In a letter dated Nauvoo, Illinois, March 1, 1842, Prophet Joseph Smith says: --
"On the evening of the 21st of September, A. D.1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room; indeed, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body In a moment, a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled; that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in all its fulness, to be preached, in power, unto all nations, that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign.
"I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his purposes in this glorious dispensation.
"I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me. I was also told where there were deposited some plates, on which was engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night, and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God, unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22d of September, A. D 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.
"These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold; each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called 'Urim and Thummim,' which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.
"Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record, by the gift and power of God.
"In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages, to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America, in ancient times, has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection, that he planted the gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessing, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent; that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions; that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, &c., and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth, and be united with the Bible, for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days. For a more particular account, I would refer to the Book of Mormon, which can be purchased at Nauvoo, or from any of our travelling elders.
"As soon as the news of this discovery was made known, false reports, misrepresentation, and slander flew, as on the wings of the wind, in every direction; the house was frequently beset by mobs and evil-designing persons; several times I was shot at, and very narrowly escaped, and every device was made use of to get the plates away from me; but the power and blessing of God attended me, and several began to believe my testimony.
"On the 6th of April, 1830, the 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' was first organized in the town of Manchester, Ontario county, state of New York. Some few were called and ordained by the spirit of revelation and prophecy, and began to preach as the Spirit gave them utterance; and though weak, yet were they strengthened by the power of God, and many were brought to repentance, were immersed in the water, and were filled with the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. They saw visions and prophesied: devils were cast out, and the sick healed by the laying on of hands. From that time, the work rolled forth with astonishing rapidity, and churches were soon formed in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. In the last-named state, a considerable settlement was formed in Jackson county; numbers joined the church, and we were increasing rapidly; we made large purchases of land, our farms teemed with plenty, and peace and happiness were enjoyed in our domestic circle and throughout our neighborhood; but we could not associate with our neighbors, who were many of them of the basest of men."
After giving an account of their removal from Jackson to Clay, and from Clay to Caldwell and Davies counties, Missouri, with a relation of their persecutions and consequent distresses, the prophet proceeds: --
"We arrived in the state of Illinois in 1839, where we found a hospitable people and a friendly home; a people who were willing to be governed by the principles of law and humanity. We have commenced to build a city, called 'Nauvoo,' in Hancock county. We number from six to eight thousand here, besides vast numbers in the county around, and in almost every county of the state. We have a city charter granted us, and a charter for a legion, the troops of which now number fifteen hundred. We have also a charter for a university, for an agricultural and manufacturing society, have our own laws and administrators, and possess all the privileges that other free and enlightened citizens enjoy.
"Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame; it has spread with increasing rapidity. Proud of the cause which they have espoused, and conscious of their innocence, and of the truth of their system, amidst calumny and reproach have the elders of this church gone forth, and planted the gospel in almost every state in the Union; it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages, and has caused thousands of our intelligent, noble, and patriotic citizens to obey its divine mandates, and be governed by its sacred truths. It has also spread into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. In the year 1839, where a few of our missionaries were sent, over five thousand joined the standard of truth. There are numbers now joining in every land.
"Our missionaries are going forth to different nations; and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places, the standard of truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say, 'The work is done!'
"We believe in God, the eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
"We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
"We believe that, through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
"We believe that these ordinances are, 1. faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2. repentance; 3. baptism, by immersion, for the remission of sins; 4. laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
"We believe that a man must be called of God by 'prophecy, and by laying on of hands,' by those who are in authority to preach the gospel, and administer in the ordinances thereof.
"We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, viz., apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, &c.
"We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, &c.
"We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
"We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
"We believe in the literal gathering of Israel, and in the restoration of the ten tribes; that Zion will be built upon this continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaic glory.
"We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what, they may.
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent virtuous, and in doing good to all men. Indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, -- we 'believe all things, we hope all things;' -- we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is any thing virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
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From the Gospel Reflector, a volume edited by B. Winchester, presiding elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Philadelphia, we extract the following.
"History Of The Ancients Of America, And Also Of The Book Of Mormon.
