1841-09-10-Christian Observer-Journal of a Mormon
Journal of a Mormon
Christian Observer, v20 n37, 10 September 1841, p. 146
The rise and progress of Mormonism is, perhaps, the most successful religious imposture ever attempted in this country. It is also a remarkable development of the weakness—the blindness of human reason on subjects of a spiritual nature, and of the aptitude or passion of the popular mind for visions, and mysticism in religion. The account which its leaders give of the origin of their new revelations is so preposterously absurd and ludicrous, that it seems impossible that it should gain credit even with the ignorant and credulous. The fable is so childish, rustic, and impertinent, and the actions of the supernatural agents introduced are so unbecoming in gods or men, as to betray the low origin of the affair. It is a farce upon the scriptural record of miracles. Its contents also betray the superstition or knavery of its authors. The whole affair—we speak of the origin of the new revelation, its contents and the projects of its abettors—seems too ridiculous to deserve a refutation, or even exposure. But, absurd as it is, it gains hundreds and thousands of proselytes. It has all the power of supernatural faith over them and their movements. It collects them into an army—it carries them far from their homes—organizes them into a great community—and directs their labors in laying the foundations of a splendid and spacious temple: it controls their property and their physical efforts as well as their religious hopes.—And that which constitutes the movement a remarkable phenomonon—it achieves its triumphs among a people who are civilized, free, and enlightened—among a people blessed with churches and schools, so as to carry the means of education to every door—among a people who have placed the Bible in every family that would receive it.—How, then can such an imposition so prevail with thousands as to shape the very destinies of their lives?
This problem is partly solved by the policy of its authors. They have evinced no small degree of sagacity in maturing their scheme. They were wise enough to know that it would not answer their purpose, to set aside entirely the authority of the Bible and introduce the book of Mormon in its place. The popular respect for the Word of God, even among the ignorant and vicious, is too great to be entirely eradicated. The new scheme then must be modified, and suited to the sentiments of the age. And this was done by blending many Christian verities with the fables and superstitions of Mormonism. This was a wise stroke of policy. In the case of Mohammed it was eminently successful—and it promises no small degree of success as practiced by Joe Smith. The visions and fables of this pretended prophet are engrafted upon the Bible—upon some of the leading doctrines of Christianity—and immersion is made the imposing rite for inducting the disciple into fellowship with the prophet.—Christianity, or some of the truths of Christianity, are so incorporated with Mormonism, as to be prominent, and by their prominence conceal or keep out of view the grotesque fabrications of the modern prophet. The combination makes a motley creed—a creed composed of the visions and miracles and continued revelations of the prophet. blended with Christian verities. And, in this form, it gratifies the love of the marvellous, the passion for mysticism, which every where prevails among a people untaught and unenlightened by the Word of God.
And in this favored country there are thousands of this character. They were not instrueted in the doctrines and principles of the Bible in their youth. They have grown up to mature years, and not a few to middle and old age, without religion, and without a knowledge of the rudiments, of the gospel. They do not know, they have never conceived, that the Bible only is AUTHORITATIVE in matters of faith and morals. They know not that the Bible is man's ONLY infalible guide. Hence they look to visions, to tradition, or to any miracle pretender who may successfully appeal to their passions.—They may have been instructed on other subjects—they may be considered intelligent—but, if unacquainted with the doctrines and and principles of religion as taught in the Bible, they are liable to be made the dupes of superstition or of wild fanaticism by any pretender who may rouse the sympathies of their religious nature. Infidelity can shield no man against imposition. Nor can literature or science save one from superstition. The practical knowledge of the truth revealed in the Scriptures is the only effectual antidote against fanaticism and delusion. The Bible is the most potent instrument that can be used to suppress these works of darkness; and in order to secure this end, the careful study of it must be made a part of popular education. It must be read and understood in every school and family through the land. Increasing efforts must made to extend the influences of the pulpit and Christian press, and Sabbath schools, over the popular mind. By the more general diffusion of scriptural knowledge only can we hope to save multitudes in our country from ignorance, vice, fanaticism, and ruin.
