|Kirjallisuus > Story of the Mormons|
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."
The scenes at Kirtland during the first winter of the church there reached the limit of religious enthusiasm. The younger members outdid the elder in manifesting their belief. They saw wonderful lights in the air, and constantly received visions. Mounting stumps in the field, they preached to imaginary congregations, and, picking up stones, they would read on them words which they said disappeared as soon as known. At the evening prayer-meetings the laying on of hands would be followed by a sort of fit, in which the enthusiasts would fall apparently lifeless on the floor, or contort their faces, creep on their hands or knees, imitate the Indian process of killing and scalping, and chase balls of fire through the fields.*
*Corrill's "Brief History of the Church," p. 16; Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 104.
Some of the young men announced that they had received "commissions" to teach and preach, written on parchment, which came to them from the sky, and which they reached by jumping into the air. Howe reproduces one of these, the conclusion of which, with the seal, follows:--
"That you had a messenger tell you to go and get the other night, you must not show to any son of Adam. Obey this, and I will stand by you in all cases. My servants, obey my commandments in all cases, and I will provide.
"Be ye always ready, Be ye always ready, Whenever I shall call, Be ye always ready, My seal.
"There shall be something of great importance revealed when I shall call you to go: My servants, be faithful over a few things, and I will make you a ruler over many. Amen, Amen, Amen."
Foolishly extravagant as these manifestations appear (Corrill says that comparatively few members indulged in them), there was nothing in them peculiar to the Mormon belief. The meetings of the Disciples, in the year of Smith's arrival in Ohio and later, when men like Campbell and Scott spoke, were swayed with the most intense religious enthusiasm. A description of the effect of Campbell's preaching at a grove meeting in the Cuyahoga Valley in 1831 says:--
"The woods were full of horses and carriages, and the hundreds already there were rapidly swelled to many thousands; all were of one race-the Yankee; all of one calling, or nearly, the farmer.... When Campbell closed, low murmurs broke and ran through the awed crowd; men and women from all parts of the vast assembly with streaming eyes came forward; young men who had climbed into small trees from curiosity, came down from conviction, and went forward for baptism."*
* Riddle's "The Portrait."
It is easy to cite very "orthodox" precedents for such manifestations. One of these we find in the accounts of what were called "the jerks," which accompanied a great revival in 1803, brought about by the preaching of the Rev. Joseph Badger, a Yale graduate and a Congregationalist, who was the first missionary to the Western Reserve. J. S. C. Abbott, in his history of Ohio, describing the "jerks," says:--
"The subject was instantaneously seized with spasms in every muscle, nerve and tendon. His head was thrown backward and forward, and from side to side, with inconceivable rapidity. So swift was the motion that the features could no more be discerned than the spokes of a wheel can be seen when revolving with the greatest velocity.... All were impressed with a conviction that there was something supernatural in these convulsions, and that it was opposing the spirit of God to resist them."
The most extravagant enthusiasm of the Kirtland converts, and the most extravagant claims of the Mormon leaders at that time, were exceeded by the manifestations of converts in the early days of Methodism, and the miraculous occurrences testified to by Wesley himself,*--a cloud tempering the sun in answer to his prayer; his horse cured of lameness by faith; the case of a blind Catholic girl who saw plainly when her eyes rested on the New Testament, but became blind again when she took up the Mass Book.
* For examples see Lecky's "England in the Nineteenth Century, Vol. III, Chap. VIII, and Wesley's "Journal."
These Mormon enthusiasts were only suffering from a manifestation to which man is subject; and we can agree with a Mormon elder who, although he left the church disgusted with its extravagances, afterward remarked, "The man of religious feeling will know how to pity rather than upbraid that zeal without knowledge which leads a man to fancy that he has found the ladder of Jacob, and that he sees the angel of the Lord ascending and descending before his eyes."
When Smith and Rigdon reached Kirtland they found the new church in a state of chaos because of these wild excitements, and of an attempt to establish a community of possessions, growing out of Rigdon's previous teachings. These communists held that what belonged to one belonged to all, and that they could even use any one's clothes or other personal property without asking permission. Many of the flock resented this, and anything but a condition of brotherly love resulted. Smith, in his account of the situation as they found it, says that the members were striving to do the will of God, "though some had strange notions, and false spirits had crept in among them. With a little caution and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brothers and sisters to overcome them. The plan of common stock,' which had existed in what was called the family,' whose members generally had embraced the Everlasting Gospel, was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord,"*--which the prophet at once expounded.
* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, Supt., p. 56.
Smith announced that the Lord had informed him that the ravings of the converts were of the devil, and this had a deterring effect; but at an important meeting of elders to receive an endowment, some three months later, conducted by Smith himself, the spirits got hold of some of the elders. "It threw one from his seat to the floor," says Corrill. "It bound another so that for some time he could not use his limbs or speak; and some other curious effects were experienced. But by a mighty exertion, in the name of the Lord, it was exposed and shown to be of an evil source."
In order not to interrupt the story of the Mormons' experiences in Ohio, leaving the first steps taken in Missouri to be treated in connection with the regular course of events in that state, it will be sufficient to say here that Cowdery, Pratt, and their two companions continued their journey as far as the western border of Missouri, in the winter of 1830 and 1831, making their headquarters at Independence, Jackson County; that, on receipt of their reports about that country, Smith and Rigdon, with others, made a trip there in June, 1831, during which the corner-stones of the City of Zion and the Temple were laid, and officers were appointed to receive money for the purchase of the land for the Saints, its division; etc. Smith and Rigdon returned to Kirtland on August 27, 1831.
The growth of the church in Ohio was rapid. In two or three weeks after the arrival of the four pioneer missionaries, 127 persons had been baptized, and by the spring of 1831 the number of converts had increased to 1000. Almost all the male converts were honored with the title of elder. By a "revelation" dated February 9, 1831 (Sec. 42), all of these elders, except Smith and Rigdon, were directed to "go forth in the power of my spirit, preaching my Gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the voice of a trump. "This was the beginning of that extensive system of proselyting which was soon extended to Europe, which was so instrumental in augmenting the membership of the church in its earlier days, and which is still carried on with the utmost zeal and persistence. The early missionaries travelled north into Canada and through almost all the states, causing alarm even in New England by the success of their work. One man there, in 1832, reprinted at his own expense Alexander Campbell's pamphlet exposing the ridiculous features of the Mormon Bible, for distribution as an offset to the arguments of the elders. Women of means were among those who moved to Kirtland from Massachusetts. In three years after Smith and Rigdon met in Palmyra, Mormon congregations had been established in nearly all the Northern and Middle states and in some of the Southern, with baptisms of from 30 to 130 in a place.*
Smith had relaxed none of his determination to be the one head of the church. As soon as he arrived in Kirtland he put forth a long "revelation" (Sec. 43) which left Rigdon no doubt of the prophet's intentions. It declared to the elders that "there is none other [but Smith appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken," and that "none else shall be appointed unto his gift except it be through him. "Not only was Smith's spiritual power thus intrenched, but his temporal welfare was looked after. "And again I say unto you," continues this mouthpiece of the Lord, "if ye desire the mysteries of the Kingdom, provide for him food and raiment and whatsoever he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him." In the same month came another declaration, saying (Sec. 41 " is meet that my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., should have a house built, in which to live and translate" (the Scriptures). With a streak of generosity it was added, "It is meet that my servant Sidney Rigdon should live as seemeth him good."
