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THE MORMON ORIGIN

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Even More On The History Of Mormonism
Even More On The Religious Puzzle
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
History Of Mormonism
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Introductory Remarks
Last Days At Kirtland
More On Mormonism Social Puzzle
More On The History Of Mormonism
More On The Religious Puzzle
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Mormonism The Political Puzzle
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Notes On The History Of Mormonism
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Political Puzzle
The Political Puzzle Continued
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Religious Puzzle
The Religious Puzzle Notes
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Social And Society Puzzle
The Social Puzzle
The Social Puzzle Notes
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts


The Story Of The Mormons

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Last Days At Kirtland
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts



The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible








The precise date when Joe's attention was first called to the
possibility of changing the story about his alleged golden plates
so that they would serve as the basis for a new Bible such as was
finally produced, and as a means of making him a prophet, cannot
be ascertained. That some directing mind gave the final shape to
the scheme is shown by the difference between the first accounts
of his discovery by means of the stone, and the one provided in
his autobiography. We have also evidence that the story of a
direct revelation by an angel came some time later than the
version which Joe gave first to his acquaintances in
Pennsylvania.

James T. Cobb of Salt Lake City, who has given much time to
investigating matters connected with early Mormon history,
received a letter under date of April 23, 1879, from Hiel and
Joseph Lewis, sons of the Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, of Harmony,
Pennsylvania, and relatives of Joseph's father-in-law, in which
they gave the story of the finding of the plates as told in their
hearing by Joe to their father, when he was translating them.
This statement, in effect, was that he dreamed of an iron box
containing gold plates curiously engraved, which he must
translate into a book; that twice when he attempted to secure the
plates he was knocked down, and when he asked why he could not
have them, "he saw a man standing over the spot who, to him,
appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard down over his
breast, with his throat cut from ear to ear and the blood
streaming down, who told him that he could not get it alone." (He
then narrated how he got the box in company with Emma.) In all
this narrative there was not one word about visions of God, or of
angels, or heavenly revelations; all his information was by that
dream and that bleeding ghost. The heavenly visions and messages
of angels, etc., contained in the Mormon books were
afterthoughts, revised to order."

In direct confirmation of this we have the following account of
the disclosure of the buried articles as given by Joe's father to
Fayette Lapham when the Bible was first published:--

"Soon after joining the church he [Joseph] had a very singular
dream.... A very large, tall man appeared to him dressed in an
ancient suit of clothes, and the clothes were bloody. This man
told him of a buried treasure, and gave him directions by means
of which he could find the place. In the course of a year Smith
did find it, and, visiting it by night, "I by some supernatural
power" was enabled to overturn a huge boulder under which was a
square block of masonry, in the centre of which were the articles
as described. Taking up the first article, he saw others below;
laying down the first, he endeavored to secure the others; but,
before he could get hold of them, the one he had taken up slid
back to the place he had taken it from, and, to his great
surprise and terror, the rock immediately fell back to its former
place, nearly crushing him [Joseph] in its descent. (While trying
in vain to raise the rock again with levers, Joseph felt
something strike him on the breast, a third blow knocking him
down; and as he lay on the ground he saw the tall man, who told
him that the delivery of the articles would be deferred a year
because Joseph had not strictly followed the directions given to
him. The heedless Joseph allowed himself to forget the date fixed
for his next visit, and when he went to the place again, the tall
man appeared and told him that, because of his lack of
punctuality, he would have to wait still another year before the
hidden articles would be confided to him. "Come in one year from
this time, and bring your oldest brother with you," said the
guardian of the treasures, "then you may have them. "Before the
date named arrived, the elder brother had died, and Joseph
decided that his wife was the proper person to accompany him. Mr.
Lapham's report proceeds as follows:--

"At the expiration of the year he [Joseph] procured a horse and
light wagon, with a chest and pillowcase, and proceeded
punctually with his wife to find the hidden treasure. When they
had gone as far as they could with the wagon, Joseph took the
pillow-case and started for the rock. Upon passing a fence a host
of devils began to screech and to scream, and make all sorts of
hideous yells, for the purpose of terrifying him and preventing
the attainment of his object; but Joseph was courageous and
pursued his way in spite of them. Arriving at the stone, he again
lifted it with the aid of superhuman power, as at first, and
secured the first or uppermost article, this time putting it
carefully into the pillow-case before laying it down. He now
attempted to secure the remainder; but just then the same old man
appeared, and said to him that the time had not yet arrived for
their exhibition to the world, but that when the proper time came
he should have them and exhibit them, with the one he had now
secured; until that time arrived, no one must be allowed to touch
the one he had in his possession; for if they did, they would be
knocked down by some superhuman power. Joseph ascertained that
the remaining articles were a gold hilt and chain, and a gold
ball with two pointers. The hilt and chain had once been part of
a sword of unusual size; but the blade had rusted away and become
useless. Joseph then turned the rock back, took the article in
the pillow-case, and returned to the wagon. The devils, with more
hideous yells than before, followed him to the fence; as he was
getting over the fence, one of the devils struck him a blow on
the side, where a black and blue spot remained three or four
days; but Joseph persevered and brought the article safely home.
"I weighed it," said Mr. Smith, Sr., "and it weighed 30 pounds.
In answer to our question as to what it was that Joseph had thus
obtained, he said it consisted of a set of gold plates, about six
inches wide and nine or ten inches long. They were in the form of
a book."*

