of 'other records.' See 'Book of Commandments,' Chapter 8.

    58 Chronology, from Mormon sources: --

    Two or three years before September, 1827, the plates were mentioned to Martin Harris: January 18, 1827. Joseph married Emma Hale; she writes for him only a short time. April 5, 1829. Joseph met Oliver Cowdery for the first time. April, 1829. Revelation to Oliver, when employed a scribe for Joseph.


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    Now the three amanuenses would eventuate in three distinct styles of handwriting, but here the script is throughout the characteristic and authenticated hand of Cowdery. More positively the uniform quality of the paper, the continuation of the water marks and like signs 59 go to show that this

    June, 1829. Joseph removed to the residence of the Whitmers.

    June 11, 1829. The 'Book of Mormon' copyrighted.

    The earliest date of composition is given by an anti-Mormon writer. In Scribner's Magazine, August, 1880, p. 613, Thurlow Weed said that, as editor of the Rochester Telegram in 1825, he was approached by Joseph Smith, with the view of publishing the 'Book of Mormon,' and that he already had the first chapter written.

    "There is change in the quality of the ink and the smoothness of the pen, but not in the individualities of letter formation. The continuous crabbed band is that of Oliver Cowdery as authenticated by another document also in the possession of Mr. W. E. Benjamin, viz.: -- License issued to Christian Whitmer 'signifying and proveing that he is a teacher of this Church of Christ. (Signed) Joseph Smith, Jr., first elder; Oliver Cowdery, second elder. (Dated) June 9th, 1830, Fayette, N. Y.'

    More positively this manuscript is unmistakably the work of one person, and not the occasional dictations of several, from the quality of the paper. Its size is uniform, while there appear throughout the same water marks O & H, which validate not only the pages on which they stand, but also the connected folios. From the latter circumstance, the present holder deduced that a quantity must have been obtained at one time, ergo the purchaser must have known the extent of the cpying to be done. Finally the absence of printer's smudge and the lack of proof-reader's marks furnish incidental proof that this was not the copy that went to E. B. Grandin's printing office. Of the other persons concerned in these transactions little is known, except that the printer's devil was 'a


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            101

    manuscript is not the piecemeal original, but the work of one person.

    Leaving these material signs, there remain verbal and literal tests 60 for determining the further question of date, for finding out how early this document really was. From a comparison of several passages with the first three editions of the Book of

    young man by the name of Robinson.' Compare 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 143.

    60 The transmitter calls attention to the erasures or crossed out items, and the minor corrections somewhat different from any of the publications, and thereby seeks to prove that this is the original manuscript. It is true that glosses and interlineations do not impair primary validity, for the original fair copy may be deciphered underneath. Yet if the latter was not vernally changed by the compositor, and yet does not verbally agree with the first edition, it cannot be considered the printer's copy. But to examine the topmost of the two strata. As it stands, the manuscript agrees with neither of the first three editions in spelling, punctuation or capitalizing. Of three passages, selected at random, the verbal agreements are more numerous with the second edition, while there is little resemblance to the first. Nevertheless, the underlying text, without the superimposed corrections bears a striking likeness to the original, notably in such archaisms as the use of which for who, and of saith for said. Thus page 373 has who substituted for which twelve times. Also page 19 contains a phrase that appears only in the first edition: (Fair copy) 'Eternal God & Jesus Christ which is;' (corrected copy) 'Eternal God & Mosiah who is;' (first edition) 'Eternal God, and Jesus Christ which is;' (second edition) 'Eternal God, and the Messiah who is;' (third edition) 'Eternal God, and the Messiah who is.'

    To sum up thus far: the corrected copy is secondary, being mainly revamped after the model of later editions, but the fair copy is a close approach to the earliest printed edition.


    102                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    Mormon, from a close scrutiny of spelling, punctuation, capitalizing and phrasing, it is fair to conclude that this is a complete contemporary copy transcribed from the original. There may be taken in evidence of this the famous anti-polygamy passage reproduced on the opposite page. 61

    But to return to the original proposition,62 these characteristic textual erasures and scribal repetitions lead one to the conclusion that this is the veritable duplicate copy hurriedly transcribed by Oliver Cowdery, between the copyright in June, 1829, and the completion of the printing early in 1830. 63 In final proof of this is the noteworthy circumstance that the author's impossible preface, suppressed after the first edition, is here presented with all its blemishes and blunders. For literary purposes, then, this Cowdery copy is of extreme importance. In all probability, this is a literal transcript of the only part of the Book of Mormon where Joseph Smith set his pen to paper. Cowdery was a district schoolmaster, 64 and his spelling and spacing

    61 From a photographic reproduction of page 97 of the Cowdery copy, in the possession of Mr. W. E. Benjamin.

    61 For an obvious case of repetition compare page 73, containing a quotation from Isaiah 7: 5, 6: (Fair copy) 'because Syria, Ephraim, & the Son of Remaliah; because have taken evil counsel;' (corrected copy) 'because Syria, Ephraim & the Son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel.'

    63 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 143, says: 'Oliver Cowdery commenced the work immediately after Joseph left' -- which was soon after the copyright was secured.

    64 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 128.


    [facing 102]

    (view enlargement of image)


                               THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON                            103

    only occasionally suffer a relapse, but this preface 65 agrees with the prophet's confession of youthful illiteracy. 66

    PREFACE. 67

      As many fals reports have been sirculated respecting this the following work & also many unla | wful measures taken by evil desineing persons to destroy me & also the work I would | inform you that I translated by the gift & power of God & caused to be written one | hundred and sixteen pages the which I took from the Book of Lehi which was an acc | ount abridged from the plates of Lehi by the hand of Mormon which said account |
    65 The words in italics were in the fair copy and have been crossed out in the corrected copy.

    66 'Times and Seasons,' 3, 771.

    67 The printed preface of the first edition avoids all the errors in the above. The episode referred to was the loss of 116 pages of manuscript through Joseph's first scribe, Martin Harris. It is also recounted at greater length, in what was probably the first tedious draft out of Joseph's head. The first fifteenth of it reads as follows: -- 'A Revelation given to Josel)h in Harmony, Pennsylvania, May, 1829, informing him of the alteration of the manuscript of the forepart of the 'Book of Mormon.'

    Behold, they have sought to destroy you; yea, even the man in whom you have trusted.

    And for this cause I said that he is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift,

    And because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold, they have taken them from you:

    Therefore, you have delivered them up; yea, that which was sacred unto wickedness.

    And, behold, Satan has put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.' 'Book of Commandments,' Chapter IX.


    104                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    some person or persons have stolen & kept from me not withstanding my utmost exer | sion to recover it again & being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate | the same over again for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God | by altering the words that they did not read conterary from that which I translated & | caused to be written & if I should bring forth the same words again or in other words if I | should translate the same over again they would publish that which they had stolen & | Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation that they might not receive this work | but behold the Lord said unto me I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish | his evil design in this thing therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi | untill you ye come to that which ye have translated which ye have retained & | behold ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi & thus I will confound those which | have altered my words I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work yea I | will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater then the cunning of the Devil | wherefore to be obediant unto the commandments of God I have through his grace | and mercy accomplished that which he hath commanded me respecting this thing | I would also inform you that the plates of which hath been spoken were was found in | the township of Manchester Ontario County New York.
                                                    THE AUTHOR.





    THE Book of Mormon 1 is about one-third the size of the Bible. It purports to be 'the Sacred History of Ancient America from the Earliest Ages after the Flood to the Beginnings of the Fifth Century of the Christian Era.' 2 The author's aim was to invent a

    1 The quotations are here taken from a copy of the first edition bearing the signature of Brigham Young. For convenience the paging is given as in the third edition, 1891, Salt Lake City, 'with division into chapters and verses, with references, by Orson Pratt, senior.'

    2 O. Pratt, 'Remarkable Visions,' 1841: 'The Lamanites (Indians) originally were a remnant of Joseph, and in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, King of Judah, were led in a miraculous manner from Jerusalem to the eastern borders of the Red Sea, thence for some time along its borders in a nearly southeast 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. The original party included also the Nephites, their leader being a prophet called Nephi; but soon after landing they separated, because the Lamanites, whose leader was a wicked man called Laman, persecuted the others. After the partition the Nephites, who had brought with them the Old Testament down to the time of Jeremiah, engraved on plates of brass, in the Egyptian language, prospered


    108                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    series of fictitious writers, on whom to father all his own compositions. The names of these worthies range from Jarom to Mormon, from Nephi to Zeniff. Their works have been thus summarized by the prophet himself: 3

    'We are informed by these records, that America, in ancient times, has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The 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 remnant are the Indians, who now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Saviour
    and built large cities. But the bold, bad Lamanites, originally white, became dark and dirty, though still retaining a national existence. They became wild, savage, and ferocious, seeking by every means the destruction of the prosperous Nephites, against whom they many times arrayed their hosts in battle; but were repulsed and driven back to their own territories, generally with great loss to both sides. The slain, frequently amounting to tens of thousands, were piled together in great heaps and overspread with a thin covering of earth, which will satisfactorily account for those ancient mounds filled with human bones, so numerous at the present day, both in North and South America.'

    3 Rupp, p. 406.


                                  THE  SOURCES                               109

    made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the gospel here in all its fulness and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessing, as was enjoyed on the Eastern continent; that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions; that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, etc., and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible, for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.' 4
    In the second and subsequent editions it is stated that the book was translated by Joseph Smith, junior,

    4 Compare American Law Review, 34, 219--221, 'The Law of the Book of Mormon.' 'There are five periods: (1) a kingdom, (2) a republic under judges, (3) anarchy, (4) Messianic dispensation, (5) second anarchy.