*Turner's "Mormonism in all Ages," p. 38.
The iron hand with which Smith repressed Rigdon from the date of their arrival in Ohio affords strong proof of Rigdon's complicity in the Bible plot, and of Smith's realization of the fact that he stood to his accomplice in the relation of a burglar to his mate, where the burglar has both the boodle and the secret in his possession. An illustration of this occurred during their first trip to Missouri. Rigdon and Smith did not agree about the desirability of western Missouri as a permanent abiding-place for the church. The Rev. Ezra Booth, after leaving the Mormons, contributed a series of letters on his experience with Smith to the Ohio Star of Ravenna.* In the first of these he said: "On our arrival in the western part of the state of Missouri we discovered that prophecy and visions had failed, or rather had proved false. This fact was so notorious that Mr. Rigdon himself says that Joseph's vision was a bad thing.'" Smith nevertheless directed Rigdon to write a description of that promised land, and, when the production did not suit him, he represented the Lord as censuring Rigdon in a "revelation" (Sec. 63):--
* Copied in Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled."
"And now behold, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, am not pleased with my servant Sidney Rigdon; he exalteth himself in his heart, and receiveth not counsel, but grieveth the spirit. Wherefore his writing is not acceptable unto the Lord; and he shall make another, and if the Lord receiveth it not, behold he standeth no longer in the office which I have appointed him."
That the proud-minded, educated preacher, who refused to allow Campbell to claim the foundership of the Disciples' church, should take such a rebuke and threat of dismissal in silence from Joe Smith of Palmyra, and continue under his leadership, certainly indicates some wonderful hold that the prophet had upon him.
While the travelling elders were doing successful work in adding new converts to the fold, there was beginning to manifest itself at Kirtland that "apostasy" which lost the church so many members of influence, and was continued in Missouri so far that Mayor Grant said, in Salt Lake City, in 1856, that "one-half at least of the Yankee members of this church have apostatized."* The secession of men like Booth and Ryder, and their public exposure of Smith's methods, coupled with rumors of immoral practices in the fold, were followed by the tarring and feathering of Smith and Rigdon on the night of Saturday, March 25, 1832. The story of this outrage is told in Smith's autobiography, and the details there given may be in the main accepted.
* Journal of Discourses, Vol. III, p. 201.
Smith and his wife were living at the house of a farmer named Johnson in Hiram township, while he and Rigdon were translating the Scriptures. Mrs. Smith had taken two infant twins to bring up, and on the night in question she and her husband were taking turns sitting up with these babies, who were just recovering from the measles. While Smith was sleeping, his wife heard a tapping on the window, but gave it no attention. The mob, believing that all within were asleep, then burst in the door, seized Smith as he lay partly dressed on a trundle bed, and rushed him out of doors, his wife crying "murder." Smith struggled as best he could, but they carried him around the house, choking him until he became unconscious. Some thirty yards from the house he saw Rigdon, "stretched out on the ground, whither they had dragged him by the heels." When they had carried Smith some thirty yards farther, some of the mob meantime asking, "Ain't ye going to kill him?" a council was held and some one asked, "Simmons, where's the tarbucket?" When the bucket was brought up they tried to force the "tarpaddle" into Smith's mouth, and also, he says, to force a phial between his teeth. He adds:
"All my clothes were torn off me except my shirt collar, and one man fell on me and scratched my body with his nails like a mad cat. They then left me, and I attempted to rise, but fell again. I pulled the tar away from my lips, etc., so that I could breathe more freely, and after a while I began to recover, and raised myself up, when I saw two lights. I made my way toward one of them, and found it was father Johnson's. When I had come to the door I was naked, and the tar made me look as though I had been covered with blood; and when my wife saw me she thought I was all smashed to pieces, and fainted. During the affray abroad, the sisters of the neighborhood collected at my room. I called for a blanket; they threw me one and shut the door; I wrapped it around me and went in.... My friends spent the night in scraping and removing the tar and washing and cleansing my body, so that by morning I was ready to be clothed again.... With my flesh all scarified and defaced, I preached [that morning] to the congregation as usual, and in the afternoon of the same day baptized three individuals."
Rigdon's treatment is described as still more severe. He was not only dragged over the ground by the heels, but was well covered with tar and feathers; and when Smith called on him the next day he found him delirious, and calling for a razor with which to kill his wife.
All Mormon accounts of this, as well as later persecutions, attempt to make the ground of attack hostility to the Mormon religious beliefs, presenting them entirely in the light of outrages on liberty of opinion. Symonds Ryder (whom Smith accuses of being one of the mob), says that the attack had this origin: The people of Hiram had the reputation of being very receptive and liberal in their religious views. The Mormons therefore preached to them, and seemed in a fair way to win a decided success, when the leaders made their first trip to Missouri. Papers which they left behind outlining the internal system of the new church fell into the hands of some of the converts, and revealed to them the horrid fact that a plot was laid to take their property from them and place it under the control of Smith, the Prophet.... Some who had been the dupes of this deception determined not to let it pass with impunity; and, accordingly, a company was formed of citizens from Shalersville, Garretsville, and Hiram, and took Smith and Rigdon from their beds and tarred and feathered them."*
* Hayden's "Early History of the Disciples' Church in the Western Reserve," p. 221.
This manifestation of hostility to the leaders of the new church was only a more pronounced form of that which showed itself against Smith before he left New York State. When a man of his character and previous history assumes the right to baptize and administer the sacrament, he is certain to arouse the animosity, not only of orthodox church members, but of members of the community who are lax in their church duties. Goldsmith illustrates this kind of feeling when, in "She Stoops to Conquer," he makes one of the "several shabby fellows with punch and tobacco" in the alehouse say, "I loves to hear him, the squire sing, bekeays he never gives us nothing that's low," and another responds, "O, damn anything that's low." The AntiMormon feeling was intensified and broadened by the aggressiveness with which the Mormons sought for converts in the orthodox flocks.
Beliefs radically different from those accepted by any of the orthodox denominations have escaped hostile opposition in this country, even when they have outraged generally accepted social customs. The Harmonists, in a body of 600, emigrated to Pennsylvania to escape the persecution to which they were subjected in Germany, purchased 5000 acres of land and organized a town; moved later to Indiana, where they purchased 25,000 acres; and ten years afterward returned to Pennsylvania, and bought 5000 acres in another place,--all the time holding to their belief in a community of goods and a speedy coming of Christ, as well as the duty of practicing celibacy,--without exciting their neighbors or arousing their enmity. The Wallingford Community in Connecticut, and the Oneida Community in New York State, practised free love among themselves without persecution, until their organizations died from natural causes. The leaders in these and other independent sects were clean men within their own rules, honest in their dealings with their neighbors, never seeking political power, and never pressing their opinions upon outsiders. An old resident of Wallingford writes to me, "The Community were, in a way, very generally respected for their high standard of integrity in all their business transactions."
