In the sixth number of your paper I saw a notice
of a sect of people called Mormonites; and thinking that a fuller
history of their founder, Joseph Smith, jr., might be interesting
to community, and particularly to your correspondent in Ohio, where,
perhaps, the truth concerning him may be hard to come at, I will
take the trouble to make a few remarks on the character of that
infamous imposter. For several years preceding the appearance of
his book, he was about the country in the character of a glass-looker:
pretending, by means of a certain stone, or glass, which he put
in a hat, to be able to discover lost goods, hidden treasures, mines
of gold and silver, &c. Although he constantly failed in his
pretensions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence
in all his words. In this town, a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell,
together with others, spent large sums of money in digging for hidden
money, which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where
to dig; but they never found their treasure. At length the public,
becoming wearied with the base imposition which he was palming upon
the credulity of the ignorant, for the purpose of sponging his living
from their earnings, had him arrested as a disorderly person, tried
and condemned before a court of Justice. But considering his youth,
(he being then a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct,
he was designedly allowed to escape. This was four or five years
ago. From this time he absented himself from this place, returning
only privately, and holding clandestine intercourse with his credulous
dupes, for two or three years.
It was during this time, and probably by the help
of others more skilled in the ways of iniquity than himself, that
he formed the blasphemous design of forging a new revelation, which,
backed by the terrors of an endless hell, and the testimony of base
unprincipled men, he hoped would frighten the ignorant, and open
a field of speculation for the vicious, so that he might secure
to himself the scandalous honor of being the founder of a new sect,
which might rival, perhaps, the Wilkinsonians, or the French Prophets
of the 17th century.
During the past Summer he was frequently in this
vicinity, and others of baser sort, as Cowdry, Whitmer, etc., holding
meetings, and proselyting a few weak and silly women, and still
more silly men, whose minds are shrouded in a mist of ignorance
which no ray can penetrate, and whose credulity the utmost absurdity
In order to check the progress of delusion, and
open the eyes and understandings of those who blindly followed him,
and unmask the turpitude and villa[i]ny of those who knowingly abetted
him in his infamous designs; he was again arraigned before a bar
of Justice, during last Summer, to answer to a charge of misdemeanor.
This trial led to an investigation of his character and conduct,
which clearly evinced to the unprejudiced, whence the spirit came
which dictated his inspirations. During the trial it was shown that
the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same magic power
by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures,
&c. Oliver Cowdery, one of the three witnesses to the book,
testified under oath, that said Smith found with the plates, from
which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling
glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was
able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which
were engraved on the plates.
So much for the gift and power of God, by which
Smith says he translated his book. Two transparent stones, undoubtedly
of the same properties, and the gift of the same spirit as the one
in which he looked to find his neighbor's goods. It is reported,
and probably true, that he commenced his juggling by stealing and
hiding property belonging to his neighbors, and when inquiry was
made, he would look in his stone, (his gift and power) and tell
where it was. Josiah Stowell, a Mormonite, being sworn, testified
that he positively knew that said Smith never had lied to, or deceived
him, and did not believe he ever tried to deceive any body else.
The following questions were then asked him, to which he made the
Did Smith ever tell you there was money hid in a
certain glass which he mentioned?
Did he tell you, you could find it by digging?
Did you dig?
Did you find any money?
Did he not lie to you then, and deceive you?
No! the money was there, but we did not get quite to it!
How do you know it was there?
Smith said it was!
Addison Austin was next called upon, who testified,
that at the very same time that Stowell was digging for money, he,
Austin, was in company with said Smith alone, and asked him to tell
him honestly whether he could see this money or not. Smith hesitated
some time, but finally replied, "to be candid, between you
and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body else; but any way
to get a living." Here, then, we have his own confession, that
he was a vile, dishonest impostor. As regards the testimony of Josiah
Stowell, it needs no comment. He swears positively that Smith did
not lie to him. So much for a Mormon witness. Paramount to this,
in truth and consistency, was the testimony of Joseph Knight, another
Mormonite. Newell Knight, son of the former, and also a Mormonite,
testified, under oath, that he positively had a devil cast out of
himself by the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, jr., and that he
saw the devil after it was out, but could not tell how it looked!
Those who have joined them in this place, are, without
exception, children who are frightened into the measure, or ignorant
adults, whose love for the marvellous is equalled by nothing but
their entire devotedness to the will of their leader; with a few
who are as destitute of virtue and moral honesty, as they are of
truth and consistency. As for his book, it is only the counterpart
of his money-digging plan. Fearing the penalty of the law, and wishing
still to amuse his followers, he fled for safety to the sanctuary
of pretended religion.
A. W. B.
Chen., co., March, 1831.
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