    It bears traces of the hand of a citizen of the United States. There was no privileged class. Slavery was unknown. The king or judge had no council or parliament. Salaried judges were elected for life or during good behavior, the election being probably viva voce by acclamation. They had to take an oath of office, and to judge according to the Mosaic decalogue, which was adopted en bloc. No jury was used. A writ of false judgment lay to a kind of Court of Delegates. ... The people had a right of petition. Death was inflicted only for murder and treason. A debtor was arrested and taken before a judge. The law of contract and succession was quite undeveloped. Three witnesses were generally required. ... Sorcery, witchcraft, and magic were among the crimes rife in the land.'


    110                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    but on the title page of the first edition is an important variation, -- Joseph Smith was not the translator but the author: --

    'The Book of Mormon: an account written by The Hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi. Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophecy and of Revelation. Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof; sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift of God. An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether. Also, which is a Record of the people of Jared; which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven; which is to shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations. And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ. By Joseph Smith, junior, Author and Proprietor, Palmyra. (Printed by E. B. Grandin, for the author, 1830.)'


                                    THE  SOURCES                                 111

    This inadvertent admission of authorship is invaluable. Being reiterated and gratuitous, it points to the authenticity of the book; hence an analysis of its contents will serve as an analysis of the prophet's mind, an intimate means of judging his early mental ability. Yet a mere repetition of the story 5 is not so illuminating as a study of the sources. How did the young writer come by these curious notions about Old Testament history, the lost ten tribes, ancient America and the like? The elements of the environment provide a satisfactory answer, -- Joseph's life in the backwoods, the books he read, the education he received, the sermons he heard, -- these, and all the rest of his experiences, furnished the matter for this 'account of the aborigines of America.' Thus the dedication to the Lamanites or Indians may be laid to the author's situation in the heart of the Iroquois country, just when Fenimore Cooper was evolving his Leather-Stocking Tales. 6 The manner of writing likewise reflected the times, -- it took the easy form of scriptural paraphrase much like the current parody of the Boston Tea Party entitled The First Book of the American Chronicle. 7

    5 For contents of the 'Book of Mormon,' see Appendix I.

    6 The Spy appeared in 1822; The Pioneer in 1823; The Last of the Mohicans in 1826.

    7 Moses Colt Tyler, 'The Literary History of the American Revolution,' New York, 1897, I. 257. Compare also a Mormon parody


    112                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    But to take up in order the links between the volume and the surroundings. The atmosphere being oversaturated with religion, its borrowings were necessarily biblical. Most obvious are lengthy excerpts from the King James' version: than which the sense is materially better and clearer, in the texts from the Book of Mormon,' says the apologist. Yet the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are given in their entirety, and eleven chapters of Isaiah are taken by Nephi from the brass plates; 8 while the whole work is a mosaic of Old Testament allusions and New Testament proof-texts. 9 In addition to these verbal quotations, there are elaborate adaptations: -- a long imitation of the chapter in Hebrews on faith, new variations in the woes against the Pharisees, and twenty-six pages of the suppositious sayings and doings of the Lord in his advent to America. 10 There are finally numerous transformations of canonical matter; for example, the parable of the dying olive-tree is grafted on the metaphor of the

    of Psalm iii. 'To the Chief Musician, Maschil, a Psalm for Joseph when Boggs the Edomite came and told Carlin, and said unto him, Joseph is come to the city of Nauvoo.' 'Times and Seasons,' 2 464.

    8 'Book of Mormon,' footnote, p. 87.

    9 Hyde, p. 233, counts 298 New Testament quotations in 426 pages of the first edition.

    10 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 119, 597-9. It should be noted that interpolations and variations are acknowledged by the Mormons, e. g., 'this sentence not in the present versions of the Bible,'


                                    THE  SOURCES                                 113

    wild olive-tree and the whole, with its ramifications, spreads over nine pages. These quotations, variations and expansions are a considerable block to be subtracted from the original mass. 11

    The method of manufacture is further revealed by the discovery that, in many parts, the Book of Mormon is nothing but a thinly veiled autobiography. As The Pilgrim's Progress contained hints of Bunyan's life, 12 so in this unwitting allegory the thread of fact frequently comes to the surface. How completely this line of actuality runs through the book will be seen only at the conclusion of the analysis. Yet the opening verse furnishes the clue: the name of the prophet is Nephi, but the acts are the acts of Joseph: -- 'I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my fathers; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days -- nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

    11 Kidder, p. 291, estimates one-eighteenth of the whole to be borrowed from the Bible, viz.: Isa. 2, 14, 18, 19, 21, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 54; Mal. 3; Matt. 5, 6, 7; I Cor. 13.

    12 Compare edition of 1871, p. 186: -- 'Now Reader, I have told my Dream to thee; see if thou canst interpret it to me. ... Put by the Curtains, look within my Vail; turn up my Metaphors,' etc.


    114                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    An assurance that Nephi is Joseph, junior, is found in the coincidence that the dream of his father Lehi, is none other than the dream of Joseph, senior. The account in the Book of Mormon is inflated with scriptural phrases, but the ideas -- with but trifling exceptions -- are the same throughout. 13

    13 {'Book of Mormon,' pp. 15, 16. The dream of Lehi.}

    'Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.... For, behold, me thought I saw a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him, and after I had followed him, I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. And after that I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord, that He would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of His tender mercies. And it came to pass that after I had prayed unto the Lord, I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable, to make one

    ('Biographical Sketches.' pp. 58, 59. Joseph Smith, senior's vision of 1811.)

    'I thought," said he, "I was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus travelling, the thought suddenly came into my mind that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing, before I went any further. So I asked myself, "What motive can I have in travelling here, and what place can this be?" My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, "This is the desolate world; but travel on." The road was so broad and barren, that I wondered why I should travel in it; for, said I to myself, "Broad is the road, and wide is the gate that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to everlasting life, and few there be that go in thereat." Traveling a short distance


                                    THE  SOURCES                                 115

    This quotation implies and reverts to ancestry; even more does it disclose environment. Its poverty of style at once evinces the scanty education within

    happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth, and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever had before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof, it filled my soul with exceeding great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit. And as I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also, [I] beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit. And I looked to behold from whence it came; and I saw the head thereof, a little way off; and at the head thereof, I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi; and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go. And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them, with a loud voice, that they should come

    further, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had travelled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the termination; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope, running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me, was a low, but very pleasant, valley, in which stood a tree, such as I, had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible, whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so, the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near, and began to eat of


    116                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    reach of the boy. With the disappearance of the original manuscripts there is no way of judging the sum total of grammatical errors: their quality may

    unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit. And it came to pass that they did come unto me, and partake of the fruit also. And it came to pass that I was desirous that Laman and Lemuel should come and partake of the fruit also; wherefore, I cast mine eyes towards the head of the river, that perhaps I might see them. And it came to pass that I saw them, but they would not come unto me. And I beheld a rod of iron; and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. And I also beheld a straight and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world; and I saw numberless concourses of people; many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path

    it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, "I cannot eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me." Accordingly, I went and brought my family, which consisted of a wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed. While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were all filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded. I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God,


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    yet be inferred from the rhetorical quality of the present editions.

    which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceeding great mist of darkness, insomuch that they which had commenced in the path, did lose their way, that they wandered off, and were lost. And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward; and they came forth, and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. And after that they had partaken of the fruit of the tree, they did cast their eyes about as it they were ashamed. And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth; and it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceeding fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those which had come at, and were partaking of the fruit.'

    shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. "No," he replied, "look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also." Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we eat, the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down upon our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfulls. After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, "It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God, because of their humility." I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy.'


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    Barbarisms and solecisms abound, due to what Smith called his 'lack of fluency according to the literati.' Over and above these are unique expressions, which well deserve the name of 'Smithisms.' Thus: -- 'Nephi did molten ore out of the rock, that he might engraven upon them the record of the more history part.' The author's meagre schooling is not indicated so much by these verbal peculiarities, as by the lack of ideas derived from primary education. There are some references to geography and history, but the former is made so indefinite and the latter so obscure, that much elucidation is called for. Lest the profane read with one eye shut, the Saints have provided annotations. Take for example Nephi's vision of the future, and Moroni's prayer for the land: --

    'And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters (the Atlantic Ocean); and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren. And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles (Columbus), which was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth among the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, which were in the promised land. And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles (the Pilgrim fathers); and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles,


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    upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren (the Indians); and they were scattered before the Gentiles, and they were smitten. And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles; that they did prosper, and obtain the land of their inheritance. ... And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles which had gone forth out of captivity, did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them; and I beheld that their mother Gentiles (the British) was gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them. And I beheld that the power of God was with them; and also, that the wrath of God was upon them, that were gathered together against them to battle. And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles which had gone out of captivity (the United States), were delivered by the power of God, out of the hands of all other nations. ...

    And the prophet Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land, might be favored. And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he gave all the land both on the north and on the south, a chosen land, and the land of liberty. Nevertheless they were not fighting for monarchy nor power, but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties; yea, for their rites of worship, and their church. Therefore, for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites (Indians), to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion. And thus it did come to pass that the people of Nephi began to multiply and spread, even until they did cover the whole face of the land, from the sea west to the


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    sea east. And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward (North America); yea even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward (South America).' 14

    All this was written by a youth who was not much 'inclined to the study of books.' But if the sphere of knowledge was small, -- by a sort of imaginative aeration, it swelled to a large bulk. Joseph's wits were early at work; three years before the gold plates were delivered, his mother said, 'During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this country, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.' 15

    The boy's inventions naturally reappeared in his book. As those that 'went forth out of captivity' were the Pilgrim fathers seen through a haze of tradition, so the Lamanites were the Indians of yesterday, with an air of mysterious antiquity thrown about them. The novelist in an adjoining

    14 Compiled from 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 26-29, 370, 371, 363, 460, 552.

    15 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 85.