As we follow the career of the Mormons from Ohio to Missouri, and thence to Illinois, we shall read their own testimony about the character of their leading men, and about their view of the rights of others in each of their neighborhoods. When Horace Greeley asked Brigham Young in Salt Lake City for an explanation of the "persecutions" of the Mormons, his reply was that there was "no other explanation than is afforded by the crucifixion of Christ and the kindred treatment of God's ministers, prophets, and saints in all ages"; which led Greeley to observe that, while a new sect is always decried and traduced,--naming the Baptists, Quakers, Methodists, and Universalists,--he could not remember "that either of them was ever generally represented and regarded by the other sects of their early days as thieves, robbers, and murderers."*
* "Overland Journey," p. 214.
Another attempt by Rigdon to assert his independence of Smith occurred while the latter was still at Mr. Johnson's house and Rigdon was in Kirtland. The fullest account of this is found in Mother Smith's "History," pp. 204-206. She says that Rigdon came in late to a prayer-meeting, much agitated, and, instead of taking the platform, paced backward and forward on the floor. Joseph's father told him they would like to hear a discourse from him, but he replied, "The keys of the Kingdom are rent from the church, and there shall not be a prayer put up in this house this day." This caused considerable excitement, and Smith's brother Hyrum left the house, saying, "I'll put a stop to this fuss pretty quick," and, mounting a horse, set out for Johnson's and brought the prophet back with him. On his arrival, a meeting of the brethren was held, and Joseph declared to them, "I myself hold the keys of this Last Dispensation, and will forever hold them, both in time and eternity, so set your hearts at rest upon that point. All is right." The next day Rigdon was tried before a council for having "lied in the name of the Lord," and was "delivered over to the buffetings of Satan," and deprived of his license, Smith telling him that "the less priesthood he had, the better it would be for him." Rigdon, Mrs. Smith says, according to his own account, "was dragged out of bed by the devil three times in one night by the heels," and, while she does not accept this literally, she declares that "his contrition was as great as a man could well live through." After awhile he got another license.
In January, 1833, Smith announced a revival of the "gift of tongues," and instituted the ceremony of washing the feet.* Under the new system, Smith or Rigdon, during a meeting, would call on some brother, or sister, saying, "Father A., if you will rise in the name of Jesus Christ you can speak in tongues." The rule which persons thus called on were to follow was thus explained, "Arise upon your feet, speak or make some sound, continue to make sounds of some kind, and the Lord will make a language of it." It was not necessary that the words should be understood by the congregation; some other Mormon would undertake their interpretation. Much ridicule was incurred by the church because of this kind of revelation. Gunnison relates that when a woman "speaking in tongues" pronounced "meliar, meli, melee," it was at once translated by a young wag, "my leg, my thigh, my knee," and, when he was called before the Council charged with irreverence, he persisted in his translation, but got off with an admonition.** At a meeting in Nauvoo in later years a doubting convert delivered an address in real Choctaw, whereupon a woman jumped up and offered as a translation an account of the glories of the new Temple.
* This ceremony has fallen into disuse in Utah.
** "The Mormons." p. 74.
At the conference of June 4, 1831, Smith ordained Elder Wright to the high priesthood for service among the Indians, with the gift of tongues, healing the sick, etc. Wright at once declared that he saw the Saviour. At one of the sessions at Kirtland at this time, as described by an eye-witness, Smith announced that the day would come when no man would be permitted to preach unless he had seen the Lord face to face. Then, addressing Rigdon, he asked, "Sidney, have you seen the Lord?" The obedient Sidney made reply, "I saw the image of a man pass before my face, whose locks were white, and whose countenance was exceedingly fair, even surpassing all beauty that I ever beheld." Smith at once rebuked him by telling him that he would have seen more but for his unbelief.
Almost simultaneously with Smith's first announcement of his prophetic powers, while working his "peek-stone" in Pennsylvania and New York, he, as we have seen, claimed ability to perform miracles, and he announced that he had cast out a devil at Colesville in 1830.* The performance of miracles became an essential part of the church work at Kirtland, and had a great effect on the superstitious converts. The elders, who in the early days labored in England, laid great stress on their miraculous power, and there were some amusing exposures of their pretences. The Millennial Star printed a long list of successful miracles dating from 1839 to 1850, including the deaf made to hear, the blind to see, dislocated bones put in place, leprosy and cholera cured, and fevers rebuked. Smith, Rigdon, and Cowdery took a leading part in this work at Kirtland.** To a man nearly dead with consumption Rigdon gave assurance that he would recover "as sure as there is a God in heaven." The man's death soon followed. When a child, whose parents had been persuaded to trust its case to Mormon prayers instead of calling a physician,*** died, Smith and Rigdon promised that it would rise from the dead, and they went through certain ceremonies to accomplish that object.****
* For particulars of this miracle, see Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, pp. 28, 32.
** While Smith was in Washington in 1840, pressing on the federal authorities the claims of the Mormons for redress for their losses in Missouri, he preached on the church doctrines. A member of Congress who heard him sent a synopsis of the discourse to his wife, and Smith printed this entire in his autobiography (Millennial Star, Vol. XVII, p. 583). Here is one passage: "He [Smith] performed no miracles. He did not pretend to possess any such power." This is an illustration of the facility with which Smith could lie, when to do so would serve his purpose.
*** The Saints were early believers in faith cure. Smith, in a sermon preached in 1841, urged them "to trust in God when sick, and live by faith and not by medicine or poison" (Millennial Star, Vol. XVIII, p. 663). A coroner's jury, in an inquest over a victim of this faith in London, England, cautioned the sect against continuing this method of curing (Times and Seasons, 1842, p. 813).
**** For further illustrations of miracle working, in Ohio, see Kennedy's "Early Days of Mormonism," Chap. V.
The lengths to which Smith dared go in his pretensions are well illustrated in an incident of these days. Among the curiosities of a travelling showman who passed through Kirtland were some Egyptian mummies. As the golden plates from which the Mormon Bible was translated were written in "reformed Egyptian," the translator of those plates was interested in all things coming from Egypt, and at his suggestion the mummies were purchased by and for the church. On them were found some papyri which Joseph, with the assistance of Phelps and Cowdery, set about "translating." Their success was great, and Smith was able to announce: "We found that one of these rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph.* Truly we could see that the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of truth." That there might be no question about the accuracy of Smith's translation, he exhibited a certificate signed by the proprietor of the show, saying that he had exhibited the "hieroglyphic characters" to the most learned men in many cities, "and from all the information that I could ever learn or meet with, I find that of Joseph Smith, Jr., to correspond in the most minute matters." * When the papyri were shown to Josiah Quincy and Charles Francis Adams, on the occasion of their visit to Nauvoo in 1844, Joseph Smith, pointing out the inscriptions, said: "That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful. This is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron. Here we have the earliest account of the creation, from which Moses composed the first Book of Genesis."--"Figures of the Past," p. 386.
Smith's autobiography contains this memorandum: "October 1, 1835. This afternoon I labored on the Egyptian alphabet in company with Brother O. Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research the principals of astronomy, as understood by Father Abraham and the Ancients, unfolded to our understanding. "When he was in the height of his power in Nauvoo, Smith printed in the Times and Seasons a reproduction of these hieroglyphics accompanied by this alleged translation, of what he called "the Book of Abraham," and they were also printed in the Millennial Star.* The translation was a meaningless jumble of words after this fashion:--
* See Vol. XIX, p. 100, etc., from which the accompanying facsimile is taken.