"Six hundred years B. C, according to the Book of Mormon, Lehi, who was a righteous man, was forewarned of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonish captivity, who was commanded by the Lord, took his family and fled into the wilderness. He pitched his tent in the wilderness, near the Red Sea, and sent back his sons to Jerusalem, who persuaded one Ishmael and his family to accompany them to their father Lehi. The Lord promised to lead them to a choice land above all lands; therefore they set out on their journey for this land. After a long and tedious journey, they came to the great waters, or the ocean. Nephi, the son of Lehi, who was also a prophet, and their pilot, or leader, in the wilderness, was commanded and instructed to build a ship sufficiently large to transport them over the sea. This work was accomplished in eight years from the time they left Jerusalem. They set sail, and in a proper time they landed, as we infer from their record, somewhere on the western coast of South America. They immediately commenced tilling the earth, and erecting mansions for dwelling-places.
"Lehi had six sons, Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph. Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, rebelled against God, and would not keep his commandments; for this they were cursed. Their posterity, in process of time, became a powerful nation, but extremely wicked; and their chief occupations were hunting, plundering, and roving about from place to place. In the Book of Mormon, they are called Lamanites. The other sons of Lehi were obedient to the commands of God. Their posterity, also, in the course of time, became a great nation, and were called Nephites. To them God committed his divine oracles, (the holy priesthood,) and they had prophets and inspired men among them. They also kept a record of their prophecies and revelations, and the proceedings of their nation. When they left Jerusalem, they brought with them the law of Moses, and the writings of the former prophets, down to the days of Jeremiah. This accounts for the quotations from Isaiah and others, which are found in the Book of Mormon.
"The Nephites tilled the land, built cities, and erected temples for places of worship; but the Lamanites lived a more indolent life, although, in some instances, they built cities. The Nephites were at times faithful to God; at other times they were indifferent, and would not be faithful. They frequently had long and tedious wars with the Lamanites, and were often driven before them. They were constantly emigrating to the north. At length they commenced settlements in the region of country not far from the Isthmus of Darien; and, while in those parts, they advanced further in science and arts than at any time previous, and built more spacious cities and buildings than they did before.
"Six hundred and thirty odd years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem, Christ, after his resurrection, appeared unto many of the Nephites, and established his church, chose disciples, and sent them throughout the land to preach his gospel, thus fulfilling the saying, 'Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them I must go and bring also.'
"Individuals of the Lamanites, at times, were obedient to the faith. The Nephites, after Christ's appearance, were faithful for many years; but, in the third or fourth century, iniquity began to abound, and their love began to wax cold. Some dissented, and raised up churches for the sake of gain; and thus they were troubled with the spirit of pride and haughtiness. God commanded Mormon, who lived in the fourth century, to preach repentance to them, and foretell their destruction if they would not repent. The Lord, foreseeing that they would not repent, commanded Mormon to collect the writings of his forefathers, -- their revelations and prophecies, &c., -- and make an abridgment of them, and engrave them upon new plates, (their manner of keeping records was to engrave them on metallic plates.) But in consequence of their wars, and their flight to the north, to escape the Lamanites, he did not live to finish this work; and, when the final destruction of the Nephites drew near, he gave the records to his son Moroni, who lived to see their final extermination, or destruction, by the hands of the Lamanites, and they, with his father, left to moulder on the plain.
"Thus a powerful nation, whose fathers were the favorites of Heaven, were cut off, and their names have faded into oblivion!
"The Indians of America are the descendants of the Lamanites, and, according to predictions that are in the Book of Mormon, they will yet lay down their weapons of war, and be converted unto the Lord.
"Moroni finished compiling and abridging the records of his fathers, which he engraved upon new plates, for that purpose, to use his own words, as follows: -- 'And now, behold, we have written this record, according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian; being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And, if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and, if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.'
"He also engraved on them an account, called the 'Book of Ether' of a people who left the old world, and came to this continent at the time the language was confounded at Babel, which was a partial fulfilment of the saying, 'So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth.' (Gen.11:8.)
"Moroni was then commanded to deposit this record in the earth, together with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, Interpreters, which were instruments to assist in the work of the translation, with a promise from the Lord that it should be brought to light by means of a Gentile nation that should possess the land, and be published to the world, and go forth to the Lamanites, and be one of the instruments in the hands of God for their conversion. It remained safe in the place where it was deposited, till it was brought to light by the administration of angels, and translated by the gift and power of God."
