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Thirty years ago there lived near Palmyra, an obscure individual, whose name has since become familiar to the world. That individual was Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. A sketch of this person's life is interesting, not because we find anything in his character to admire, but because it presents to our view the origin of Mormonism -- one of the most extravagant humbugs that the world has ever witnessed.
The idea of a new religion originating in a person possessing less than ordinary abilities, and rapidly increasing in number till both the Old and the New World contain multitudes of proselytes, is a subject of much interest. To give the reader an idea of the origin of this singular sect is the object of the present essay.
The family of which Joseph was a member was large, remarkable neither for intelligence nor industry. His father possessed a visionary mind, and cherished the notion that a prophet would arise out of his family.
It is hard to say why he should arrive at this conclusion, yet the means of accomplishing his wishes were evidently in his own power, for it was soon announced to the world that a brother of Joseph was the expected prophet. It is evident that this appointment was not made by Divine authority, else so serious a mistake could not have occurred, for the prophet suddenly died -- died of surfeit of eating too much raw turnip!
The hopes of the ambitious father were not to be blasted by this unfortunate occurrence; for it was soon known to the people of Stafford street, where they resided, that Joseph was the successor of his brother.
In order to obtain a clear idea of the prophet's career, it will be necessary to refer to his early years.
The boyhood of Joseph was passed on the farm with his father.
During the winter months be attended the district school, where he acquired the little knowledge which he possessed. He is remembered by his school-mates as being idle, and somewhat vicious, and was regarded by all as a very dull scholar. As a young man, his prospects were anything but cheering.
He was engaged in no steady employment, and might often have been found lounging around the bar-rooms of Palmyra, in company with persona as worthless and idle as himself. This was the general character of Joseph Smith up to the time of his prophetic career, and no one would have surmised that he was to become the founder of a new religion, or an inglorious martyr at Nauvoo.
Joseph's prophetic powers were first directed to the acquisition of wealth, and money-digging soon engaged the attention of the family, and a part of the neighborhood.
Night after night these fanatics labored, urged on by visions of untold wealth. Excavations were made in hillside and valley, but Fortune, the fickle goddess, refused to smile upon them. Their golden visions were fruitless; the prophecy was false. At this state of affairs a circumstance occurred which retrieved the waning hopes of the prophet, and gave a new direction to his genius.
This was the discovery of the book of Mormon, or Mormon Bible. This event proved to be the origin of Mormonism -- the feeble germ which produced the tree of giant proportions, whose branches have extended over a large part of the known world.
It was pretended by the prophet that this record was found on a hill, below the surface of the ground, written on plates of gold. This being transcribed by a mysterious process, became the work now known as the Mormon Bible.
This is the fabulous account of its origin. Its authentic history is as follows: It was written by a Vermont clergyman named Spalding. It was intended merely as a work of fiction, and was entitled "The Manuscript Found.
It is probable that this book owes its origin to that sentiment which prompts us to venerate old manuscripts which contain an account of men and times long since passed away. It professed to be the history of a people which had its origin at the time of the confusion of tongues, and whose prophet's name was Mormon.
The style of the book is in imitation of the Holy Bible, but in point of beauty of diction, sublimity of character, and divinity of its author, it holds no comparison.
The only work with which the Mormon Bible can be compared is the Koran. Each is the oracle of a false religion, and the author of each was an impostor. Well may Mormonism blush at its parent age.
The life of its founder exhibits no feature worthy of imitation, and his character is associated with all that is vicious and immoral. Mormonism itself is but a specious humbug, whose vital principle is polygamy. Such is the man -- such the religion of which he was the founder.
It was also reprinted in July 23, issue of the Millersburg Holmes County Republican and other contemporary newspapers. Some of the Palmyra Smith family traditions mentioned in the above article were first published in a June issue of the Rochester Daily American.
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