Our thoughts have been called to this subject by the journal of a Mormon, placed in our hands by a gentleman of this city, who is acquainted with the author. It is the journal of W. J. APPLEBY, ESQ., late a Judge in the county of Burlington, N. J.—The author appears not to be an ignorant man in the popular sense of the term. Though not accustomed to write for the press, he is obviously a man of good ordinary capacities and intelligence. We are not disposed to regard him either as knave or fool—but as one laboring under that spiritual disease, fanaticism, to which all men are exposed who are reared without knowledge, or fixed principles in religion. The preface to his journal, which we copy entire, and the extracts from it which are subjoined, will be read with interest as matters of curiosity.—Mr. Appleby is now a Minister of "The Church of Latter Day Saints," as the Mormons style themselves. His account of himself is as follows:
Preface.—The Author of this journal, being a resident of the Township of Chesterfield, County of Burlington, in the State of New Jersey, and having been in the capacity of a Public Officer in the said county for several years past, his character is before the Public, and stands unimpeachable as by a referenee to a copy of a letter of recommendation attached to the end of this Journal will appear, which he received prior to his departure for the West, not knowing what difficulties or emergencies he might be called upon to undergo; and being well aware that it is the opinion of a great many people, (and especially Priests,) that are ignorant of the principles and doctrines, that are held forth and advanced by the Church of "Latter Day Saints," that they are in direct opposition to the Scriptures of divine truth, that their Elders are Impostors, Fanatics, &c. that no person of any Character or respectability belongs to the Church, that this is the opinion of a great many prejudiced minds, the author is well aware of. They will not take the pains to go and hear what their Doctrine is, or what they preach, but condemn unheard, without ever investigating the Scriptures for themselves, to see whether they preach the Gospel of Christ or not. Therefore it was thought best to lay before the Public, a copy of the same. The Gentlemen whose names are attached to it do not belong to the Church, (with the exception of two,) and whose character and veracity are unimpeachable, and cannot be doubted.
[His Religious Experience.]
In the beginning of Autumn, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty, it pleased the God of Elijah to awaken the writer of this to a sense of his danger, if he rejected the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Christ, which had been sounded in his ears by the servants of God, "The Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," he was given to understand the plan of salvation as taught by the disciples of Christ in ancient times and to see and feel the need of a bleeding, crucified Redeemer. Having received a testimony that "Mormonism," (as it is styled by the sectarian priest and people,) was true, and that the Eternal Jehovah had condescended to speak once more from the heavens to the children of men in these last days, like unto in days of old.
With a joyful and glad heart he went forward and obeyed the gospel, regardless or fearless of the scoffs, frowns, or despisings of a sinful world, disdaining all earthly emoluments for the sake of Jesus and his holy word. He is now an Elder in the said church, and believing it to be his duty to go to Zion, the city of God, situated in the wilds of the West, (destined to be the theatre of the greatest and glorious events of these latter days,) he accordingly left home in the beginning of April last. After making a short stay at Philadelphia, Hollidaysburg, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis. and Quincey. he arrived at the city of Zion, which is called Nauvoo, (from the Hebrew, signifying beautiful, delightful,) had an interview with the prophet whom God has raised up in these last days to conduct the affairs of his church here upon the earth, and to warn the people to prepare for the sccond coming of the Son of Man.
After viewing the city and deriving what information he desired in regard to the object of his visit, he returned home about the beginning of June, having kept a Journal of his travels and observations from the time he left home until his return.
It was not the intention of the author to ever have published it, until arriving in Philadelphia on his return, some of the brethren there made a special request to him to have it published, as there were a great many going West; and perhaps they might reap a great deal of information and instruction from it concerning matters that would benefit and be of advantage to them.
No doubt but many will cry out, "egotism!" and "self-praise," "self-recommendation," &c., but let them rest assured that it was wrote just to express the feelings and sentiments of a grateful heart towards his Creator, that beat in the bosom of the author at the time, without a thought of ever laying it before the public. It was not his intention then, neither is it now, to eulogise himself, but to give all the glory and honor to God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Saviour. Amen.
- Recklesstown, June, 1841. W. J. A.
Extracts from his Journal.
April 8th. [At Conference held in Philadelphia] Heard Elders Babbot and Snow preach on the organization of intelligence, and how aspiring Lucifer fell.
["The organization of intelligence!" A novel subject for the pulpit—revealed, perhaps, in the Book of Mormon. By the next extract, it appears that our author's conversion did not inspire him with any special regard for the law of the Sabbath. We trust he has more respect for the other precepts of the Decalogue.]
"11. This morning, (Sabbath,) started [from Lemon] for Columbia, 21 miles distant; arrived there about noon. Here we took the canal and proceeded onward. * * *
"20. To-day I have had a fair discussion on board with some Presbyterians, on the doctrine of what they term Mormonism, but what I and every once else that is acquainted with the gospel, throwing aside prejudice, will term the gospel of our Lord and Saviour, in its fulness, which is the power of God unto salvation. * * Without any egotism, I confounded them, and refuted their arguments, taking the sword of the Spirit for my testimony, and put to silence the ignorance of men blinded by tradition and priestcraft.