The Mormon Bible contains five hundred and eighty-eight duodecimo pages, and purports to have been written at different times, and by the different authors, whose names the parts respectively bear. The following are the names of the different books, in the order in which they occur: --
1. First Book of Nephi.
2. Second Book of Nephi.
3. Book of Jacob, brother of Nephi.
4. Book of Enos, son of Jacob.
5. Book of Jarom, son of Enos.
6. Book of Omni, son of Jarom.
7. Words of Mormon.
8. Book of Mosiah.
9. Book of Alma.
10. Book of Helaman.
11. Book of Nephi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman.
12. Book of Nephi, son of Nephi, one of the disciples of Christ.
13. Book of Mormon.
14. Book of Ether.
15. Book of Moroni.
Two new books have recently been published, -- the Prophecies of Enoch, in the Morning and Evening Star, and the Book of Abraham, in the Times and Seasons.
The Mormons seem to think that revelations from Heaven and miracles wrought, are as necessary now, and as important to the salvation of the present generation, as they were to any generation in any preceding age or period.
In a volume entitled "Doctrine and Covenants," are a great number of revelations, purporting to be from Jesus Christ to Smith and his coadjutors. The following extracts from a revelation given on the 22d and 23d of September, 1832, convey, it is believed, a fair specimen of the whole. We copy verbatim.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, It is expedient that every man who goes forth to proclaim mine everlasting gospel, that, inasmuch as they have families, and receive moneys by gift, that they should send it unto them, or make use of it for their benefit, as the Lord shall direct them; for thus it seemeth me good. And let all those who have not families, who receive moneys, send it up unto the bishop in Zion, or unto the bishop in Ohio, that it may be consecrated for the bringing forth of the revelations, and the printing thereof, and for establishing Zion.
"And if any man shall give unto any of you a coat, or a suit, take the old and cast it unto the poor, and go your way rejoicing. And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him he that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also.
"And the bishop, also, should travel round about and among all the churches, searching after the poor, to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud; he should, also, employ an agent to take charge and to do his secular business, as he shall direct; nevertheless, let the bishop go unto the city of New York, and also to the city of Albany, and also to the city of Boston, and warn the people of those cities with the sound of the gospel, with a loud voice, of the desolation and utter abolishment which awaits them if they do reject these things; for if they do reject these things, the hour of their judgment is nigh, and their house shall be left unto them desolate. Let him trust in me, and he shall not be confounded, and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed.
"And verily I say unto you, the rest of my servants, Go ye forth, as your circumstances shall permit, in your several callings, unto the great and notable cities and villages, reproving the world, in righteousness, of all their unrighteous and ungodly deeds, setting forth clearly and understandingly the desolation of abomination in the last days; for with you, saith the Lord Almighty, I will rend their kingdoms; I will not only shake the earth, but the starry heavens shall tremble; for I the Lord have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven: ye cannot see it now; yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Amen."
Joseph Smith is the son of a farmer, and was born in Sharon, Vermont, 23d December, 1805. His father removed to the state of New York about the year 1815, and resided in Palmyra, and afterwards in Manchester.
Smith has many enemies, and his doctrines are warmly opposed; still, it must be acknowledged that, by his talents, or the magic influence his scheme of religion has on the minds of men, or by a union of both, he has acquired an imposing station in the world. He is styled Prophet and High Priest of Jesus Christ, President of the Council of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, and Lieutenant-General of the Nauvoo Legion. He sends his elders, bishops, priests, and teachers, by scores, into all lands, and more than seventy-five thousand people bow, with willing subjection, to his mandates.
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Nauvoo, Illinois, formerly Commerce, is situated on the east side of the Mississippi River, at the head of Des Moines Rapids, about two hundred and ten miles (by the river) above St. Louis, thirteen hundred and fifty miles above New Orleans, and about three hundred miles below Dubuque, in Iowa. It comprises two miles square of fertile land. The city of Nauvoo, which was incorporated in 1841, is delightfully located, on rising ground, near the bank of the river. It contains many handsome buildings of brick and stone, among which are the Nauvoo House, a large stone building for the accommodation of travellers, and the Mormon Temple, likewise of stone, measuring on the ground one hundred by one hundred and twenty feet, exclusive of the wings of the building. This place has one of the best landings on the river, and its trade is considerable. The number of inhabitants, at the present time, is about eight thousand, chiefly Mormons. Nauvoo is said to signify, THE CITY OF GOD.