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    county succeeded in idealizing the last of the Mohicans. The inexperienced youngster failed to make him anything but the ignoble red man. Here is the composite portrait: -- In appearance, the Lamanites were a dark, loathsome, filthy and idle people, they wore a girdle about their loins, their heads were shaven, they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads.' As to their habits, 'they dwelt in tents; seeking in the wilderness for beasts of prey; at night they did rend the air with their cries and howlings and their mournings for the loss of the slain.' In war they carried the bow, the cimiter and the axe, they smote off the scalp of their enemies; they took many prisoners and tortured them.' 16

    And these were 'the seed of Abraham, remnants of the house of Israel.' The Book of Mormon is indeed the record of a fallen people'; the degeneration is so complete that, when, in the parable, this branch of the wild olive-tree is said to be 'of no worth,' the commentator hastens to refer this to the present condition of the Indians. 17 But the annotation does not agree with the text; these same Lamanites were those who left behind 'bones as heaps, and works of timbers upon the top of the

    16 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 25, 151, 240, 302, 366, 607. Compare 'Times and Seasons,' 2, 474, Poem on the Red Man.

    17 'Book of Mormon,' p, 142.


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    ridges of earth, or in other words, the ancient mounds of North America.' 18

    The Mormons were hard pressed to explain why the Indians had lost their theological traditions, 19 so they laid great stress on their material remains. Yet here is manifest if at all, the influence of Joseph's surroundings. He lived in a country full of mysterious aboriginal monuments. 20 Along the shores of Lake Ontario there was a series of ancient earthworks, entrenched hills and occasional mounds or tumuli. These works spread over the lands of the Holland Land Company, 21 where Joseph, senior, had taken up his claim. At Canandaigua, only nine miles away, there was an embankment on a hill, where human bones and relics were found. At Livonia, 22 in adjacent Livingstone County, there was an artificial embankment and ditch inclosing an area of sixteen acres. The other way, in Seneca County,

    18 'Book of Mormon,' p. 595, and footnote, 383.

    19 'Times and Seasons,' 2, 473.

    20 The following facts, unless otherwise specified, are taken from E. G. Squier, 'The Aboriginal Monuments of New York State: 1851, being Vol. II of the 'Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge.'

    21 H. O'Reilly, 'Sketches of Rochester,' 1838, P. 377.

    22 Canandaigua and Livonia are mentioned in 'Biographical Sketches,' pp. 96 and 135. The distances in Joseph's time can only be approximated as the roads were few. The principal remains here mentioned can nowadays be reached from Manchester in a day's tramp.


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    there were ancient caches full of art relics and fragments of pottery. But there were more notable remains nearer home; if not within walking distance, at least within the circle of rumor. Just east of Geneva was a so-called Indian Castle; here stumps of the palisades were struck by the plough, when the land was first cultivated, and the holes formed by the decay of the pickets were still visible in 1847. Finally, in the vicinity of Manchester, enough hatchets and spear heads were dug up to supply the local blacksmiths with iron. Now popular opinion regarded the origin of these remains as buried in antiquity. Governor De Witt Clinton, in his pamphlet of 1811 23 dubbed these mound-builders 'the Romans of the Western WorId.' Examining the three works near Canandaigua and counting the rings in the trees growing upon them, he estimated that they were one thousand years old; hence not the work of present Indians, nor of European explorers. Other writers held views more positive, if less probable these were the remains of Phoenician and Scandanavian colonists, -- of the apocryphal Madoc with his ten ships.

    But the theory of Hebraic origin was the favorite. It began with the very discovery of America, continued through Puritan times and was rife in these

    23 De Witt Clinton, 'Discourse,' published in 1811, not 1818 as O'Reilly states.


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    parts when Joseph was growing up. There is an abundant literature on the subject. The early Spanish priests identified the native Americans with the lost ten tribes of Israel; in 1650 a Jewish Rabbi advocated it; 24 the same year appeared Thorowgood's 'Jews in America, or Probabilities that the Americans are of that Race;' two years after, John Eliot, apostle to the Indians, wrote an essay to the same effect. Since the conversion of the aborigines was one of the aims in settling New England and was enjoined also in the charters of other colonies, 25 both New England divines and founders of states welcomed these speculations. The line of belief persisted through Mayhew Mather, Roger Williams, William Penn, Jonathan Edwards down to Elias Boudinot's work in 1816, entitled A star in the West, or an attempt to discover the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. 26

    Interest in these theories was wide; as was said by Ethan Smith in his 'View of the Hebrews or the Tribes of Israel in America,' 27 -- the importance of the question 'Where are the ten tribes

    24 'Jewish Encyclopedia,' 1900, I, 495. Manasseh ben Israel in his 'Hope of Israel,' considered that the Dispersion was thereby complete.

    25 Ethan Smith, 'View of the Hebrews,' 1825, p. 248, note.

    26 Justin Windsor, 'Narrative and Critical History of America,' 1889, I. 115, 116.

    27 Ethan Smith, Preface, p. i.


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    of Israel,' brought about a speedy sale of the first edition. This work was published in Poultney, Vermont, next to Windsor County, where Joseph's parents once lived, and by 1825 had circulated to westernmost New York. A letter to the author, from a clerical reader in Erie County, mentions a general religious revival which had taken place among the Senecas seven years before. Dissatisfied with their old rites they had brought together their wise men, who say they are persuaded they are the people of God, but have lost their way. Hence, this observer concludes, these Indians are the outcasts of Israel, for they have a manifest shadow of the Mosaic rituals, -- the feasts of first-fruits, and of ingathering; a day of atonement, and peace offerings. 28 The author's cumulative proof, derived from the accounts of travelers, is this: 29 the Indians must be the lost tribes of Israel because they have one origin; their language appears Hebrew; 30 they have acknowledged one and only one God; they are in tribes; they have

    28 Ethan Smith, p. vi, Extract from letter to the author from J. B. Hyde. On the other hand, the Indians sometimes resented the propaganda. Compare the 'Speech of Red Jacket against the Foundation of a Mission among the Senecas in 1805,' in Stedman and Hutchinson, 'A History of American Literature,' 1890, 4. 36.

    29 Ethan Smith, p. 85.

    30 H. H. Bancroft, ' Works,' 5, 89, quotes Meyer's statement 'The name Iowa is derived from Jehova.'


    126                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    cities of refuge; they have sacrifices and anointings, high-priests, festivals, feasts and purifications. The compiler also quotes with approval Adair's twenty-three reasons for the Indians being Jews. 31

    As has been already noted, a volume containing these arguments was in the possession of one young Mormon from New York. But if there was any book, akin to Joseph's fancy, it was one published in Albany about this time, 32 namely, -- Priest's American Antiquities. An Exhibition of the Evidence that an ancient population peopled America many centuries before its Discovery, and Inquiries into their Origin. The wording of this title should be compared with a portion of the Prophet's first vision; he says:

    I was informed also concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and
    31 ARGUMENT. I, Their division into tribes; 2. Worship of Jehovah; 3. Notions of a theocracy; 4. Belief in the ministrations of angels; 5. Language and dialects; 6. Manners of counting time; 7. Prophets and high priests; 8. Festivals, fasts and religious rites; 9. Daily sacrifices; 10. Ablutions and anointing; 11. Laws of uncleanness; 12. Abstinence from unclean things; 13, Marriages, divorces and punishments of adultery; 14. Several punishments; 15. Cities of refuge; 16. Purifications and ceremonies preparatory to war; 17. Ornaments; 18. Manner of curing the sick; 19. Burial of the dead; 20. Mourning for their dead; 21. Raising seed to a deceased brother; 22. Choice of names adapted to their circumstances and the times; 23. Own traditions.

    32 The first edition appeared in 1833; two others followed in that year.


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    I was informed also concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; -- a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me.'

    Moreover the contents of this book resembles that of the plates of Nephi. The chapter on the course of the lost ten tribes is suggestive of the wanderings of the Nephites. In 1841 the prophet, reviewing a volume of Mormon evidences, noted four parallel passages drawn between Priest's work and the Book of Mormon. 33 The fact that the Mormon book was subsequently called in by Brigham Young, would excite a suspicion of Joseph's original plagiarism from Priest's American Antiquities, except that the latter appeared in 1833. However Smith frequently printed in his newspaper curious notices of the current works on American archaeology, and pointed with triumph to various 'ancient records,' as they were dug up from time to time. 34

    33 'Times and Seasons,' 3, 640; Priest, pp. 97, 160, 165, 169; 'Book of Mormon,' (second edition) pp. 378, 382, 383, 479. Smith borrows these parallels from Charles Thompson's 'Evidences in proof of the "Book of Mormon," being a divinely inspired record, written by the forefathers of the natives whom we call Indians, (who are a remnant of the tribe of Joseph,' etc.), Batavia, N. Y. 1841.

    34 Smith's interest in Americana is universal; in Volume IV of the 'Times and Seasons,' he notices (p. 181) the six brass plates discovered at Kinderhook as giving authenticity to the 'Book of


    128                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    Whether or not the boy in the log cabin had a chance to read Priest's volume or any of the series, these judaizing theories were in the air, and were especially prevalent among the clergy. 35 Hence the source of Joseph's antiquarian fancies need not have been literary; what he heard from the pulpit was enough to set his fancy at work. In this western district the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians was active, 36 and a certain missionary to these lost branches was, at one time, in charge of the Presbyterian Church in Palmyra. 37

    Tradition also fired the young boy's brain. His Uncle Stephen had launched forth on the frontiers at Detroit as an Indian trader. 38 Moreover three of the

    Mormon'; (p. 201) he issues the 'Prospectus of the Nauvoo Museum, for ancient records, manuscripts, paintings and hieroglyphics'; (p. 346) he notes that Stephen's 'Incidents of Travels in Central America' has in two years gone through twelve editions. For the persistent Mormon interest in antiquities compare 'Times and Seasons,' 2. 440; 5, 755 and S. T. Walker, 'Ruins Revisited,' and also 'Archaeological Committee Report,' for later search for evidences in support of the 'Book of Mormon.'