"In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my father, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence, and finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the Fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same, having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring to be one also who possessed great knowledge, and to possess greater knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness."
Remy submitted a reproduction of these hieroglyphics to Theodule Deveria, of the Museum of the Louvre, in Paris, who found, of course, that Smith's purported translation was wholly fraudulent. For instance, his Abraham fastened on an altar was a representation of Osiris coming to life on his funeral couch, his officiating priest was the god Anubis, and what Smith represents to indicate an angel of the Lord is "the soul of Osiris, under the form of a hawk."* Smith's whole career offered no more brazen illustration of his impostures than this.
* See "A Journey to Great Salt Lake City", by Jules Remy (1861), Note XVII.
A visitor to the Kirtland Temple some years later paid Joseph's father half a dollar in order to see the Egyptian curios, which were kept in the attic of that structure.
A well-authenticated anecdote, giving another illustration of Smith's professed knowledge of the Egyptian language is told by the Rev. Henry Caswall, M.A., who, after holding the Professorship of Divinity in Kemper College, in Missouri, became vicar of a church in England. Mr. Caswall, on the occasion of a visit to Nauvoo in 1842, having heard of Smith's Egyptian lore, took with him an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalter, on parchment, with which to test the prophet's scholarship. The belief of Smith's followers in his powers was shown by their eagerness to have him see this manuscript, and their persistence in urging Mr. Caswall to wait a day for Smith's return from Carthage that he might submit it to the prophet. Mr. Caswall the next day handed the manuscript to Smith and asked him to explain its contents. After a brief examination, Smith explained: "It ain't Greek at all, except perhaps a few words. What ain't Greek is Egyptian, and what ain't Egyptian is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics. These figures (pointing to the capitals] is Egyptian hieroglyphics written in the reformed Egyptian. These characters are like the letters that were engraved on the golden plates."*
* "The City of the Mormons," p. 36 (1842).
When Rigdon returned to Ohio with Smith in January, 1831, it seems to have been his intention to make Kirtland the permanent headquarters of the new church. He had written to his people from Palmyra, "Be it known to you, brethren, that you are dwelling on your eternal inheritance." When Cowdery and his associates arrived in Ohio on their first trip, they announced as the boundaries of the Promised Land the township of Kirtland on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Within two months of his arrival at Kirtland Smith gave out a "revelation" (Sec. 45), in which the Lord commanded the elders to go forth into the western countries and buildup churches, and they were told of a City of Refuge for the church, to be called the New Jerusalem. No definite location of this city was given, and the faithful were warned to "keep these things from going abroad unto the world." Another "revelation" of the same month (Sec. 48) announced that it was necessary for all to remain for the present in their places of abode, and directed those who had lands "to impart to the eastern brethren," and the others to buy lands, and all to save money" to purchase lands for an inheritance, even the city."
The reports of those who first went to Missouri induced Smith and Rigdon, before they made their first trip to that state, to announce that the Saints would pass one more winter in Ohio. But when they had visited the Missouri frontier and realized its distance from even the Ohio border line, and the actual privations to which settlers there must submit, their zeal weakened, and they declared, "It will be many years before we come here, for the Lord has a great work for us to do in Ohio." The building of the Temple at Kirtland, and the investments in lots and in business enterprises there showed that a permanent settlement in Ohio was then decided on.
Smith's first business enterprise for the church in Ohio was a general store which he opened in Hiram. This establishment has been described as "a poorly furnished country store where commerce looks starvation in the face."* The difficulty of combining the positions of prophet, head of the church, and retail merchant was naturally great. The result of the combination has been graphically pictured by no less an authority than Brigham Young. In a discourse in Salt Lake City, explaining why the church did not maintain a store there, Young said:--
* Salt Lake Herald, November 17, 1877.
"You that have lived in Nauvoo, in Missouri, in Kirtland, Ohio, can you assign a reason why Joseph could not keep a store and be a merchant? Let me just give you a few reasons; and there are men here who know just how matters went in those days. Joseph goes to New York and buys $20,000 worth of goods, comes into Kirtland and commences to trade. In comes one of the brethren. Brother Joseph, let me have a frock pattern for my wife: What if Joseph says, No, I cannot without money.' The consequence would be, He is no Prophet,' says James. Pretty soon Thomas walks in. Brother Joseph, will you trust me for a pair of boots?' No, I cannot let them go without money.' Well,' says Thomas, Brother Joseph is no Prophet; I have found THAT out and I am glad of it.' After a while in comes Bill and Sister Susan. Says Bill, Brother Joseph, I want a shawl. I have not got any money, but I wish you to trust me a week or a fortnight.' Well, Brother Joseph thinks the others have gone and apostatized, and he don't know but these goods will make the whole church do the same, so he lets Bill have a shawl. Bill walks of with it and meets a brother. Well,' says he, what do you think of Brother Joseph?' O, he is a first rate man, and I fully believe he is a Prophet. He has trusted me with this shawl.' Richard says, I think I will go down and see if he won't trust me some.' In walks Richard. Brother Joseph, I want to trade about $20.' Well,'says Joseph, these goods will make the people apostatize, so over they go; they are of less value than the people.' Richard gets his goods. Another comes in the same way to make a trade of $25, and so it goes. Joseph was a first rate fellow with them all the time, provided he never would ask them to pay him. And so you may trace it down through the history of this people."*
* Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 215.
If this analysis of the flock which Smith gathered in Ohio, and which formed the nucleus of the settlements in Missouri, was not permanently recorded in an official church record, its authenticity would be vigorously assailed.
Later enterprises at Kirtland, undertaken under the auspices of the church, included a steam sawmill and a tannery, both of which were losing concerns. But the speculation to which later Mormon authorities attributed the principal financial disasters of the church at Kirtland was the purchase of land and its sale as town lots.* The craze for land speculation in those days was not confined, however, to the Mormons. That was the period when the purchase of public lands of the United States seemed likely to reach no limit. These sales, which amounted to $2,300,000 in 1830, and to $4,800,000 in 1834, lumped to $14,757,600 in 1835, and to $24,877,179 in 1836. The government deposits (then made in the state banks) increased from $10,000,000 on January 1, 1835, to $41,500,000 on June 1, 1836, the increase coming from receipts from land sales. This led to that bank expansion which was measured by the growth of bank capital in this country from $61,000,000 to $200,000,000 between 1830 and 1834, with a further advance to $251,000,000.
* "Real estate rose from 100 to 800 per cent and in many cases more. Men who were not thought worth $50 or $100 became purchasers of thousands. Notes (sometimes cash), deeds and mortgages passed and repassed, till all, or nearly all, supposed they had become wealthy, or at least had acquired a competence."--Messenger and Advocate, June, 1837.
