Burlington Daily Times – September 4, 1930
MORE ABOUT MORMON FICTIONS.
To the Editor of The Times:
Refering to Mr. Merrill's last effusions, permit me to say --
1. That it is begging the question to reiterate the alleged history and revelations contained in the Book of Mormon, when the only question at issue is, Is the Book of Mormon genuine and true?
We are asked to believe that our Lord favored the aborigines of America above the inhabitants of England and Europe; that while our ancestors in England and on the continent were painted savages there was in America a Christian church, called Christian, and proclaiming quite a complete gospel and practicing baptism centuries before Christ: that when Christ arose from the dead He appeared in America and established His church with all apostolic rites, orders and rituals: that this church flourished more or less for four centuries, and then became extinct: and that of all this splendid Christian civilization which had its last [mad] struggle in New York, nothing remains -- no cities, churches, monuments or records -- save only the golden plates that were "hid up unto the Lord" at the "Hill Cumorah," near Palmyra, which were at last put into the hands of Joseph Smith to be translated, and when translated by him were taken back by Moroni and again hidden. Some stories are too thin: this one is too "thick." It is no more credible than the tale circulated in Missouri in the later 1830s when "Zion" was being built up at Independence -- that very soon the melting of the ice barriers at the North Pole would release the rest of the "Lost Tribes of Israel" who were still living there in isolation, as it had been revealed to "the prophet," and they would gather at Zion, bringing with them immense quantisies of gold and silver, etc. Ninety years ago there were plenty of people who were ready to believe such stuff. But long before Byrd flew over both poles any intelligent man would have said, if asked to credit such fictions, "Tell that to the Marines." During the swelling period of the Kirtland bubble "it was preached throughout western New York that the state would be sunk within two years and that only such places as were designated Stakes of Zion [would] escape." Martin Harris prophesied that "within four years from September, 1882, there will not be one wicked person left in the United States," and that "there will be no President over the United States after that time." Possibly there may still be some benighted persons living who can be influenced by such insane ravings. For such our Mormon friends are hunting.
2. Mr. Merrill makes another effort to discredit Dr. Anthon. He charges that Anthon admitted that he gave Harris a certificate and then denied it. This is a specious cavil. Two certificates are in question. Anthon gave Harris a certificate for the benefit of the "man behind the curtain" to let him know that his trick had been discovered. It set forth that the so-called "Egyptian characters" were meaningless and evidently invented for purposes of deception. This he never denied. He did deny the tale set afloat by Mormons that he had given Harris a certificate endorsing the "translation" of parts of those characters by Smith. Mr. Merrill's labors upon the point show that he perceives that the reliability of the Book of Mormon hinges upon the question, Did Dr. Anthon tell the truth, or those who spread the story that he endorsed their prophet? Harris was, as his prophecies above cited show, of doubtful sanity. The Mormon story is a myth upon its face. Smith, we are told, hid himself behind a curtain while translating the "golden plates." Why such concealment? The whole tale is fishy.
3. I have not said that all the "witnesses" were cared for. Harris was, in his old age. Whitmer was visited by Mormon brethren when on his death-bed. Both had been concerned in the printing of the Book of Mormon, and had made great sacrifices for the church. But I repeat: It is significant that all four of the men who knew more than anybody else except Smith about the production of the Book of Mormon were in the 15 years following expelled from the church and allowed to sink into obscurity. This fact is significant, whatever its explanation.
4. That William J. Bryan, Theodore Rooseveldt and Thomas Marshall "endorsed Mormon doctrines" is a falsehood made plain by its indefiniteness. We are not told what doctrines. They certainly did not endorse such doctrines as the pre-existence of the human spirit, the propriety of "plural marriage," Adam worship, polygamous gods, and baptism for the salvation of the dead. That they praised the Mormon organization is not incredible. The organization has no equal outside of Soviet Russia and Fascist Italy -- both dictatorships. The Mormon hierarchy controls its constituency better than Rome does.
5. Another quibble anent the Spaulding Manuscript shows sensitiveness in regard to the doubt thrown on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon by reason of the testimony as to the former composition. The priority of the Spaulding manuscript is admitted, and its resemblance to the Book of Mormon as to scriptural phraseology , names and certain features of its historical matter is well established. There is proof, too, all assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, that Spaulding did write other manuscripts besides the "Lost Manuscript Found" which an emissary procured from his widow and never returned. That a genuine Spaulding manuscript which is not "identical" with the Book of Mormon is or was at Oberlin, is no proof that another Spaulding manuscript, the existence and character of which was vouched for by severak witnesses, was not made the basis of the Mormon classic. Negatives cannot be absolutely proven.
6. It is interesting to know that the "original Ms." of the Book of Mormon is now in the Mormon archives. But if, at least in its first part, it is not full of errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, such a fact would give rise to the reasonable conclusion that it is a corrected draft of the original Ms. We have the evidence of the printers as to the bad grammar and spelling, and the total lack of punctuation in the Ms. from which the type was set, when the first edition was printed. Bad grammar shows on the first page of the first edition, a fac-similie of which is in my possession. But one thing is certain: that the first part of the Book of Mormon "as is," is not the same as the first part originally written. Mrs. Harris stole the first one hundred and sixteen pages of that Ms. before the translation was finished, and [either destroyed or effectually concealed them]. This disaster put a stop to the process of "translation" for near nine months. Smith's celestial (?) helper seemd puzzled for a time as to what should be done under the circumstances. AT last, in July, 1829, having had ample time for deliberation, he revealed to Joseph a plan by which he might excape further embarassament. The lost pages had been translated from the plates of Lehi; a new translation, this time from the plates of Nephi, until he came to the point in the history where the first translation was interrupted. His inspiration, it seems, was not like that given Jeremiah, sufficient to enable him to reproduce "all the former words." Provision must be made against charges as to discrepancies. Mrs. Harris might make trouble for the prophet, if he should make another translation of the pages she had seized, even though he still had the same "plates." Hence delay and puzzlement, both in heaven and on earth! But by switching the process of translation from Lehi's to Nephi's plates for the part of the translated record which had been lost, the devil was outwitted. How delightfully simple! This story, so sweet and so childlike, appears in the preface of the first edition of the Book of Mormon: "If I should bring forth the same words again, or in other words, if I should translate the same over again," explains the honest prophet, careful to correct himself so as to make it plain that he was "translating" and not composing, "they would publish what they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation that they might not receive this work, but behold, the Lord said unto me, * * * thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and behold ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. * * * yea, I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil," etc. There it stands, in the old book still kept in the Astor library. For some mysterious reason this original and delightful preface does not appear in later editions of the book.
7. Passing by the fact that the words quoted by Mr. Merrill from John Wesley's 94th sermon are not in my copy, I note his outburst of temper in the course of an argument is an unconscious confession of defeat. But as to our salaries, while, like Paul, we have accepted "wages," none of us have felt constrained to compel the church to build him a house and pay him a salary, as Joseph Smith did in Kirtland.
Wm. P. McCorkle.
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