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    Mormonism.ca - Story Of

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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
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
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Last Days At Kirtland
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Nauvoo After The Exodus
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 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 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 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 Smith Family
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



The First Converts At Kirtland








The four missionaries who had been sent to Ohio under Cowdery's
leadership arrived there in October, 1830. Rigdon left Kirtland
on his visit to Smith in New York State in the December
following, and in January, 1831, he returned to Ohio, taking
Smith with him.

The party who set out for Ohio, ostensibly to preach to the
Lamanites, consisted of Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter
Whitmer, Jr., and Ziba Peterson, the latter one of Smith's
original converts, who, it may be noted, was deprived of his land
and made to work for others a year later in Missouri, because of
offences against the church authorities. These men preached as
they journeyed, making a brief stop at Buffalo to instruct the
Indians there. On reaching Ohio, Pratt's acquaintance with
Rigdon's Disciples gave him an opportunity to bring the new Bible
to the attention of many people. The character of the Smiths was
quite unknown to the pioneer settlers, and the story of the
miraculously delivered Bible filled many of them with wonder
rather than with unbelief.

The missionaries began the work of organizing a church at once.
Some members of Rigdon's congregation had already formed a
"common stock society," and were believers in a speedy
millennium, and to these the word brought by the new-comers was
especially welcome. Cowdery baptized seventeen persons into the
new church. Rigdon at the start denied his right to do this, and,
in a debate between him and the missionaries which followed at
Rigdon's house, Rigdon quoted Scripture to prove that, even if
they had seen an angel, as they declared, it might have been
Satan transformed. Cowdery asked if he thought that, in response
to a prayer that God would show him an angel, the Heavenly Father
would suffer Satan to deceive him. Rigdon replied that if Cowdery
made such a request of the Heavenly Father "when He has never
promised you such a thing, if the devil never had an opportunity
of deceiving you before, you give him one now."* But after a
brief study of the new book, Rigdon announced that he, too, had
had a "revelation," declaring to him that Mormonism was to be
believed. He saw in a vision all the orders of professing
Christians pass before him, and all were "as corrupt as
corruption itself," while the heart of the man who brought him
the book was "as pure as an angel."

* "It seemed to be a part of Rigdon's plan to make such a fight
that, when he did surrender, the triumph of the cause that had
defeated him would be all the more complete."--Kennedy, "Early
Days of Mormonism."


The announcement of Rigdon's conversation gave Mormonism an
advertisement and a support that had a wide effect, and it
alarmed the orthodox of that part of the country as they had
never been alarmed before. Referring to it, Hayden says, "The
force of this shock was like an earthquake when Symonds Ryder,
Ezra Booth, and many others submitted to the 'New Dispensation.'"
Largely through his influence, the Mormon church at Kirtland soon
numbered more than one hundred members.

During all that autumn and early winter crowds went to Kirtland
to learn about the new religion. On Sundays the roads would be
thronged with people, some in whatever vehicles they owned, some
on horseback, and some on foot, all pressing forward to hear the
expounders of the new Gospel and to learn the particulars of the
new Bible. Pioneers in a country where there was little to give
variety to their lives, they were easily influenced by any
religious excitement, and the announcement of a new Bible and
prophet was certain to arouse their liveliest interest. They had,
indeed, inherited a tendency to religious enthusiasm, so recently
had their parents gone through the excitements of the early days
of Methodism, or of the great revivals of the new West at the
beginning of the century, when (to quote one of the descriptions
given by Henry Howe) more than twenty thousand persons assembled
in one vast encampment, "hundreds of immortal beings moving to
and fro, some preaching, some praying for mercy, others praising
God. Such was the eagerness of the people to attend, that entire
neighborhoods were forsaken, and the roads literally crowded by
those pressing forward on their way to the groves."* Any new
religious leader could then make his influence felt on the
Western border: Dylkes, the "Leatherwood God," had found it
necessary only to announce himself as the real Messiah at an Ohio
campmeeting, in 1828, to build up a sect on that assumption.
Freewill Baptists, Winebrennerians, Disciples, Shakers, and
Universalists were urging their doctrines and confusing the minds
of even the thoughtful with their conflicting views. We have seen
to what beliefs the preaching of the Disciples' evangelists had
led the people of the Western Reserve, and it did not really
require a much broader exercise of faith (or credulity) to accept
the appearance of a new prophet with a new Bible.