The Mormon leaders and their people were peculiarly liable to be led into disaster when sharing in this speculators' fever. They were, however, quick to take advantage of the spirit of the times. The Zion of Missouri lost its attractiveness to them, and on February 23, 1833, the Presidency decided to purchase land at Kirtland, and to establish there on a permanent Stake of Zion. The land purchases of the church began at once, and we find a record of one Council meeting, on March 23, 1833, at which it was decided to buy three farms costing respectively $4000, $2100, and $5000. Kirtland was laid out (on paper) with 32 streets, cutting one another at right angles, each four rods wide. This provided for 225 blocks of 20 lots each. Twenty-nine of the streets were named after Mormons. Joseph and his family appear many times in the list of conveyors of these lots. The original map of the city, as described in Smith's autobiography, provided for 24 public buildings temples, schools, etc.; no lot to contain more than one house, and that not to be nearer than 25 feet from the street, with a prohibition against erecting a stable on a house lot.*
* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, pp. 438-439.
Of course this Mormon capital must have a grand church edifice, to meet Smith's views, and he called a council to decide about the character of the new meeting-house. A few of the speakers favored a modest frame building, but a majority thought a log one better suited to their means. Joseph rebuked the latter, asking, "Shall we, brethren, build a house for our God of logs?" and he straightway led them to the corner of a wheat field, where the trench for the foundation was at once begun.* No greater exhibition of business folly could have been given than the undertaking of the costly building then planned on so slender a financial foundation.
* Mother Smith's "Biographical Sketches" p. 213.
The corner-stone was laid on July 23, 1833, and the Temple was not dedicated until March 27, 1836. Mormon devotion certainly showed itself while this work was going on. Every male member was expected to give oneseventh of his time to the building without pay, and those who worked on it at day's wages had, in most instances, no other income, and often lived on nothing but corn meal. The women, as their share, knit and wove garments for the workmen.
The Temple, which is of stone covered with a cement stucco (it is still in use), measures 60 by 80 feet on the ground, is 123 feet in height to the top of the spire, and contains two stories and an attic.
The cost of this Temple was $40,000, and, notwithstanding the sacrifices made by the Saints in assisting its construction, and the schemes of the church officers to secure funds, a debt of from $15,000 to $20,000 remained upon it. That the church was financially embarrassed at the very beginning of the work is shown by a letter addressed to the brethren in Zion, Missouri, by Smith, Rigdon, and Williams, dated June 25, 1833, in which they said, "Say to Brother Gilbert that we have no power to assist him in a pecuniary point, as we know not the hour when we shall be sued for debts which we have contracted ourselves in New York."*
* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, p. 450.
To understand the business crash and scandals which compelled Smith and his associates to flee from Ohio, it is necessary to explain the business system adopted by the church under them. This system began with a rule about the consecration of property. As originally published in the Evening and Morning Star, and in chapter xliv of the "Book of Commandments," this rule declared, "Thou shalt consecrate all thy properties, that which thou hast, unto me, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken," with a provision that the Bishop, after he had received such an irrevocable deed, should appoint every man a steward over so much of his property as would be sufficient for himself and family. In the later edition of the "Doctrine and Covenants" this was changed to read, "And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate thy properties for their support," etc.
By a "revelation" given out while the heads of the church were in Jackson County, Missouri, in April, 1832 (Sec. 82), a sort of firm was appointed, including Smith, Rigdon, Cowdery, Harris, and N. K. Whitney, "to manage the affairs of the poor, and all things pertaining to the bishopric," both in Ohio and Missouri. This firm thus assumed control of the property which "revelation" had placed in the hands of the Bishop. This arrangement was known as The Order of Enoch. Next came a "revelation" dated April 23, 1834. (Sec. 104), by which the properties of the Order were divided, Rigdon getting the place in which he was living in Kirtland, and the tannery; Harris a lot, with a command to "devote his monies for the proclaiming of my words"; Cowdery and Williams, the printing-office, with some extra lots to Cowdery; and Smith, the lot designed for the Temple, and "the inheritance on which his father resides." The building of the Temple having brought the Mormon leaders into debt, this "revelation," was designed to help them out, and it contained these further directions, in the voice of the Lord, be it remembered: "The covenants being broken through transgression, by covetousness and feigned words, therefore you are dissolved as a United Order with your brethren, that you are not bound only up to this hour unto them, only on this wise, as I said, by loan as shall be agreed by this Order in council, as your circumstances will admit, and the voice of the council direct.....
"And again verily I say unto you, concerning your debts, behold it is my will that you should pay all your debts; and it is my will that you should humble yourselves before me, and obtain this blessing by your diligence and humility and the prayer of faith; and inasmuch as you are diligent and humble, and exercise the prayer of faith, behold, I will soften the hearts of those to whom you are in debt, until I shall send means unto you for your deliverance.... I give you a promise that you shall be delivered this once out of your bondage; inasmuch as you obtained a chance to loan money by hundreds, or thousands even until you shall loan enough [meaning borrow] to deliver yourselves from bondage, it is your privilege; and pledge the properties which I have put into your hands this once.... The master will not suffer his house to be broken up. Even so. Amen."
It does not appear that the Mormon leaders took advantage of this authorization to borrow money on Kirtland real estate, if they could; but in 1835 they set up several mercantile establishments, finding firms in Cleveland, Buffalo, and farther east who would take their notes on six months' time." A great part of the goods of these houses, "says William Harris, "went to pay the workmen on the Temple, and many were sold on credit, so that when the notes became due the houses were not able to meet them."
Smith's autobiography relates part of one story of an effort of his to secure money at this trying time, the complete details of which have been since supplied. He simply says that on July 25, 1836, in company with his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery, he started on a trip which brought them to Salem, Massachusetts, where "we hired a house and occupied the same during the month, teaching the people from house to house."* The Mormon of to-day, in reading his "Doctrine and Covenants," finds Section 111 very perplexing. No place of its reception is given, but it goes on to say:--
* Millennial Star, Vol. XV, p. 281.
"I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies; I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion;...and it shall come to pass in due time, that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. Concern not yourself about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them.... And inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of this city; for there are more treasures than one for you in this city."
"This city" was Salem, Massachusetts, and the "revelation" was put forth to brace up the spirits of Smith's fellow-travellers. A Mormon named Burgess had gone to Kirtland with a story about a large amount of money that was buried in the cellar of a house in Salem which had belonged to a widow, and the location of which he alone knew. Smith credited this report, and looked to the treasure to assist him in his financial difficulties, and he took the persons named with him on the trip. But when they got there Burgess said that time had so changed the appearance of the houses that he could not be sure which was the widow's, and he cleared out. Smith then hired a house which he thought might be the right one,--it proved not to be,--and it was when his associates were--becoming discouraged that the ex-money-digger uttered the words quoted, to strengthen their courage. "We speak of these things with regret," says Ebenezer Robinson, who believed in the prophet's divine calling to the last.*
* The Return, July, 1889.
Brought face to face with apparent financial disaster, the next step taken to prevent this was the establishment of a bank. Smith told of a "revelation" concerning a bank "which would swallow up all other banks." An application for a charter was made to the Ohio legislature, but it was refused. The law of Ohio at that time provided that "all notes and bills, bonds and other securities [of an unchartered bank] shall be held and taken in all courts as absolutely void." This, however, did not deter a man of Smith's audacity, and soon came the announcement of the organization of the "Kirtland Safety Society Bank," with an alleged capital of $4,000,000. The articles of agreement had been drawn up on November 2, 1836, and Oliver Cowdery had been sent to Philadelphia to get the plates for the notes at the same time that Orson Hyde set out to the state capital to secure a charter. Cowdery took no chances of failure, and he came back not only with a plate, but with $200,000 in printed bills. To avoid the inconvenience of having no charter, the members of the Safety Society met on January 2, 1837, and reorganized under the name of the "Kirtland Society Anti-banking Company," and, in the hope of placing the bills within the law (or at least beyond its reach), the word "Bank" was changed with a stamp so that it read "Anti-BANK-ing Co.," as in the facsimile here presented.