    35 Compare the layman James Buchanan, 'Sketches, etc., of the North American Indians,' New York, 1824, 2, 7: -- 'Affinities were discovered which existed nowhere but in the fancy of the inventor.' Compare also L' Estrange, 'Americans no Jewes.'

    36 See 'Signs of the Times,' 1810.

    37 Hotchkin. In 1817 the pastor was D. S. Butrick, 'for many years a faithful missionary among the Cherokee Indians.'

    38 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 31. Parley P. Pratt in 'The Voice of Warning,' 1854, Chapter iv, 'Origin of the American Indians,' quotes both Priest and Boudinot.


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    Green Mountain villages, in which his family once sojourned, had been destroyed by the savages not a generation before his birth; 39 in New York the Cherry Valley massacre was still remembered, 40 and in 1805 an itinerant Methodist said that 'the shining tomahawk and the glittering scalping-knife were within sight.' 41 These things lay back of the portrayal of the Lamanites as 'wicked, wild and ferocious, -- a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites and robbing and plundering them.' 42 Besides local hearsay, the youth had his own eyes to give him information; around him lay the reservations of the Six Nations containing, at this time, between three and four thousand warriors. 43 Naturally it was his own knowledge of the Iroquois that he transferred to the ancient inhabitants.

    Finally one of his occupations provided him with an excuse for mystification. He confesses, with some reluctance, that he was hired as a money digger. 44 Since Indian mounds were the favorite

    39 Vermont Gazeteer, pp. 977, 1116, Tunbridge, Randolph and Royalton were sacked and burned by the Indians in 1780 on their return to Canada.

    40 DeWitt Clinton, p. 377.

    41 H. Stevens, 'History of American Methodism,' p. 451.

    42 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 284, 435.

    43 'United States Report of Commissioner of Indian Affairs,' 1853, p. 15. In 1846 there were 3,843 Iroquois in New York state.

    44 'Pearl of Great Price,' p. 100; 'Hence arose the very prevalent story of my being a money digger.' This refers to the operations


    130                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    haunts of money diggers, 45 this search for hidden treasure furnishes the clue to Joseph's passion for the antique. He mixed up what he knew about living Indians, with what he could gather about the dead ones, and the amalgam was the angel Moroni's 'brief sketch concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country.' The mixture of the two elements, present and past, is shown by the popular errors embedded in the narrative. The great number of skeletons in the burial mounds were not due to terrible massacres, 46 but to the Indian custom of collecting the bones of their dead at stated times. 47 So with the Indian 'forts' or 'castles,' described as the 'high places of Israel.' 48 In 1615 Champlain cited those palisaded works. 49 They were not prehistoric, but were taught to the natives by nameless adventurers from Europe. So the Iroquois body-coverings of thick hide, such as the Nephites wore, were an imitation of European armor. 50 And the

    of 1825. Joseph's father-in-law, Josiah Stoal, of Susquehanna County, Pa., hired Joseph to hunt for a lost Spanish silver mine with his seer stone or crystal. Compare Appendix III and 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 92.

    45 Squier, p. 41.

    46 'Book of Mormon,' p. 560. Such as when the slain between Nephites and Lamanites amounts to 230,000.

    47 Squier, p. 68.

    48 Ethan Smith, p, 201.

    49 Champlain, 'Oeuvres,' Quebec, 1870, 5, 261, - Facon de guerroyer des Sauvages.'

    50 F. S. Dellenbaugh, 'The North American Indians of Yesterday,' 1901, p. 260.


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    numerous hatchets and arrow-heads in Joseph's fabulous Zarahemla, were to be found on the sites of Kenandaga and Seneca villages of the seventeenth century. 51 The explanation of scientific investigators being unknown at that time, there was nothing to prevent the throwing of an air of primitive mystery around more or less historic facts. So in Joseph's lucubrations the mounds which the Indians regarded with great reverence, and of which they had lost the tradition, 52 were built by Moroni as defenses of his people against the Lamanites; while the caches of arms were due to the penitent Lamanites burying their weapons rather than commit sin. 53

    In the mental habits attributed to his aborigines the author's inventive powers fail, and he unwittingly falls back on current thought. The religious ideas of the Lamanites were not archaic and pagan, but only what Joseph's contemporaries erroneously attributed to the natives. He said the Lamanites believed in a great spirit; 54 a writer of the same decade cites, among the manners and customs of the various Indian tribes, -- their belief in a great

    51 Squier, p. 9.

    52 D. G. Brinton claimed that tradition among the Indians is untrustworthy after three generations. Lectures at Yale University, 1898.

    53 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 383, 308.

    54 'Book of Mormon,' p. 287.


    132                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    spirit. 55 The modern critic says that the primitive red man had no idea of a great spirit, and that the observations of early writers were made upon savages who had been for generations in contact with the doctrines of Christianity. 56 This interpretation of the religious opinions of the Indians, after preconceived ideas of the times, offers another point of contact between the Book of Mormon and the author's surroundings. Like the Senecas, thirty miles away, who had lately performed the sacrifice of the white dog, 57 Joseph's Lamanites 'did worship idols.' And yet, at the same time, they held the various beliefs of local Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists.

    Strange as it may seem, the earliest tribes were Old School Presbyterians. If the speech of Nephi, to his brethren, be compared with the Westminster Standards, a close parallelism will be disclosed. 58

    55 J. D. Hunter, 'Manners and Customs of the Various Indian Tribes,' 1823, p.

    56 F. Parkman, 'The Jesuits in North America,' 1896, p. lxxiv.

    57 O'Reilley, p. 276. This had happened at Rochester within ten years
    58 (Book of Mormon,' p. 15.
    Nephi interprets the dream ofthe tree and river:) 'Doth this mean the final state of the soul after the death of the body?... It was a representation of that awful hell, prepared for the wicked, and the devil is the preparator of it. And the justice
    ('Confession of Faith,' chapters 32 and 33, -- 'Of the state of Man after Death'; 'Of the Last Judgment':) 'After death the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments, reserved to the judgment of the great day. In which day all persons shall


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    In all this the author's borrowings were the easiest possible. Even if the rest of the family did not remain good Presbyterians, 59 the Westminster Confession was to be had in other ways; it appeared, for instance, in the frequent reprints of the New England Primer, so that as children thumbed its quaint pages, they sucked in Calvinism. 60 But if the young prophet had once learned what 'man's chief end' was, he did not continue to believe that 'In Adam's Fall we sinned all'; early in his book he began to drift towards Universalism, saying that

    of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous forever and ever. It was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works. Wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, and, if their works be filthy, they cannot dwell in Kingdom of God. Wherefore, the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the Kingdom of God, or to be east out because of that justice of which I have spoken.' appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil. The end of God's appointing this day is for the manifestation of His justice. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, but the the wicked shall be cast into eternal torments.'

    59 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 74.

    60 'The Assembly of Divines' Catechism' was to be found in the current reprints of the New England Primer. Compare edition of 1806.


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    'the way is prepared from the fall of man,' and that 'salvation is free for all.' 61

    This marked transition in habits of thought is to be gathered from the elements of the reaction. The Book of Mormon is said to present orthodox Trinitarianism; the reverse is the truth: it is a hedge-podge of heterodoxy. How the author came by the variant doctrines is a pertinent question, for it shows his absolute dependence on his own times. Absurd attempts have been made to trace to the old world,

    61 By comparing the speech of Lehi with the 'Confession,' chapters 3 and 17, there are presented some of the agreements and disagreements of the 'Book of Mormon' with the five points of Calvinism: -- Absolute predestination is implied in the phrase -- 'God's eternal purposes,' but negatived in the explanation, -- 'God to bring about His eternal purposes in the end of man, gave unto man that he should act for himself.' Total Depravity is set forth in the sentence -- 'God shewed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents'; but this statement is limited by another, namely that -- 'men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.' Of the remaining three points, none are here upheld: there is nothing about Irresistible Grace and its correlate, the Perseverance of the Saints, -- 'that God from His absolute sovereignty bringeth whom He will unto salvation, and that the elect can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace.' Both these articles are contradicted by one Mormon sentence; 'men are free forever to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.' So is it with the fifth point -- of Particular Redemption, 'the appointment of the elect unto glory, and of the rest of mankind unto dishonor and wrath.' In contrast with this, there is a notable drift towards Universalism, -- 'the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free; because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God.'


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    the peculiar tenets of the American sectary. 62 It is true that towards the five points of Calvinism, he had an Arminian attitude, but Joseph Smith knew as little about Arminius as Arminius did about Joseph Smith. It was from the voice of the wilderness preacher that he obtained notions at variance with Presbyterian dogma. A document of the times gives a lively idea of local theologic Donnybrook fairs. In the Western Memorial of 1834, the Presbytery of Geneva was charged by the General Assembly with 'sixteen gross errors in doctrine.' 63 In answer, it was said that these errors were advanced and strenuously propagated in Western New York, but not by Presbyterians. One apologist adds, 64 in defense, that the local churches, in good standing, still believed in original sin, infant damnation,

    62 For the attempt of a German writer to resolve Mormonism into a conscious syncretism of Gnosticism, Mohammedanism, etc., see M. Busch, 'Die Mormonen, Ihr Prophet, Ihr Staat und Ihr Glaube,' Leipsic, 1855, s. 158 seq. Contrast 'Times and Seasons,' 2, 305, 'There is error in comparing the "Book of Mormon" to the "Koran" of Mahomet. Mahmet had not the advantage of the Urim and Thummim, by which the ancients were constituted seers.' It was after Smith's death that it was said, 'Nauvoo and Carthage will become the Mecca and Medina of the Mormon Prophet.' 'Times and Seasons,' 5, 621.