* Historical Magazine, May, 1870.


We may now contrast these early accounts of the disclosure with
the version given in the Prophet's autobiography (written, be it
remembered, in Nauvoo in 1838), the one accepted by all orthodox
Mormons. One of its striking features will be found to be the
transformation of the Spaniard-with-his-throat-cut into a
messenger from Heaven.*

* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, Supt.


It was, according to this later account, when he was in his
fifteenth year, and when his father's family were "proselyted to
the Presbyterian church," that he became puzzled by the divergent
opinions he heard from different pulpits. One day, while reading
the epistle of James (not a common habit of his, as his mother
would testify), Joseph was struck by the words, "If any of you
lack wisdom, let him ask of God. "Reflecting on this injunction,
he retired to the woods" on the morning of a beautiful clear day
early in the spring of 1820, and there he for the first time
uttered a spoken prayer. "As soon as he began praying he was
overcome by some power, and "thick darkness" gathered around him.
Just when he was ready to give himself up as lost, he managed to
call on God for deliverance, whereupon he saw a pillar of light
descending upon him, and two personages of indescribable glory
standing in the air above him, one of whom, calling him by name,
said to the other, "This is my beloved Son, hear him."
Straightway Joseph, not forgetting the main object of his going
to the woods, asked the two personages: "which of all the sects
was right. "He was told that all were wrong, and that he must
join none of them; that all creeds were an abomination, and that
all professors were corrupt. He came to himself lying on his
back.

The effect on the boy of this startling manifestation was not
radically beneficial, as he himself concedes. "Forbidden to join
any other religious sects of the day, of tender years, "and badly
treated by persons who should have been his friends, he admits
that in the next three years he "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
diverse temptations, to the gratification of many appetites
offensive in the sight of God. "It was during this period that he
was most active in the use of his "peek-stone."

On the night of September 21, 1823, to proceed with his own
account, when again praying to God for the forgiveness of his
sins, the room became light, and a person clothed in a robe of
exquisite whiteness, and having "a countenance truly like
lightning, "called him by name, and said that his visitor was a
messenger sent from God, and that his name was Nephi. This was a
mistake on the part of somebody, because the visitor's real name
was Moroni, who hid the plates where they were deposited. Smith
continues:--

"He said there was a book deposited, written upon golden plates,
giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent and
the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness
of the Everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by
the Saviour to the ancient inhabitants. Also, there were two
stones in silver bows (and these stones, fastened to a
breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim)
deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these
stones was what constituted seers in ancient or former times, and
that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the
book."

The messenger then made some liberal quotations from the
prophecies of the Old Testament (changing them to suit his
purpose), and ended by commanding Smith, when he got the plates,
at a future date, to show them only to those as commanded, lest
he be destroyed. Then he ascended into heaven. The next day the
messenger appeared again, and directed Joseph to tell his father
of the commandment which he had received. When he had done so,
his father told him to go as directed. He knew the place (ever
since known locally as "Mormon Hill") as soon as he arrived
there, and his narrative proceeds as follows:--

"Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario Co., N. Y.,
stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any
in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from
the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates,
deposited in a stone box; this stone was thick and rounded in the
middle on the upper side, and thinner toward the edges, so that
the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge
all round was covered with earth. Having removed the earth and
obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone,
and with a little exertion raised it up, I looked in, and there,
indeed, did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim and
breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they
lay was formed by laying stones together in a kind of cement. In
the bottom of the box were laid two stones crosswise of the box,
and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with
them. I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by
the messenger. I was again informed that the time for bringing
them out had not yet arrived, neither would till four years from
that time; but he told me that I should come to that place
precisely one year from that time, and that he would there meet
with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time
should come for obtaining the plates".