W. Harris thus describes the banking scheme:--
"Subscribers for stock were allowed to pay the amount of their subscriptions in town lots at five or six times their real value; others paid in personal property at a high valuation, and some were paid in cash. When the notes were first issued they were current in the vicinity, and Smith took advantage of their credit to pay off with them the debts he and his brethren had contracted in the neighborhood for land, etc. The Eastern creditors, however, refused to take them. This led to the expedient of exchanging them for the notes of other banks.
Accordingly, the Elders were sent into the country to barter off Kirtland money, which they did with great zeal, and continued the operation until the notes were not worth twelve and a half cents to the dollar."*
* "Mormonism Portrayed," p. 31
Just how much of this currency was issued the records do not show. Hall says that Brigham Young, who had joined the flock at Kirtland, disposed of $10,000 worth of it in the States, and that Smith and other church officers reaped a rich harvest with it in Canada, explaining, "The credit of the bank here was good, even high."* Kidder quotes a gentleman living near Kirtland who said that the cash capital paid in was only about $5000, and that they succeeded in floating from $50,000 to $100,000. Ann Eliza, Brigham's "wife No. 19," says that her father invested everything he had but his house and shop in the bank, and lost it all.
* "Abominations of Mormonism Exposed" (1852), pp. 19, 20.
Cyrus Smalling, one of the Seventy at Kirtland, wrote an account of Kirtland banking operations under date of March 10, 1841, in which he said that Smith and his associates collected about $6000 in specie, and that when people in the neighborhood went to the bank to inquire about its specie reserve, "Smith had some one or two hundred boxes made, and gathered all the lead and shot the village had, or that part of it that he controlled, and filled the boxes with lead, shot, etc., and marked them $1000 each. Then, when they went to examine the vault, he had one box on a table partly filled for them to see; and when they proceeded to the vault, Smith told them that the church had $200,000 in specie; and he opened one box and they saw that it was silver; and they were seemingly satisfied, and went away for a few days until the elders were packed off in every direction to pass their paper money."*
* "Mormons; or Knavery Exposed" (1841).
Smith believed in specie payments to his bank, whatever might be his intentions as regards the redemption of his notes, for, in the Messenger and Advocate (pp. 441-443), following the by-laws of the Anti-banking Company, was printed a statement signed by him, saying:--
"We want the brethren from abroad to call on us and take stock in the Safety Society, and we would remind them of the sayings of the Prophet Isaiah contained in the 60th chapter, and more particularly in the 9th and 17th verses which are as follows:--
"Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God.
"For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, etc."
The Messenger and Advocate (edited by W. A. Cowdery), of July, 1837, contained a long article on the bank and its troubles, pointing out, first, that the bank was opened without a charter, being "considered a kind of joint stock association," and that "the private property of the stockholders was holden in proportion to the amount of their subscriptions for the redemption of the paper," and also that its notes were absolutely void under the state law. The editor goes on to say:--
"Previously to the commencement of discounting by the bank, large debts had been contracted for merchandise in New York and other cities, and large contracts entered into for real estate in this and adjoining towns; some of them had fallen due and must be met, or incur forfeitures of large sums. These causes, we are bound to believe, operated to induce the officers of the bank to let out larger sums than their better judgments dictated, which almost invariably fell into or passed through the hands of those who sought our ruin.... Hundreds who were enemies either came or sent their agents and demanded specie, till the officers thought best to refuse payment."
This subtle explanation of the suspension of specie payments is followed with a discussion of monopolies, etc., leading up to a statement of the obligations of the Mormons in regard to the discredited bank-notes, most of which were in circulation elsewhere. To the question; "Shall we unite as one man, say it is good, and make it good by taking it on a par with gold?" he replies, "No," explaining that, owing to the fewness of the church members as compared with the world at large, "it must be confined in its circulation and par value to the limits of our own society." To the question, "Shall we then take it at its marked price for our property," he again replies, "No," explaining that their enemies had received the paper at a discount, and that, to receive it at par from them, would "give them voluntarily and with one eye open just that advantage over us to oppress, degrade and depress us." This combined financial and spiritual adviser closes his article by urging the brethren to set apart a portion of their time to the service of God, and a portion to "the study of the science of our government and the news of the day."
A card which appeared in the Messenger and Advocate of August, 1837, signed by Smith, warned "the brethren and friends of the church to beware of speculators, renegades, and gamblers who are duping the unwary and unsuspecting by palming upon them those bills, which are of no worth here."
The actual test of the bank's soundness had come when a request was made for the redemption of the notes. The notes seem to have been accepted freely in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where it was taken for granted that a cashier and president who professed to be prophets of the Lord would not give countenance to bank paper of doubtful value.* When stories about the concern reached the Pittsburg banks, they sent an agent to Kirtland with a package of the notes for redemption. Rigdon loudly asserted the stability of the institution; but when a request for coin was repeated, it was promptly refused by him on the ground that the bills were a circulating medium" for the accommodation of the public, "and that to call any of them in would defeat their object.**
* "Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 71.
** "Early Days of Mormonism," p. 163.
Other creditors of the Mormons were now becoming active in their demands. For failing to meet a note given to the bank at Painesville, Smith, Rigdon, and N. K. Whitney were put under $8000 bonds. Smith, Rigdon, and Cowdery were called into court as indorsers of paper for one of the Mormon firms, and judgment was given against them. To satisfy a firm of New York merchants the heads of the church gave a note for $4500 secured by a mortgage on their interest in the new Temple and its contents.* The Egyptian mummies were especially excepted from this mortgage. Mother Smith describes how these relics were saved by "various stratagems" under an execution of $50 issued against the prophet.
* Ibid., pp. 159-160.
The scheme of calling the bank corporation an "anti-banking" society did not save the officers from prosecution under the state law. Informers against violators of the banking law received in Ohio a share of the fine imposed, and this led to the filing of an information against Rigdon and Smith in March, 1837, by one S. D. Rounds, in the Geauga County Court, charging them with violating the law, and demanding a penalty of $1000 They were at once arrested and held in bail, and were convicted the following October. They appealed on the ground that the institution was an association and not a bank; but this plea was never ruled upon by the court, as the bank suspended payments and closed its doors in November, 1837, and, before the appeal could be argued, Smith and Rigdon had fled from the state to Missouri.