* "Historical Collections of the Great West."


While the main body of converts was made up of persons easily
susceptible to religious excitement, and accustomed to have their
opinions on such subjects formed for them, men of education and
more or less training in theology were found among the early
adherents to the new belief. It is interesting to see how the
minds of such men were influenced, and this we are enabled to do
from personal experiences related by some of them.

One of these, John Corrill, a man of intelligence, who stayed
with the church until it was driven out of Missouri, then became
a member of the Missouri Legislature, and wrote a brief history
of the church to the year 1839, in this pamphlet answered very
clearly the question often asked by his friends, "How did you
come to join the Mormons?" A copy of the new Bible was given to
him by Cowdery when the missionaries, on their Western trip,
passed through Ashtabula County, Ohio, where he lived. A brief
reading convinced him that it was a mere money-making scheme, and
when he learned that they had stopped at Kirtland, he did not
entertain a doubt, that, under Rigdon's criticism, the
pretensions of the missionaries would be at once laid bare. When,
on the contrary, word came that Rigdon and the majority of his
society had accepted the new faith, Corrill asked himself: "What
does this mean? Are Elder Rigdon and these men such fools as to
be duped by these impostors?" After talking the matter over with
a neighbor, he decided to visit Kirtland, hoping to bring Rigdon
home with him, with the idea that he might be saved from the
imposition if he could be taken from the influence of the
impostors. But before he reached Kirtland, Corrill heard of
Rigdon's baptism into the new church. Finding Kirtland in a state
of great religious excitement, he sought discussions with the
leaders of the new movement, but not always successfully.

Corrill started home with a "heart full of serious reflections."
Were not the people of Berea nobler than the people of
Thessalonica because "they searched the Scriptures daily; whether
these things were so?" Might he not be fighting against God in
his disbelief? He spent two or three weeks reading the Mormon
Bible; investigated the bad reports of the new sect that reached
him and found them without foundation; went back to Kirtland, and
there convinced himself that the laying on of hands and "speaking
with tongues" were inspired by some supernatural agency; admitted
to himself that, accepting the words of Peter (Acts ii. 17-20),
it was "just as consistent to look for prophets in this age as in
any other." Smith seemed to have been a bad man, but was not
Moses a fugitive from justice, as the murderer of a man whose
body he had hidden in the sand, when God called him as a prophet?
The story of the long hiding and final delivery of the golden
plates to Smith taxed his credulity; but on rereading the
Scriptures he found that books are referred to therein which they
do not contain--Book of Nathan the Prophet, Book of Gad the Seer,
Book of Shemaiah the Prophet, and Book of Iddo the Seer (1 Chron.
xxix. 29; 2 Chron. ix. 29 and xii. 15). This convinced him that
the Scriptures were not complete. Daniel and John were commanded
to seal the Book. David declared (Psalms xxxv.) "that truth shall
spring out of the earth," and from the earth Smith took the
plates; and Ezekiel (xxxvii. 15-21) foretold the existence of two
records, by means of which there shall be a gathering together of
the children of Israel. It finally seemed to Corrill that the
Mormon Bible corresponded with the record of Joseph referred to
by Ezekiel, the Holy Bible being the record of Judah.

Not fully satisfied, he finally decided, however, to join the new
church, with a mental reservation that he would leave it if he
ever found it to be a deception. Explaining his reasons for
leaving it when he did, he says, "I can see nothing that
convinces me that God has been our leader; calculation after
calculation has failed, and plan after plan has been overthrown,
and our prophet seemed not to know the event till too late."

