Mormon History

New Mormon Alphabet - 1854

The Dixon Telegraph April 27, 1854

From Utah -- New Alphabet.

The Mormons have set about reforming the English language. The Deseret News appears to regard the new Alphabet as a great improvement. We quote a portion of the article in the News explaining the invention:

The Board of Regents, in company with the Governor and heads of departments, have adopted a new Alphabet, consisting of 38 characters. The Board have held frequent sittings this winter, with the sanguine hope of simplifying the English language, and especially its orthography. After many fruitless attempts to render the common alphabet of the day subservient to their purpose, they found it expedient to invent an entirely new and original set of characters.

These characters are much more simple in their structure than the usual alphabetical characters; every superfluous mark supposable is wholly excluded from them. The written and printed hand are substantially merged in one.

We may derive a hint of the advantage of orthography, from spelling the word eight, which in the new alphabet only requires two letters instead of five to spell it, viz.: AT. There will be great saving of time and paper by the use of the new characters, and but a very small part of the time and expense will be requisite in obtaining a knowledge of the language.

The orthography will be so abridged that an ordinary writer can probably write one hundred words a minute with ease, and consequently report the speech of a common speaker without much difficulty.

As soon as this alphabet can be set in type, it will probably be furnished to the schools of the Territory for their use and benefit, not however with a view to immediately supercede the use of the common alphabet -- which though it does not make the comers thereunto perfect, still it is a vehicle that has become venerable for age and much hard service.

In the new alphabet every letter has a fixed and unalterable sound; and every word is spelt with reference to given sounds. By this means strangers cannot only acquire a knowledge of our language much more readily, but a practised reporter can also report a strange tongue so that the strange language when spoken can be legible by one conversant with the tongue.


Note: The creation and promotion of the Deseret Alphabet well demonstrates both the self-assured abilities of Mormonism and its irremediable arrogance. The Utahans' acceptance of the new symbols opened the way for the creation in the Great Basin of a perfectly closed society whose members would become immune to all communication and criticism from the outside the world. At the same time, their planned adoption of the new symbols would have rendered the Utah Mormons so disconnected from the rest of the country as to hinder the inflow of useful information as well as the outflow of missionaries capable of functioning in societies where the new writing system was not in use. Given their continuing belief that a Mormon-centered millennium was about to dawn upon the whole planet, it is possible that the Utahns temporarily deluded themselves to the point where some believed that the new alphabet would quickly become a world standard. It did not, and it disappeared altogether at the end of the 1860s.

The Deseret Grammar Book

The Quincy Daily Whig - Aug 25, 1857, page 2

 Liberty Weekly Tribune July 10, 1857

HECTOR H. MCLEAN, THE MAN WHO KILLED THE SEDUCER OF HIS WIFE. -- This gentleman, whose heroic and persevering efforts to rescue his children from the loathsome embraces of Mormonism have made his name familiar to the public, yesterday paid us a visit. He showed us a number of letters written to his wife by P. P Pratt, in the characters which the Mormons have invented to carry on correspondence and conceal their meaning, should their letters ever happen to fall into the hands of "Gentiles." The letter thus written are as perfectly incomprehensible to us as they would be if written in Chinese. -- Strange as it may appear, Mr. McLean translated these letters correctly, as circumstances subsequently showed, without any previous knowledge of the characters used.

The only key he had was furnished in the first letter, wherein the writer informed his victim that certain alterations had been made to the Mormon alphabet, and explained what they were, so that she might understand them. The alterations were only two, and from this slight clue to the meaning of these hieroglyphics, Mr. M'Lean succeeded, after giving up in despair several times, in deciphering the whole, thus enabling him to thwart the efforts of the impostor to rob him of his children. -- It was extraordinary, and shows itself veritably that necessity is the mother of invention. Mr. M'Lean narrated to us a number of circumstances which almost seemed to indicate the direct interposition of Providence in his behalf in causing him to secure his children.

We advise Mormon spies here, as elsewhere, to give Mr. M'Lean as wide a berth as possible. His company to them will prove extremely disagreeable to say the least.

If Mr. Buchanan would confer upon him the Governorship of Utah, and he would accept it, we are inclined to think that the old Brigand would have a sudden weakness in his knees. -- New Orleans Bulletin.

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