    63 'Digest of the Acts and Deliverances,' 181, p. 483. The General Assembly of 1837 adjudge that the four synods of Genesee, Geneva, Utica and Western Reserve were 'out of connection with the Presbyterian Church.'

    64 Hotchkin, p. 234.


    136                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    and man's inability to obey the commands of God, Another writer 65 goes deeper, and gives reasons for the undermining of High Calvinism. At this time, he observes, there was a suspicion that Western New York was altogether unsound; in the conflict between the old doctrines and the new metaphysics, dangerous errors came through the candidates sent out as home missionaries, 66 with the consequence that there was an alarming looseness among young preachers.

    Now all this had no small bearing on the mentality of the founder of Mormonism. The prophet of the backwoods was at an infinite remove from a thinker like Channing in his Moral Argument against Calvinism. 67 Yet the freer thought of the East had already reached these parts. It was to the 'New England influence' that the Presbyterians hereabouts charged these 'dangerous errors.' 68 Considering the number of itinerants from the various

    65 H. Gillet, 'History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America,' 1864, 2, 452.

    66 By the Berkshire, Hampshire, Connecticut and other societies. For complete list see J. H. Dill, 'Congregationalism in Western New York; Its Rise, Decline and Revival,' 1858, p. 10.

    67 John Nichol, 'American Literature,' 1882, P. 132 ff.: -- 'New England Rationalism.'

    68 Gillett, 2, 452, cites the various overtures and deliverances. Drs. Taylor and Dwight were counted as 'dangerous' but Dr. Samuel Hopkins was held chiefly responsible for the fact that 'within the bounds of the Presbyterian Church there were many, who supported, either wholly or in part, Hopkintonian Sentiments.'


                                    THE  SOURCES                                 137

    home missionary societies at work in the Genesee country, it was not surprising that these new views ultimately found a devious way into the Book of Mormon. The steps between source and destination may be traced with some assurance, 69 -- with New England as the fountain head of heresy,' and the Geneva presbytery as the channel, a few trickles of rationalism were bound to seep into Joseph's skull. 70

    69 For the 'partial disintegration of Calvinism in communities where it has long been established,' compare George P. Fisher, 'History of Christian Doctrine,' 1896, p. 549. See also A. H. Strong, 'Systematic Theology,' 1893, Table of Old School and New School Views; compare also Lewis Cheesman, 'Differences between Old and New School Presbyterians,' 1848, p. 5: 'heresies privily brought in have corrupted a large part of the Presbyterian communion and are still artfully concealed under various disguises.' That Hopkins was the representative intermediary is evident from the list of his ninety-eight subscribers in New York State, as printed in his 'System of Doctrines,' 1793. Compare Nathan Bangs, 'Errors of Hopkinsianism,' New York, 1815; also, E. S. Ely, 'A contrast between Calvinism and Hopkinsianism,' New York, 1811. From the latter it may be seen how Hopkins' views came to be verbally cited, among the 'sixteen gross errors,' of the Western Memorial.

    70 By comparing the 'Book of Mormon,' beginning with II Nephi, with the following table, it can be seen how Smith came to modify the Five Points into a Predestination not absolute, a Depravity not total, a Grace not irresistible and so on.
    1, 341. 'Man has natural ability to perform every act which God requires of him. 1, 261. Men are sinners from
    S 9. 1 Man is in full possession of all the ability necessary to a full compliance with all the commands of God.


    138                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    birth through a divine constitution, but are capable of discerning the right and wrong.

    1, 211, 235. Men will begin their existence as sinners but their sin is their own and a free act.'
    S 6. The posterity of Adam will always begin to sin, when they begin to exercise moral agency, but that original sin does not include a sinful bias.

    SS 6 and 14. Men will always begin to sin when they begin to exercise moral agency but without impairing the same.'


    [ 141 ]



    IN following up the sources of the Book of Mormon, there is given a reconnaissance map of the author's mind. From the way he took in both current archaeology and its errors, and Calvinism and its contradictions, it is evident that, while his mental horizon was widening, his receptivity was greater than his reasoning, his imagination stronger than his discrimination. Furthermore, a volume that took at least two years to excogitate, plus nearly two years to write, should manifest some logical development. Such is not the fact: in I Nephi the writer swallowed Calvinism in a lump, in II Nephi he mixed with it some liberalism, but there the leavening process stopped. In the midst of seeming consistency there appear undigested fragments. One such is the speculation regarding the usefulness of evil. The prophet falls foul of the problem of sin and this is his solution: --

    'It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass; neither


    142                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    wickedness; neither holiness nor misery; neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body, it must needs remain as dead, having no life, neither death nor corruption, nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of nought; wherefore, there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God, and His eternal purposes; and also, the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God. And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. And if ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness, there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not, there is no God. And if there is no God, we are not, neither the earth: for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.' 1

    This is a fair sample of Joseph's early reasoning powers, yet what he lacked in logic he made up in feeling. Of impulsive nature, taking up thoughts as he found them in the air, he was forced at last into an emotional revolt against Calvinism. These were the days of total depravity, when the preacher affirmed that 'Adam's sin, being made ours by imputation, has exposed innumerable infants to Divine

    1 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 62, 63. Speech of Nephi.


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    wrath. 2 There was of course a public reaction against such teachings, 3 shown in the increase of more humane sentiments. 4 But since these moving forces were, as yet, in the background, it speaks well for the young prophet's heart, if not for his head, that he could misinterpret in such kindly fashion the abstract injustice of dogma. Like another writer, not far off, he makes a short apology for infants. 5 In the book of Mosiah, he says, 'infants fall in Adam, or in nature, yet none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children.' 6

    2 Sermon of Dr. Twiss, prolocutor of the General Assembly, from the Christian Disciple, May and June 1823, quoted in G. E. Ellis, 'Half Century of the Unitarian Controversy,' 1857, p. 82.

    3 Hotchkin, p. 136: 'Under the plain, unadulterated and unadorned exhibitions of gospel truth, small children, in connexion with confirmed infidels and bold blasphemers, were heard mingling their cries for mercy.'

    4 Compare Henry Adams, 'History of the United States,' 1891, pp. 239, 240: -- In the second administration of Madison the struggle for existence was mitigated; its first effect was the increasing cheerfulness of religion.... For the first time in history, great bodies of men turned aside from the old religion, giving no better reason than it required them to believe in a cruel Deity.'

    5 John Read, 'A Short Apology for Infants,' Poughkeepsie, New York, 1816.

    6 Book of Mormon,' pp. 68-9, compare also: -- (168) 'The infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; (197) And little children also have eternal life; (617) Little children cannot repent, wherefore it is an awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them.'


    144                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    Thus far it is clear that the author could manage a metaphor better than a syllogism. But this is only a tenth part of the ancient record, the remainder of which, according to the revelation of July, 1828, 'does contain all those parts of my gospel, which my holy prophets desired should come forth unto this people.' This body of divinity is what Smith constantly referred to as the 'plain and simple gospel.' That it was not plain is seen from its distortions of Presbyterianism, and that it was not simple from its other dogmatic borrowings. In evidence, one need but briefly glance at the other two sects which Joseph mentioned at the time of his first vision. With the spread of Baptist principles at this time, 7 and with seven varieties of the denomination existing near by, 8 it is natural that there should be set forth such variations as adult baptism, total immersion and baptism unto repentance. 9 Furthermore, in this Western Circuit, there was another

    7 T. F. Curtis, 'The Progress of Baptist Principles in the last One Hundred Years,' 1855.

    8 Near Ithaca there were 'Hard Shell,' 'Free Will,' and 'Seventh Day' Baptists, also 'Foot Washers,' 'Christians' and 'Campbellites.' Compare also J. Chadwick, 'New Light on the Subject of Infant Baptism,' i832, Geneva, Cayuga County, N. Y.

    9 'Book of Mormon,' (616) 'It is solemn mockery before God that ye snould baptize little children'; (503) 'Ye shall immerse them in water'; (494) 'Many were baptized unto repentance.'


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          145

    denomination of larger numbers, 10 and of greater influence upon the youthful convert. In after years Smith acknowledged that in 1820 he was 'somewhat partial to the Methodist sect.' 11 This admission goes far to explain the rhetorical tone of his book, -- the peculiarity that the speeches of the ancient prophets are filled with camp-meeting echoes, and catchwords of the old-time Methodist exhorter.

    Take for example the following:

    'And now it came to pass that after Alma had spoken these words unto them, he sat down upon the ground, and Amulek arose and began to teach them, saying: My brethren, I think that it is impossible that ye should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ, who is taught by us to be the Son of God; yea, I know that these things were taught unto you, bountifully, before your dissention from among us, and as ye have desired of my beloved brother, that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith, and to patience; yea, even that ye would have so much faith as even to plant the word in your hearts, that ye may try the experiment of its goodness....

    Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood, which will atone for the sins of another. Now if

    10 Methodists claimed an enrollment of half a million in the United States in 1820. 'Encyclopaedia Brittanica,' article, 'Methodism.'

    11 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 75.


    146                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    a man murdereth, behold, will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay. But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing, which is short of an Infinite atonement, which will suffice for the sins of the world; therefore it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice:... this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exerciseth no faith unto repentance, is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore, only unto him that hath faith unto repentance, is brought about the great and Eternal plan of redemption. Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon His holy name, that He would have mercy upon you; yea, cry unto Him for mercy; for He is mighty to save; yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto Him; cry unto Him when ye are in your fields; yea, over all your flocks; cry unto Him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, midday, and evening; yea, cry unto Him against the power of your enemies; yea, cry unto Him against the Devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness. And now as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore I beseech of you, that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness, wherein there can be no labor performed.