The two other most prominent converts to the new church in Ohio
were the Rev. Ezra Booth, a Methodist preacher of more than
ordinary culture, of Mantua, and Symonds Ryder, a native of
Vermont, whom Alexander Campbell had converted to the Disciples'
belief in 1828, and who occupied the pulpit at Hiram when called
on. Booth visited Smith in 1831, with some members of his own
congregation, and was so impressed by the miraculous curing of
the lame arm of a woman of his party by Smith, that he soon gave
in his allegiance. Ryder had always found one thing lacking in
the Disciples' theology--he looked for some actual "gift of the
Holy Spirit" in the way of "signs" that were to follow them that
believed. He was eventually induced to announce his conversion to
the new church after "he read in a newspaper, an account of the
destruction of Pekin in China, and remembered that, six weeks
before, a young Mormon girl had predicted the destruction of that
city. "This statement was made in the sermon preached at his
funeral. Both of these men confessed their mistake four months
later, after Booth had returned from a trip to Missouri with
Smith.

Among the ignorant, even the most extravagant of the claims of
the Mormon leaders had influence. One man, when he heard an elder
in the midst of a sermon "speak with tongues," in a language he
had never heard before, "felt a sudden thrill from the back of
his head down his backbone," and was converted on the spot. John
D. Lee, of Catholic education, was convinced by an elder that the
end of the world was near, and sold his property in Illinois for
what it would bring, and moved to Far West, in order to be in the
right place when the last day dawned. Lorenzo Snow, the recent
President of the church, says that he was "thoroughly convinced
that obedience to those [the Mormon] prophets would impart
miraculous powers, manifestations, and revelations," the first
manifestation of which occurred some weeks later, when he heard a
sound over his head "like the rustling of silken robes, and the
spirit of God descended upon me."*

* Biography of Snow, by his sister Eliza.


The arguments that control men's religious opinions are too
varied even for classification. In a case like Mormonism they
range from the really conscientious study of a Corrill to the
whim of the Paumotuan, of whom Stevenson heard in the South Seas,
who turned Mormon when his wife died, after being a pillar of the
Catholic church for fifteen years, on the ground that "that must
be a poor religion that could not save a man his wife." Any
person who will examine those early defences of the Mormon faith,
Parley P. Pratt's "A Voice of Warning," and Orson Pratt's "Divine
Authenticity of the Book of Mormon," will find what use can be
made of an insistence on the literal acceptance of the Scriptures
in defending such a sect as theirs, especially with persons whose
knowledge of the Scriptures is much less than their reverence for
them.

Professor J. B. Turner,* writing in 1842, when the early
teachings of Mormonism had just had their effect in what is now
styled the middle West, observed that these teachings had made
more infidels than Mormon converts. This is accounted for by the
fact that persons who attempted to follow the Mormon argument by
studying the Scriptures, found their previous interpretation of
parts of the Holy Bible overturned, and the whole book placed
under a cloud. W. J. Stillman mentions a similar effect in the
case of Ruskin. When they were in Switzerland, Ruskin would do no
painting on Sunday, while Stillman regarded the sanctity of the
first day of the week as a "theological fiction." In a discussion
of the subject between them, Stillman established to Ruskin's
satisfaction that there was no Scriptural authority for
transferring the day of rest from the seventh to the first day of
the week." The creed had so bound him to the letter, "says
Stillman, "that the least enlargement of the stricture broke it,
and he rejected, not only the tradition of the Sunday Sabbath,
but the whole of the ecclesiastical interpretation of the texts.
He said, 'If they have deceived me in this, they have probably
deceived me in all.'" The Mormons soon learned that it was more
profitable for them to seek converts among those who would accept
without reasoning.

* "Mormonism in all Ages."





Next: Wild Vagaries Of The Converts

Previous: The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government



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