It is easy to understand that a church whose leaders had such views of financial responsibility as Smith's and Rigdon's, and whose members were ready to apostatize when they could not obtain credit at the prophet's store, was anything but a harmonious body. Smith was not a man to maintain his own dignity or to spare the feelings of his associates. Wilford Woodruff, describing his first sight of the prophet, at Kirtland, in 1834, said he found him with his brother Hyrum, wearing a very old hat and engaged in the sport of shooting at a mark. Woodruff accompanied him to his house, where Smith at once brought out a wolfskin, and said, "Brother Woodruff, I want you to help me tan this," and the two took off their coats and went to work at the skin.* Smith's contempt for Rigdon was never concealed. Writing of the situation at Kirtland in 1833, he spoke of Rigdon as possessing "a selfishness and independence of mind which too often manifestly destroys the confidence of those who would lay down their lives for him."** Smith was in the habit of announcing, from his lofty pulpit in the Temple, "The truth is good enough without dressing up, but brother Rigdon will now proceed to dress it up."*** Some of the new converts backed out as soon as they got a close view of the church. Elder G. A. Smith, a cousin of Joseph, in a sermon in Salt Lake City, in 1855, mentioned some incidents of this kind. One family, who had journeyed a long distance to join the church in Kirtland, changed their minds because Joseph's wife invited them to have a cup of tea "after the word of wisdom was given." Another family withdrew after seeing Joseph begin playing with his children as soon as he rested from the work of translating the Scriptures for the day. A Canadian ex-Methodist prayed so long at family worship at Father Johnson's that Joseph told him flatly "not to bray so much like a jackass." The prayer thereupon returned to Canada.
* Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 101.
** Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, pp. 584-585.
*** Lippincott's Magazine, August, 1880.
But the discontented were not confined to new-comers. Jealousy and dissatisfaction were constantly manifesting themselves among Smith's old standbys. Written charges made against Cowdery and David Whitmer, when they were driven out of Far West, Missouri, told them: "You commenced your wickedness by heading a party to disturb the worship of the Saints in the first day of the week, and made the house of the Lord in Kirtland to be a scene of abuse and slander, to destroy the reputation of those whom the church had appointed to be their teachers, and for no other cause only that you were not the persons." In more exact terms, their offence was opposition to the course pursued by Smith. During the winter and spring of 1837, these rebels included in their list F. G. Williams, of the First Presidency, Martin Harris, D. Whitmer, Lyman E. Johnson, P. P. Pratt, and W. E. McLellin. In May, 1837, a High Council was held in Kirtland to try these men. Pratt at once objected to being tried by a body of which Smith and Rigdon were members, as they had expressed opinions against him. Rigdon confessed that he could not conscientiously try the case, Cowdery did likewise, Williams very properly withdrew, and "the Council dispersed in confusion."* It was never reassembled, but the offenders were not forgotten, and their punishment came later.
* Millennial Star, Vol. XVI, p. 10.
Mother Smith attributes much of the discord among the members at this time to "a certain young woman," an inmate of David Whitmer's house, who began prophesying with the assistance of a black stone. This seer predicted Smith's fall from office because of his transgressions, and that David Whitmer or Martin Harris would succeed him. Her proselytes became so numerous that a written list of them showed that "a great proportion of the church were decidedly in favor with the new party."*
* "Biographical Sketches," p. 221.
While Smith was thus fighting leading members of his own church, he was called upon to defend himself against a serious charge in court. A farmer near Kirtland, named Grandison Newell, received information from a seceding Mormon that Smith had directed the latter and another Mormon named Davis to kill Newell because he was a particularly open opponent of the new sect. The affidavit of this man set forth that he and Davis had twice gone to Newell's house to carry out Smith's order, and were only prevented by the absence of the intended victim. Smith was placed under $500 bonds on this charge, but on the formal hearing he was discharged on the ground of insufficient evidence.*
* Fanny Brewer of Boston, in an affidavit published in 1842, declared, "I am personally acquainted with one of the employees, Davis by name, and he frankly acknowledged to me that he was prepared to do the deed under the direction of the prophet, and was only prevented by the entreaties of his wife."
A rebellious spirit had manifested itself among the brethren in Missouri soon after Smith returned from his first visit to that state. W. W. Phelps questioned the prophet's "monarchical power and authority," and an unpleasant correspondence sprung up between them. As Smith did not succeed by his own pen in silencing his accusers, a conference of twelve high priests was called by him in Kirtland in January, 1833, which appointed Orson Hyde and Smith's brother Hyrum to write to the Missouri brethren. In this letter they were told plainly that, unless the rebellious spirit ceased, the Lord would seek another Zion. To Phelps the message was sent, "If you have fat beef and potatoes, eat them in singleness of heart, and not boast yourself in these things." It was, however, as a concession to this spirit of complaint, according to Ferris, that Smith announced the "revelation" which placed the church in the hands of a supreme governing body of three.
Smith himself furnishes a very complete picture of the disrupted condition of the Mormons in 1838, in an editorial in the Elders' journal, dated August, of that year. The tone of the article, too, sheds further light on Smith's character. Referring to the course of "a set of creatures" whom the church had excluded from fellowship, he says they "had recourse to the foulest lying to hide their iniquity...; and this gang of horse thieves and drunkards were called upon immediately to write their lives on paper." Smith then goes on to pay his respects to various officers of the church, all of whom, it should be remembered, held their positions through "revelation" and were therefore professedly chosen directly by God.
Of a statement by Warren Parish, one of the Seventy and an officer of the bank, Smith says: "Granny Parish made such an awful fuss about what was conceived in him that, night after night and day after day, he poured forth his agony before all living, as they saw proper to assemble. For a rational being to have looked at him and heard him groan and grunt, and saw him sweat and struggle, would have supposed that his womb was as much swollen as was Rebecca's when the angel told her there were two nations there." He also accuses Parish of immorality and stealing money.
Here is a part of Smith's picture of Dr. W. A. Cowdery, a presiding high priest: "This poor pitiful beggar came to Kirtland a few years since with a large family, nearly naked and destitute. It was really painful to see this pious Doctor's (for such he professed to be) rags flying when he walked upon the streets. He was taken in by us in this pitiful condition, and we put him into the printing-office and gave him enormous wages, not because he could earn it, but merely out of pity.... A truly niggardly spirit manifested itself in all his meanness."
Smith's old friend Martin Harris, now a high priest, and Cyrus Smalling, one of the Seventy, are lumped among Parish's "lackeys,", of whom Smith says: "They are so far beneath contempt that a notice of them would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make." Of Leonard Rich, one of the seven presidents of the seventy elders, Smith says that he "was generally so drunk that he had to support himself by something to keep from falling down." J. F. Boynton and Luke Johnson, two of the Twelve, are called "a pair of young blacklegs," and Stephen Burnett, an elder, is styled "a little ignorant blockhead, whose heart was so set on money that he would at any time sell his soul for $50, and then think he had made an excellent bargain."
Smith's own personal character was freely attacked, and the subject became so public that it received notice in the Elders' Journal. One charge was improper conduct toward an orphan girl whom Mrs. Smith had taken into her family. Smith's autobiography contains an account of a council held in New Portage, Ohio, in 1834, at which Rigdon accused Martin Harris of telling A. C. Russel that "Joseph drank too much liquor when he was translating the Book of Mormon," and Harris set up as a defence that "this thing occurred previous to the translating of the Book."*
* Millennial Star, Vol. XV, p. 12.
There was a good deal of talk concerning a confession "about a girl," which Oliver Cowdery was reported to have said that Smith made to him. Denials of this for Cowdery appeared in the Elders' Journal of July, 1838, one man's statement ending thus, "Joseph asked if he ever said to him (Oliver) that he (Joseph) confessed to any one that he was guilty of the above crime; and Oliver, after some hesitation, answered no."