[No wonder that they were confounded. At Louisville, on the 23d, he was unwell. On the 21th he says:]
Feel quite indisposed yet, but I know if I am faithful, I shall be healed.
"25th. (Sabbath.) We are upon the bosom of the broad Mississippi, enjoying the picturesqe scenery that decks each bank of this majestic river. [After noticing the employment of others he says:] I myself have just finished reading the resurrection and restoration of all things spoken of by P. Pratt in his" Voice of Warning."
[His account of the Modern Prophet.]
"30. To-day. for the first time, have my eyes beheld brother Joseph. And "where is the old Joe Smith, the impostor, the fanatic," with almost overy other name that could be thought of, as I have heard him represented to be? "Ans. nowhere!" His age is about thirty-five; his deportment is calm and dignified; his manners are condescending, gentle and humane, affable and free. He converses with the meekness of a Christian, and breathes the spirit of a pious man, a servant of the most high God. No ostentation or affectation of speech or manners, but candor, veracity, humility, and all the requisites that adorn a seer, a revelator, appear to govern and direct all his actions. You may ask him any question you please concerning his private history, his revelations, the dealings of God toward him, his politics, his faith, hope, and belief, and whatever else that is consistent or reasonable, and he'll answer you as becomes a gentleman and Christian. * * *
May 2d, (Sabbath,) Attended worship; viewed the foundations of the temple, the four corner stones heing laid, and a spacious building it will be when finished. The dimensions are 127 feet by 88. There is also a building going up called the "Nauvoo House," This is to be a house of entertainment for strangers and visiters to the city. It will be large and commodious, and is estimated to cost ninety thollsand dollars. * * *
"5. Visited brother Joseph. Received instruction concerning baptism for the dead. Read the Revelation as given by the Lord last January. Viewed four "mummies," males, and three females, brought from ancient Thebes, in Egypt. Saw the roll of Pappyrus and the writings thereon taken from off the bosom of the male mummies, being some of the writings of ancient Abraham, and of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. The writing is in the Egyptian language, and gives a description of some of the scenes in ancient Egypt, also of their worship, their gods, &c. The writing is beautiful and plain, being composed of red and black ink. You can perceive a wide difference between the writing, as Joseph appears to have been the best scribe.
Four mummies from ancient Thebes! exhibited in the city of Nauvoo, a village on the borders of western civilization!! Excellent craft! And the roll written by Abraham and Joseph in the Egyptian language!! Admitting that this is supremely bunging and absurd—yet antiquarians, we think, will concede that there is more good taste in exhibiting the writings of Abraham and Joseph to confirm the faith of the wavering, than in the contrivance of the Romish priests, who, to accomplish the same purpose, exhibit the bones and relics of ancient saints.
We give one extract more. It is his own account of his baptism—and partly explains what he had been taught concerning Baptism for the Dead. It appears that the Mormons, like the Roman Catholics, believe in the existence of Purgatory. To release poor unhappy souls from that dreadful place, the Romanists pay their priests for offering the sacrifice of the mass, and saying prayers for them.—The Mormons take a shorter and less expensive way of doing the thing, (which we have no doubt is equally meritorious and efficient.) They are buried in water, and then confirmed for the dead, whose captive spirits are immediately set free.—Hear the account of the miracle.
"As I before stated, after reading the revelation and seeing the glorious principle of the Gospel, and what a plan had been devised for the salvation of man, I went with Br. Marks down into the waters of the majestic Mississippi, and there was I buried six times, in the image of my Saviour, beneath the liquid wave, for my departed grandfather and grandmother, my father, brother, and two sisters, and confirmed individually for each one. O! what a glorious time it was for me, to think I could be an instrument in the hands of God, in setting captive spirits free! Glory be to God for this glorious principle of the Gospel of Christ, and for this privilege and all others I enjoy. And I humbly pray that what I have done this day may be registered in the archives of eternity, and sealed upon the Altar of God. I ask it in the name of Jesus.
I will here state, that, a few ni.Thts after the Baptism, my dear departed father appeared to me in a dream, embraced me in his arms, said something, (not recollected,)—I imprinted a kiss upon his check—he appeared joyful, and disappeared."
This dream was seasonable, and well suited to confirm his faith in the efficacy of baptism for the dead. His father appeared joyful, like one delivered from purgatory—and his deliverance he evidently regarded as a very glorious achievement. Mark his prayer. He would have what he did registered in the archives of eternity, &c.!!