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    Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.' 12

    Amulek's speech, with its offer of a present, free and full salvation, is reminiscent of the Wesleyan pietism once taught in Palmyra. 13 Elsewhere in the book there are the more ordinary Methodist teachings, as to backsliding and restoration. 14 Yet on the whole, the influence here exerted was more practical than theoretical; one cause of the rapid spread of Mormonism was its partial adaptation of the ways and means of Methodism. Out of the latter's marvelous organization of local and itinerant clergy, with their various conferences, societies and circuits, the founder of the church of the Latter-day Saints extracted a dislocated hierarchy with unprecedented functions. What were the offices and duties of Mormon apostles and elders, evangelists and bishops, priests and teachers and deacons, may be obscurely seen in the last of the fourteen books.

    12 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 335-8,

    13 Hotchkin, p. 375. In 1807, at Palmyra, the preacher was an English Wesleyan.

    14 'Book of Mormon,' (64) 'That they might repent, their state became a state of probation'; (551) 'The day of grace was passed with them. They did not come with contrite hearts.'


    148                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    Judging from a parallel revelation given in June, 1830, 15 this little book of Mormon is essentially a book of discipline and has presumably been added as an afterthought. 16

    Without entering the penumbra of minor creeds, 17 some idea has been gained of 'the confusion and strife among the different denominations,'in Joseph fifteenth year. It is now ten years later and he has done little to reconcile the differences; instead he has but transferred to paper his own obfustication; his ancient record, like an old-fashioned mirror, gives back images vague and ill defined.

    To complete the framework of environment, and to show how it quadrates with the book, it is need ful to examine a few incidental references, certain semi-political movements which disturbed the new settlements. These were, -- fear of the Church of Rome, hatred of Infidelity and the agitation against Free Masonry. The strongest hints against Roman Catholicism occur early in the book, such as in the preface of Nephi's vision of the future of America: --

    15 'Book of Commandments,' Chapter 24.

    16 'Book of Mormon,' p. 609, 'Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day according to the will of the Lord.'

    17 For a general tirade against the sects, compare 'Book of Mormon,' 566, 'O ye wicked and perverse.... O ye pollutions, hypocrites, ye teachers,' etc.


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          149

    'And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the foundation of a great church. And the angel said unto me, Behold the foundation of a church, which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.

    And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it. And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots. And the angel spake unto me, saying, Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine twined linen. and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church; and also for the praise of the world, do they destroy the Saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.' 18

    This covert and virulent attack may perhaps be traced to Joseph's reading; for it is in keeping with the sentiments of the day. In 1831, the prophet condescended to approve of Fox's Book of Martyrs. 19

    18 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 25, 26. Compare also 31, 56, 113, 117, 120, 234, 322, 337.

    19 E. Stevenson, 'Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet,' p. 5: 'In parting from under our roof, the prophet expressed a desire to have a loan of a large English, Book of Martyrs," which we possessed, promising to return it to us when he should meet us again in Zion, in the State of Missouri, which he did, and on returning it said, "I have by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, seen those martyrs, and they were honest, devoted followers of Christ, according to the light they possessed, and they will be saved."'


    150                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    If before this he had not run across one of the popular 'Cruelty Books,' yet, as a boy, it is not unlikely that he had a look at the ubiquitous New England Primer with its gruesome woodcuts of the victims of Bloody Mary, burning at the stake. 20 At any rate, the young convert's spiritual advisers fomented the hatred of Roman Catholics. Any back-country exhorter was welcome to throw a stick at the Man of Sin, while the anti-popery campaign literature comprised works fit only for the expurgated list of decency. 21

    But in this era of political good feeling, bigotry did not stop with words. On the very field, where two centuries before Brebeuf and other Jesuit missionaries had suffered death at the hands of the savages, 23 a Protestant family, it was alleged, now ran a fearful risk in harboring a Romanist. 22 Finally the

    20 Compare P. L. Ford, 'The New England Primer'; various cuts of the Man of Sin. The edition of 1779 contains a picture of the burning of Mr. John Rogers, 1554. 'A few days before his death he wrote the following advice to his children: "Abhor the arrant whore of Rome and all her blasphemies, And drink not of her cursed cup; obey not her decrees."'

    21 Harriet Martineau, 'Society in America,' 1837, 4th edition, 2, 322: 'Parents put into their children's hands, as religious books, the foul libels against the Catholics, which are circulated throughout the country. In the west, I happened to find a book of this kind, which no epithet but filthy will describe.' Compare Maria Monk, 'Awful Disclosures,' 1836.

    22 Francis Parkman, 'Jesuits in North America,' j896, p. 122.

    23 J. G. Shea, 'History of the Catholic Church in the United States,' 1890, p. 498.


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          151

    opposition took an organized form, and the Protestant Association, with its organ The Protestant gathered old calumiiies and framed new ones. To trace the growth of this early form of the A. P. A., is going beyond the limits of the Book of Mormon. All that should be noted is that the author shared in the popular narrowness and misapprehension.

    To proceed to another sign of the times, which left a water mark in the Mormon documents. The agitation against Papistry was matched by the agitation against Infidelity. For the sake of continuity a specific line of resistance may be followed as far back as 1735. In the first heresy trial in the Presbyterian church in America, one of Benjamin Franklin's friends 24 was condemned for preaching that Christianity was largely a revival or new edition of the laws and precepts of nature. 24 But the deistic drift could not be stopped. Especially after the Revolution was the critical period in politics, conjoined with a critical period in orthodoxy. Then came the strictures of the General Assembly of 1798, which fulminated against the 'abounding infidelity, which, in many instances, tends to atheism itself... which assumes a front of daring impiety and possesses a mouth filled with blasphemy.' 26

    24 Compare, 'A Letter to a Friend in the Country,' 1735.

    25 Briggs, p. 231.

    26 Gillet, 1, 296; 2, 110.


    152                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    The New England clergy also warned against the danger of infidel philosophy, 27 and, in 1810, a missionary of the Connecticut Society, who had penetrated into the neighborhood of Lake Erie, reported that infidelity abounded to an alarming degree and in various shapes in the district, west of the Military Tract. 28

    The rate of movement in philosophic thought is one thing, how it affected the masses another. The tastes of the people being given so largely to affairs of state and matters of theology, greater political freedom was followed by greater religious freedom. Indeed, to many eyes, after the second war with England, 29 the land of liberty threatened to become a land of license. 30 The political relations with France had already prepared the way for French infidelity. 31 On the Ohio there arose free thinking societies, affiliated with the Jacobin club

    27 Compare Barrett Wendell, 'A Literary History of America, 'New York, 1900, p. 127.

    28 Gillett, 2, 11O.

    29 F. Jameson, 'The History of Historical Writing in America,' 1891.

    30 Compare Dr. Charles Caldwell, 'A Defense of the Medical Profession Against the Charge of Infidelity and Irreligion,' 1824; also Timothy Dwight, 'The Nature and Danger of French Infidelity,' 1798, and 'Infidel Philosophy,' 1798.

    31 Noah Porter, 'Deism in America,' in Ueberweg's 'History of Philosophy,' 1892, 2, 451.


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    of Philadelphia; 32 on the Genesee 33 there was an infidel club, with a circulating library comprising the works of Volney and Hume, Voltaire and Paine.

    It is with the last writer that the concern lies. The others were discussed in educated circles; 'Tom ' Paine's sayings were bandied about by the ignorant. 34 His Age of Reason being sold cheap or sometimes given away, Joseph may have laid hands on a copy, 35 but, as heretofore, other than literary sources were open to him. The people's lyceum was now in its golden age, and the boy who was noted among his companions for his seriousness, 36 would have taken naturally to the portentous gravity of the local Thespian society or debating junto. 37 Even without membership in the latter, the topics of the day reached the lad's ears; he now made visits to town to get the weekly paper, 38 and to sit chatting in the rustic row. There, in the

    32 Gillett, 1, 420.

    33 At Scottsville, near Caledonia. Hotchkin, p. 90.

    34 W. H. Venable, 'Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley,' 1891, pp. 235, 238.

    35 G. Q. Cannon, 'Life of Joseph Smith,' 1888, p. 335: -- 'Joseph in later life believed what he asserted against the opinions of a sceptical and materialistic age, when Voltaire and Tom Paine were the authorities.'

    36 Newel Knight, 'Journal,' p. 47.

    37 A Hall of the Young Men's Association existed at Palmyra in 1830. -- Kennedy, p. 14.

    38 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 98,


    154                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    country store, the subjects of discussion were as varied as the wares, and in the tavern, religion, like politics, was the delight of those that talked for talk's sake. As the boy, through inclination and through poverty, 39 was less of a reader than a talker, it is not meant to connect him, except remotely, to the culture of the day. In truth, as regards polite learning, he was on the margin of cultivation; the recent awakening of American letters had no influence on him; he was farther in spirit than in space from such contemporaries as Brockden Brown, Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving. For all that, he had his intellectual interests; local creeds were his aids to reflection, and freethinkers his stimulus to controversy. Before discovering how, in the Book of Mormon, he incorporated, only to refute, the current deistic arguments, the narrow spirit of the times should be noted.

    The hard lot of the thinker who would be free was recorded by the novelist and observed by the traveler. One of Cooper's heroines is applauded for being 'properly impressed with the horrors of a deist's doctrine,' while another 'shrunk from his company.' 40 A foreign traveler observed that unbelief was treated as a crime. 41 This social ostracism

    39 'Times and Seasons,'3, 771.

    40 T. R. Lounsbury, 'Life of Fenimore Cooper,' p. 26.

    41 Harriet Martineau, P, 335, 'I was told of one and another,


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          155

    came near leading to political disability. Some wished to see regulations made by which deists should be excluded from office. But the Jefferson administration, although suspected of infidelity, 42 allowed no tampering with the rights of conscience. 43 But the good sense and moderation that forestalled any approach to a reunion of church and state, was not to be found in the sectary. The author of the Book of Mormon represents America as indeed a land of free speech, yet the advocate of a prehistoric deism is called Anti-Christ. He quotes opaquely from the Age of Reason and for his hardness of heart is punished both by the High Priest and the Chief judge: --

    'And it came to pass in the seventeenth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace. But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla; and he was called Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by

    with an air of mystery, like that with which one is informed of any person being insane, or intemperate or insolvent, that so and so was thought to be an unbeliever.'