The Elders' Journal of August, 1838, contains a retraction by Parley P. Pratt of a letter he had written, in which he censured both Smith and Rigdon, "using great severity and harshness in regard to certain business transactions." In that letter Pratt confessed that "the whole scheme of speculation" in which the Mormon leaders were engaged was of the "devil," and he begged Smith to make restitution for having sold him, for $2000, three lots of land that did not cost Smith over $200.
Not only was the moral character of Smith and other individual members of the church successfully attacked at this time, but the charge was openly made that polygamy was practised and sanctioned. In the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants," published in Kirtland in 1835, Section 101 was devoted to the marriage rite. It contained this declaration: "Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." The value of such a denial is seen in the ease with which this section was blotted out by Smith's later "revelation" establishing polygamy.
An admission that even elders did practise polygamy at that time is found in a minute of a meeting of the Presidents of the Seventies, held on April 29, 1837, which made this declaration: "First, that we will have no fellowship whatever with any elder belonging to the Quorum of the Seventies, who is guilty of polygamy."*
* Messenger and Advocate, p. 511.
Again: The Elders' journal dated Far West, Missouri, 1838, contained a list of answers by Smith to certain questions which, in an earlier number, he had said were daily and hourly asked by all classes of people. Among these was the following: "Q. Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one? A. No, not at the same time." (He condemns the plan of marrying within a few weeks or months of the death of the first wife.) The statement has been made that polygamy first suggested itself to Smith in Ohio, while he was translating the so-called "Book of Abraham" from the papyri found on the Egyptian mummies. This so-called translation required some study of the Old Testament, and it is not at all improbable that Smith's natural inclination toward such a doctrine as polygamy secured a foundation in his reading of the Old Testament license to have a plurality of wives.
For the business troubles hanging over the community, Smith and Rigdon were held especially accountable. The flock had seen the funds confided by them to the Bishop invested partly in land that was divided among some of the Mormon leaders. Smith and Rigdon were provided with a house near the Temple, and a printing-office was established there, which was under Smith's management. Naturally, when the stock and notes of the bank became valueless, its local victims held its organizers responsible for the disaster. Mother Smith gives us an illustration of the depth of this feeling. One Sunday evening, while her husband was preaching at Kirtland, when Joseph was in Cleveland "on business pertaining to the bank," the elder Smith reflected sharply upon Warren Parish, on whom the Smiths tried to place the responsibility for the bank failure. Parish, who was present, leaped forward and tried to drag the old man out of the pulpit. Smith, Sr., appealed to Oliver Cowdery for help, but Oliver retained his seat. Then the prophet's brother William sprang to his father's assistance, and carried Parish bodily out of the church. Thereupon John Boynton, who was provided with a sword cane, drew his weapon and threatened to run it through the younger Smith. "At this juncture," says Mrs. Smith, "I left the house, not only terrified at the scene, but likewise sick at heart to see the apostasy of which Joseph had prophesied was so near at hand."*
* "Biographical Sketches," p. 221.
Eliza Snow gives a slightly different version of the same outbreak, describing its wind-up as follows:--
John Boynton and others drew their pistols and bowie knives and rushed down from the stand into a congregation, Boynton saying he would blow out the brains of the first man who dared lay hands on him.... Amid screams and shrieks, the policemen in ejecting the belligerents knocked down a stove pipe, which fell helter-skelter among the people; but, although bowie knives and pistols were wrested from their owners and thrown hither and thither to prevent disastrous results, no one was hurt, and after a short but terrible scene to be enacted in a Temple of God, order was restored and the services of the day proceeded as usual."*
* "Biography of Lorenzo Snow," p. 20.
Smith made a stubborn defence of his business conduct. He attributed the disaster to the bank to Parish's peculation, and the general troubles of the church to "the spirit of speculation in lands and property of all kinds," as he puts it in his autobiography, wherein he alleges that "the evils were actually brought about by the brethren not giving heed to my counsel." If Smith gave any such counsel, it is unfortunate for his reputation that neither the church records nor his "revelations" contain any mention of it.
The final struggle came in December, 1837, when Smith and Rigdon made their last public appearance in the Kirtland Temple. Smith was as bold and aggressive as ever, but Rigdon, weak from illness, had to be supported to his seat. An eye-witness of the day's proceedings says* that "the pathos of Rigdon's plea, and the power of his denunciation, swayed the feelings and shook the judgments of his hearers as never in the old days of peace, and, when he had finished and was led out, a perfect silence reigned in the Temple until its door had closed upon him forever. Smith made a resolute and determined battle; false reports had been circulated, and those by whom the offence had come must repent and acknowledge their sin or be cut off from fellowship in this world, and from honor and power in that to come." He not only maintained his right to speak as the head of the church, but, after the accused had partly presented their case, and one of them had given him the lie openly, he proposed a vote on their excommunication at once and a hearing of their further pleas at a later date. This extraordinary proposal led one of the accused to cry out, "You would cut a man's head off and hear him afterward." Finally it was voted to postpone the whole subject for a few days.
* "Early Days of Mormonism," Kennedy, p. 169.
But the two leaders of the church did not attend this adjourned session. Alarmed by rumors that Grandison Newell had secured a warrant for their arrest on a charge of fraud in connection with the affairs of the bank (unfounded rumors, as it later appeared), they fled from Kirtland on horseback on the evening of January 12, 1838, and Smith never revisited that town. In his description of their flight, Smith explained that they merely followed the direction of Jesus, who said, "When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another." He describes the weather as extremely cold, and says, "We were obliged to secrete ourselves sometimes to elude the grasp of our pursuers, who continued their race more than two hundred miles from Kirtland, armed with pistols, etc., seeking our lives." There is no other authority for this story of an armed pursuit, and the fact seems to be that the non-Mormon community were perfectly satisfied with the removal of the mock prophet from their neighborhood.
Although Kirtland continued to remain a Stake of the church, the real estate scheme of making it a big city vanished with the prophet. Foreclosures of mortgages now began; the church printing-office was first sold out by the sheriff and then destroyed by fire, and the so-called reform element took possession of the Temple. Rigdon had placed his property out of his own hands, one acre of land in Kirtland being deeded by him and his wife to their daughter.
The Temple with about two acres of land adjoining was deeded by the prophet to William Marks in 1837, and in 1841 was redeeded to Smith as trustee in trust for the church. In 1862 it was sold under an order of the probate court by Joseph Smith's administrator, and conveyed the same day to one Russel Huntley, who, in 1873, conveyed it to the prophet's grandson, Joseph Smith, and another representative of the Reorganized Church (nonpolygamist). The title of the latter organization was sustained in 1880 by judge L. S. Sherman, of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, who held that, "The church in Utah has materially and largely departed from the faith, doctrines, laws, ordinances and usages of said original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and has incorporated into its system of faith the doctrines of celestial marriage and a plurality of wives, and the doctrine of Adam-God worship, contrary to the laws and constitution of said original church," and that the Reorganized Church was the true and lawful successor to the original organization. At the general conference of the Reorganized Church, held at Lamoni, Iowa, in April, 1901, the Kirtland district reported a membership of 423 members.
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