Mother Smith gives an explanation of Joe's failure to secure the
plates on this occasion, which he omits: "As he was taking them,
the unhappy thought darted through his mind that probably there
was something else in the box besides the plates, which would be
of pecuniary advantage to him.... Joseph was overcome by the
power of darkness, and forgot the injunction that was laid upon
him. "The mistakes which the Deity made in Joe's character
constantly suggest to the lay reader the query why the Urim and
Thummim were not turned on Joe.

On September 22, 1827, when Joe visited the hill (following his
own story again), the same messenger delivered to him the plates,
the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate, with the warning that
if he "let them go carelessly" he would be "cut off", and a
charge to keep them until the messenger called for them.

Mother Smith's story of the securing of the plates is to the
effect that about midnight of September 21 Joseph and his wife
drove away from his father's house with a horse and wagon
belonging to a Mr. Knight. He returned after breakfast the next
morning, bringing with him the Urim and Thummim, which he showed
to her, and which she describes as "two smooth, three-cornered
diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows
that were connected with each other in much the same way as
old-fashioned spectacles. "She says that she also saw the
breastplate through a handkerchief, and that it "was concave on
one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck
downward as far as the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It
had four straps of the same material for the purpose of fastening
it to the breast.... The whole plate was worth at least $500."
The spectacles and breastplate seem to have been more familiar to
Mother Smith than to any other of Joseph's contemporaries and
witnesses.

The substitution of the spectacles called Urim and Thummim for
the "peek-stone" was doubtless an idea of the associate in the
plot, who supplied the theological material found in the Golden
Bible. Tucker considers the "spectacle pretension" an
afterthought of some one when the scheme of translating the
plates into a Bible was evolved, as "it was not heard of outside
of the Smith family for a considerable period subsequent to the
first story."* This is confirmed by the elder Smith's early
account of the discovery. It would be very natural that Rigdon,
with his Bible knowledge, should substitute the more respectable
Urim and Thummim for the "peek-stone" of ill-repute, as the
medium of translation.

* "Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism," p. 33.


The Urim and Thummim were the articles named by the Lord to Moses
in His description of the priestly garments of Aaron. The Bible
leaves them without description;* and the following verses
contain all that is said of them: Exodus xxviii. 30; Leviticus
viii. 8; Numbers xxvii. 21; Deuteronomy xxxiii. 8; Samuel xxviii.
6; Ezra ii. 63; Nehemiah vii. 65. Only a pretence of using
spectacles in the work of translating was kept up, later
descriptions of the process by Joe's associates referring
constantly to the employment of the stone.

* "The Hebrew words are generally considered to be plurales
excellentoe, denoting light (that is, revelation) and truth....
There are two principal opinions respecting the Urim and Thummim.
One is that these words simply denote the four rows of precious
stones in the breastplate of the high priest, and are so called
from their brilliancy and perfection; which stones, in answer to
an appeal to God in difficult cases, indicated His mind and will
by some supernatural appearance.... The other principal opinion
is that the Urim and Thummim were two small oracular images
similar to the Teraphim, personifying revelation and truth, which
were placed in the cavity or pouch formed by the folds of the
breastplate, and which uttered oracles by a voice.... We incline
to Mr. Mede's opinion that the Urim and Thummim were 'things well
known to the patriarchs' as divinely appointed means of inquiries
of the Lord, suited to an infantile state of religion.
"Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature," Kitto and Alexander,
editors.


Joe says that while the plates were in his possession
"multitudes" tried to get them away from him, but that he
succeeded in keeping them until they were translated, and then
delivered them again to the messenger, who still retains them.
Mother Smith tells a graphic story of attempts to get the plates
away from her son, and says that when he first received them he
hid them until the next day in a rotten birch log, bringing them
home wrapped in his linen frock under his arm.* Later, she says,
he hid them in a hole dug in the hearth of their house, and again
in a pile of flax in a cooper shop; Willard Chase's daughter
almost found them once by means of a peek-stone of her own.

* Elder Hyde in his "Mormonism" estimates that "from the
description given of them the plates must have weighed nearly two
hundred pounds."


Mother Smith says that Joseph told all the family of his vision
the evening of the day he told his father, charging them to keep
it secret, and she adds:--

"From that time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions
from the Lord, and we continued to get the children together
every evening for the purpose of listening while he gave us a
relation of the same. I presume our family presented an aspect as
singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth--all
seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, and
giving the most profound attention to a boy eighteen years old,
who had never read the Bible through in his life.... We were now
confirmed in the opinion that God was about to bring to light
something upon which we could stay our mind, or that would give
us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the
redemption of the human family."





Next: Translation And Publication Of The Bible

Previous: First Announcement Of The Golden Bible



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