    42 Of this dangerous, deistical and Utopian school, a great personage from Virginia is a favored pupil.... His principles relish so strongly of Paris, and are seasoned in such a profusion of French Garlic, that he offends the whole nation.' Joseph Dennie in the Portfolio, Number I, 1805, quoted in Stedman and Hutchinson, 'A Library of American Literature,' 1890, 4, 250.

    43 James Schouler, 'History of the United States,' 1882, p. 251.


    156                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ. Now there was no law against a man's belief.... And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, and the law could have no hold upon him. And he began to preach unto the people, that there should be no Christ. And after this manner did he preach, saying: O ye that are bound down under a foolish and vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come. Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by the holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers. How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ. Ye look forward and say, that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effects of a phrensied mind: and this derangement of your minds comes because of the tradition of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so. And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life, according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did, was no crime. And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness; yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms; telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof....

    And it came to pass that the High Priest said unto him, Why do ye go about perverting the ways of


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          157

    the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets? Now the High Priest's name was Giddonah. And Korihor said unto him because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their beads, but be brought down according to thy words. Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true. Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents. And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ. And ye say also, that He shall be slain for the sins of the world; and thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were, in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges; yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own, lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe by their traditions, and their dreams, and their whims, and their visions, and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown


    158                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    being, which they say is God; a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be. Now when the High Priest and the Chief judge saw the hardness of his heart; yea, when they saw that he would revile even against God, they would not make any reply to his words; but they caused that he should be bound; and they delivered him up into the hands of the officers, and sent him to the land of Zarahemla, that be might be brought before Alma and the Chief judge, who was governor over all the land.

    And it came to pass that when he was brought before Alma and the Chief judge, he did go on in the same manner as he did in the land of Gideon; yea, he went on to blaspheme. And he did rise up in great swelling words before Alma, and did revile against the priests and teachers, accusing them of leading away the people after the silly traditions of their fathers, for the sake of glutting in the labors of the people.' 44

    44 Compare, in order, with the above passage the following extracts from 'The Writings of Thomas Paine,' edited by Moncure D. Conway, 1896.

    'Book of Mormon.' 'Alma,' Chapter xvi, pp. 321-324.
    'Ye cannot know of things which ye do not see.

    Ye say that ye see a remission of your sins. But this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers.... There could be no atonement made for the sins of
    'Age of Reason,' Part 1, edition of 1793.
    As Mystery and Miracle took charge of the past and the present, Prophecy took charge of the future. Those to whom a propbecy should be told, could not tell whether the man prophesied or lied, or whether it had been revealed to him, or whether he conceited it. Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty.... the fabulous theory of redemption, that one


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          159

    The spirit of intolerance diffused through the


    men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature. When a man was dead, that was the end thereof.

    A child is not guilty because of its parents.

    Under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests... ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers,... that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, -- lest they should offend their priests, who have brought them to believe by their traditions, and their dreams, and their whims, and their visions, and their pretended mysteries.'
    person could stand in the place of another, and could perform meritorious services for him.

    I trouble not myself about the manner of future existence. That God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children.... This is contrary to every principle of moral justice.

    The means employed in all time to deceive the people.... The church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue. The trade of priest is for the sake of gain. From the first preachers the fraud went on,... till the idea of its being a pious fraud became lost in the belief of its being true. Wild and whimsical systems of belief have been fabricated. The three means to impose upon mankind are Mystery, Miracle and Prophecy.'

    Closer examination of this passage from Alma betrays the usual haphazard borrowing. Alma's counter-argument of the 'planets which move in their regular form,' was taken from the enemy; it was, in fact one of the chief deistic arguments for belief in a First Cause. (Compare 'Age of Reason,' Part I, Chapters 9, 11 and especially 13, 'The Religious Ideas inspired by Nature,' and also in Paine's citation of Addison's Paraphrase of the 19th Psalm, the lines 'and all the planets as they roll,' and 'the hand that made us is divine.') If Joseph here showed a lack of logic, the fault was not individual but collective. People confused deism with atheism; Paine was justly called 'Citizen Egotism,' but he was no atheist.


    160                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    Book of Mormon has meaning; it places the document well within the first third of the century, the 'fermenting period' of American thought. And there is a third and final popular movement herein reflected, which fixes, not only the time, but the place of the record. The frequent allusions to 'wicked and secret societies, wicked and secret combinations,' 45 point to the agitation against Free Masonry in New York State, beginning in 1826. The abduction and alleged murder of William Morgan by some of the Masonic fraternity, although without the consent of the central authority, caused an unparalleled excitement. This mechanic of Batavia, reported to be preparing a book divulging the secrets of the order, was seized, haled off to Fort Niagara, and suddenly made away with. 46 It was believed that judges, juries and witnesses, if Masons, would exonerate the culprits; at any rate, the outrage resulted in the abolishing of local lodges, 47 and in the rise of the Anti-Masonic party. It is not because of its political, 48 but its religious effects that traces of this agitation are to be found in the Mormon Bible; the testimonies of Masons were considered to be

    45 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 589, 595, 596.

    46 Jenkins, 'History of the political Parties in the State of New York,' Auburn, 1846, pp. 327-332.

    47 Butler and Crittenden, 'Rochester Semi-Centennial,' 1884, p. 63.

    48 McClintock and Strong, 'Encylopedia,' article Mormonism, 6, 624 ff.


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          161

    Jesuitical evasions, and, above all, the so called deistical tendencies of their formulae were alleged to be destructive of Christianity. 49 Inasmuch as this affair took place in the year in which Joseph came of age, as the victim was arrested at Canandaigua, only nine miles away, and as rumor, even in the wilderness, was swift, 50 without the aid of the current pamphlets of exposure, 51 the Morgan excitement got into the young prophet's brain and was bound to come out in his writings. 52 The passage from the 'abridgement taken from the Book of Ether,' may be offered as a final bit of internal evidence, as to the time, place and circumstances at the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: --

    'But behold, satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants, and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another, in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed in, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.

    And it came to pass that they did have their signs,

    49 Isaac Sharpless, 'Two Centuries of Pennsylvania History,' 1900, pp. 291-2.

    50 De Tocqueville, p. 406, 'It is difficult to imagine the incredible rapidity with which thought circulates in the midst of these deserts.'

    51 Jenkins, p. 355.

    52 Compare also 'Book of Commandments,' p. 55.


    162                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    yea, their secret signs, and their secret works; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do, he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant; and thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms, and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God; and whosoever of those who belonged to their band, should reveal unto the world of their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness, which had been given by Gadianton and Kishkumen. Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants, which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction....

    And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites, and they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi; and whatsoever nation shall upliold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed, for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of His saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto Him from the ground for vengeance upon them, and yet He avengeth them not; wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shewn unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          163

    combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain, and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you; yea, even the sword of the justice of the eternal God, shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction, if ye shall suffer these things to be; wherefore the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you, that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you, or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who build it up.' 53

    Without further quotation or digression, it remains to get at a psychological estimate of the Book of Mormon. As literature it is not worth reading -- the educated Mormons fight shy of it; 54 as history it merely casts a side light on a frontier settlement in the twenties; but as biography it has value, it gives, as it were, a cross section of the author's brain. The subject may be most inclusively studied from the standpoint of the constructive imagination, its materials and range, its phases aesthetic and intellective, its aspects emotional and possibly moral. 55 So first, as in the case of the progenitors and their dreams, the objects and scenes and incidents

    53 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 446, 588, 589.

    54 Woodward, p. 4.

    55 Compare James Sully, 'The Human Mind,' 1892, Chapter v, 'The Productive imagination.'


    164                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    of experience furnished the stuff for the growth of Joseph's mental inwards. In sticking to the plenary inspiration of the Book of Mormon, the Saints make Smith greater than a genius, for whom there is no such thing as a perfectly new creation, or freedom from the bounds and checks of his situation. But to go on: like the events already cited, this entire 'Sacred History of America' is woven out of those ideas which interested the people of Western New York about 1830. Despite such limitation, the range of Joseph's fancy was extensive; his imagination was not trammeled by his understanding; his information came orally, and there were few books to check him: hence his anachronisms. From the same lack of knowledge, his precognitions of the future are naught. Joseph's prophecies are pseudographs, -- events that had happened put as if they were yet to happen. 56 And the aesthetic was as lacking as the prophetic. The 'poems of Joseph' are not half bad, but they are not his; while the picture of his favorite Lamanites is not poetic but prosaic; Cooper idealized the Indian, Smith made him repulsive.

    Of the intellective phase of his imagination, something more favorable can be said, yet with strength

    56 Contrast Thompson, p. 229, 'The "Book of Mormon" is a true and divinely inspired record, therefore the prophecies and promises contained in it will all be fulfilled.'


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          165

    there was weakness. The Book of Mormon, as a storehouse of sectarianism, implies a retentive memory and, at the same time, a lack of discriminative judgment. Granted that the style was inflated, because that was the style of the day, 57 and that the thoughts were diffuse, because dictated, yet the feebleness of the critical faculty is shown in various ways. In the midst of the ancient story, modern inventions are grotesquely inserted; the language is biblical, but the ideas are local. The lost tribes of the Jews emigrate to America in vessels which are a cross between Noah's ark and an Erie canal boat. This occasional mixture of sense and nonsense may be matched among his co-religionists, for other readers took the Scriptures literally and interpreted fancifully; 58 nevertheless Joseph's imagination appears to have been seldom controlled by the judicial spirit. In the recension of the first edition he evinced no capacity to select and reject; to this day there remain strange puerilities. After the natural

    57 De Tocqueville, 2, 184, gives a characteristic explanation 'Why American Writers and Orators often use an Inflated Style': -- 'In democratic communities, each citizen is habitually engaged in the contemplation of a very puny object, namely himself. If he ever raises his looks higher, he perceives only the immense form of society at large, or the more imposing aspect of mankind.'

    58 'Book of Mormon,' p 53, Orson Pratt, in footnote, interprets (Isaiah, 49), 'my highways shall be exalted,' as railways exalted in the Rocky Mountains.


    166                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    outburst against free masonry, there occurs the following curiosity of literature: --

    'And now I, Moroni, proceed with my record. Therefore behold, it came to pass that because of the secret combinations of Akish and his friends, behold they did overthrow the Kingdom of Omer. And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land, wherefore Omer passed by the hill of Shim, and came to a place which was called Ablom; and after that he had anointed Emer to be king the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly and they had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms. 59

    Joseph must have been thinking of these his prehistoric Jabberwoks, when he told his followers to

    59 'Book of Mormon,' pp. 588-590. Another puzzle in etymology is to be found on p. 571: -- 'Ether was a descendant of Coriantor; Coriantor was the son of Moron; and Moron was the son of Ethem; and Ethem was the son of Ahah; and Ahah was the son of Seth; and Seth was the son of Shiblon; and Shiblon was the son of Com; and Com was the son of Coriantum; and Coriantum was the son of Amnigaddah; and Amnigaddah was the son of Aaron; and Aaron was a descendant of Heth, who was the son of Hearthom; and Hearthom was the son of Lib; and Lib was the son of Kish; and Kish was the son of Corum; and Corum was the son of Levi; and Levi was the son of Kim; and Kim was the son of Morianton; and Morianton was a descendant of Riplakish; and Riplakish was a son of Shez; and Shez was the son of Heth; and Heth was the son of Com; and Com was the son of Coriantum; and Coriantum was the son of Emer; and Emer was the son of Omer; and Omer was the son of Shule; and Shule was the son of Kib; and Kib was the son of Orihah, who was the son of Jared.'


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          167

    beware of 'a fanciful, flowery and heated imagination. 60 But seriously, whatever the sources of these humors and conceits, they are characteristic of the whole tribe of Smith. Joseph's hypertrophy of imagination was inherited: his aunt composed a vivid poem on death and the grave; 61 his mother could almost see the flutter of demons' wings; his father had a panorama of visions; his grandfather Mack complained of his mind being 'imagining but agitated.' Environment likewise had an influence. Brought up in the area swept by revivals -- the 'burnt-over district' as it was called -- his imagination was fired by his feelings. Thereby he escaped the cold logic of the schools; he also went beyond the limits of probability. All this had an effect on his character. Ignorant of the subconscious force of unchecked reverie, he considered his every whimsy to be inspired. How far his imagination fostered his credulity, how far he became conscious that his 'translating' was mainly automatic, whether as a dramatically imagined 'seer and revelator,' he was deceived or deceiving, -- these are questions for the moralist to decide, after the results are in. The problem, now, is one of letters rather than of ethics, -- to see how the characteristics of the book fit the character of the man.

    60 'Times and Seasons,' I, 102.

    61 'Biographical Sketches,' p. 29.


    168                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    The four chief marks of the Book of Mormon are a redundant style, fragmentary information, a fanciful archaeology, and an unsystematic theology. The redundancy of style fits the description given by a lawyer, who defended the prophet in his Missouri troubles in 1839. He says, 'In conversation he was slow, and used too many words to express his ideas and would not generally go directly to a point.' 62 It was this verbosity that made Joseph magnify his microscopic facts many diameters. The inherent paucity of his information accords with the observation of Josiah Quincy, that the prophet 'talked as from a strong mind utterly unenlightened by the teachings of history.' 63 The same thing explains Joseph's lifelong delight in pseudo-archaeology, from his own fireside tales to the citing of Central American discoveries as 'more proofs of the Book of Mormon, as a historical and religious record, written in ancient times by a branch of the house of Israel, who peopled America and from whom the Indians are descended.' 64 Now these very flights of fancy were part and parcel of Smith's strange being. If they are not to be connected with the roving habits of his progenitors, they were at least nurtured by the free life of the

    62 H. Burnett, 'Recollections of a Pioneer,' 1880, p. 66

    63 'Figures of the Past,' p. 399.

    64 'Times and Seasons,' I, 69.


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          169

    forest. The boy who withdrew at will into a past world of his own, was the youth who scoured the country for hidden treasure, and the young man who oscillated across the width of the state 65 in search of the elusive gold plates.

    Finally his bodily movements are matched by his mental restlessness, -- the fourth mark of the man. In his logic he skips the middle term; in his theology he darts from creed to creed; as defender of the faith against Romanism or Infidelity, he is impatient, intolerant. In fine, it may be said that Joseph Smith, in all respects, although in exaggerated form, showed himself the type of Western pioneer, as he was contrasted with the Easterner. Of that type a foreign traveler observed, 'their business is conducted with an almost feverish excitement, their passions are more intense, their religious morality less authoritative, and their convictions less firm.' 66

    To adjust one's ideas of the mental ability of the imaginative, emotional, young American, a comparison may be made with a similar case in English literature. Going back to the reign of George III the origin of the Book of Mormon has an instructive likeness to that of the Rowley myth. Thomas

    65 For Joseph's movements between Lake Erie and the Susquehanna, see Appendix Ill, Table II.

    66 De Tocqueville, I, 413.


    170                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    Chatterton, 67 'the marvelous boy' of Bristol, was born in 1752. He was the son of a drunken schoolmaster and a descendant of a line of sextons a century and a half long. Brought up in the shadow of the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe, a dreamy, secretive lad, delighting in heraldry, blackletter manuscripts and local antiquities, at the age of sixteen he brought forth a series of pseudo-antique poems, which, at first, deceived the very elect. Although taught but little and with straitened means, there rose up before the eye of his fancy the mediaeval walls and towers of his native town. To obtain evidence for his imaginings, a monkish pseudonym was adopted. The document, which he sent to Horace Walpole, bore the title, 'The Ryse of Peyncteynge in Englande, Wroten by T. Rowleie, 1469, for Master Canynge.' 68 Walpole was interested but not taken in; the dubious authorship of the Ossianic poems was still in his mind. Meanwhile the critical authorities showed up the skilful forgery, but others were gullible; the Bristol historian accepted Chatterton's fiction for fact, and there sprung up a group of clerical admirers who dabbled in the antique. 69

    67 Compare Henry S. Beers, 'A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century,' 1899, Chapter x; also David Masson, Chatterton,' 1901.

    68 T. H. Ward, 'The English Poets,' 1891, 3, 400.

    69 Compare the second edition of the Antiques, 1783, by Dean Milles of Exeter, and of the Society of Antiquaries, in which 'the genuineness of their antiquity was considered and defended.'


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          171

    As to the literary value of the works 'wroten by T. Rowleie' and of the 'account written by the hand of Mormon,' comparisons are odious; yet the coming forth of both arose under somewhat like conditions. In the days of each young pseudologist, the literature of disguise was rife. Chatterton was preceded by Walpole's pseudonymus Castle of Otranto, by the Reliques called Percy's, by McPherson's Fingal, and other poems attributed to ancient Scottish bards.

    And such, in relative measure were the surroundings of the translator of the 'Plates of Nephi.' What happened in Britain was happening here. By his Knickerbocker History of New York, Washington Irving was showing to Anglo-Americans of culture how honey could be brought forth out of the dead lion. The Philistines also had their riddles. The puritanic who eschewed novels, were yet devouring romances. In Massachusetts a parchment inscribed with Hebrew characters, being dug up on an 'Indian hill' was accepted as an 'Indian Bible,' 70 although scoffers pronounced it the phylactery of some wandering Jew of a peddlar. In New York state Priest's American Antiquities went through three editions in one year, 71 while rumors of a 'Canada Gold Bible' flew over the

    70 H. H. Bancroft, 'Works,' 5, 89; compare also P. P. Pratt, p. 116.

    71 'Bibliotheca Americana,' 15, 85.


    172                         THE  FOUNDER  OF  MORMONISM                        

    border. 72 Finally in Ohio the Reverend Solomon Spaulding's romance of ancient America, entitled a Manuscript Found,' was creating some stir.

    How far did Joseph Smith fasten on this literary driftwood, as it floated on the current of the times? It is here unnecessary to follow the ebb and flow of the tide of speculation. In spite of a continuous stream of conjectural literature, it is as yet impossible to pick out any special document as an original source of the Book of Mormon. In particular, the commonly accepted Spaulding theory is insoluble from external evidence and disproved by internal evidence. 73 Joseph Smith's 'Record of the Indians' is a product indigenous to the New York 'Wilderness,' and the authentic work of its 'author and proprietor.' Outwardly, it reflects the local color of Palmyra and Manchester, inwardly, its complex of thought is a replica of Smith's muddled brain. This monument of misplaced energy was possible to the impressionable youth constituted and circumstanced as he was. The acts of Nephi are indeed the acts of Joseph: -- 'and upon the plates which I made, I did engraven the record of my father, and also of our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of my own prophecies have I engraven upon them.'

    72 Schroeder, p. 55.

    73 See Appendix III.


                             THE  AUTHOR'S  MENTALITY                          173

    It is now in order to trace the public execution of the scheme, -- from the first inkling of the plates in 1823 to the thrice-repeated prophecy of 1829, that 'a great and marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.'

    Continue reading on
    page 177


    Transcriber's Comments

    I. W. Riley's PsychoBiography of Joseph Smith

    (under construction)

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