CHAPTER XXII. Mormonism
Permit me to make a few remarks about the blasphemous organization called the Mormons, or Latter-day Saints. The original absurdity and trifling character of Joe Smith and his coadjutors, is a matter of history, known and understood of all the intelligent reading community that have sought information on the subject, and therefore need not be stated here by me. But there are a few facts I will state that have come under my own personal knowledge; for it has fallen to my lot to be appointed to travel in the region of country in Illinois most infested with this imposture.
After the Mormons were driven from Missouri for their infamous and unlawful deeds, they fled to Illinois, Joe Smith and all, and established themselves at Nauvoo, or the foot of the Lower Rapids, on the east side of the Mississippi. At an early day after they were driven from Missouri and took up their residence in lllinois, it fell to my lot to become acquainted with, Joe Smith personally, and with many of their leading men and professed followers. On a certain occasion I fell in with Joe Smith, and was formally and officially introduced to him in Springfield, then our county town. We soon fell into a free conversation on the subject of religion and Mormonism in particular. I found him to be a very illiterate and impudent desperado in morals, but, at the same time, he had a vast fund of low cunning.
In the first place, he made his onset on me by flattery, and he laid on the soft sodder thick and fast. He expressed great and almost unbounded pleasure in the high privilege of becoming acquainted with me, one of whom he had heard so many great and good things, and he had no doubt I was one among God's noblest creatures, an honest man. He believed that among all the Churches in the world the Methodist was the nearest right, and that, as far as they went, they were right. But they had stopped short by not claiming the gift of tongues, of prophecy, and of miracles, and then quoted a batch of Scripture to prove his positions correct. Upon the whole, he did pretty well for clumsy Joe. I gave him rope, as the sailors say, and, indeed, I seemed to lay this flattering unction pleasurably to my soul.
"Indeed," said Joe, "if the Methodists would only advance a step or two further, they would take the world. We Latter-day Saints are Methodists, as far as they have gone, only we have advanced further, and if you would come in and go with us, we could sweep not only the Methodist Church, but all others, and you would be looked up to as one of the Lord's greatest prophets. You would be honored by countless thousands, and have of the good things of this world all that heart could wish."
I then began to inquire into some of the tenets of the Latter-day Saints. He explained. I criticised his explanations till, unfortunately, we got into high debate, and he cunningly concluded that his first bait would not take, for he plainly saw I was not to be flattered out of common sense and honesty. The next pass he made at me was to move upon my fears. He said that in all ages of the world the good and right way was evil spoken of, and that it was an awful thing to fight against God.
"Now," said he, "if you will go with me to Nauvoo, I will show you many living witnesses that will testify that they were, by the saints, cured of blindness, lameness, deafness, dumbness, and all the diseases that human flesh is heir to; and I will show you," said he, "that we have the gift of tongues, and can speak in unknown languages, and that the saints can drink any deadly poison, and it will not hurt them;" and closed by saying, "the idle stories you hear about us are nothing but sheer persecution."
I then gave him the following history of an encounter I had at a camp-meeting in Morgan County, some time before, with some of his Mormons, and assured him I could prove all I said by thousands that were present.
The camp-meeting was numerously attended, and we had a good and gracious work of religion going on among the people. On Saturday there came some twenty or thirty Mormons to the meeting. During the inter-mission after the eleven o'clock sermon they collected in one corner of the encampment, and began to sing, and they sang well. As fast as the people rose from their dinners they drew up to hear the singing, and the scattering crowd drew up until a large company surrounded them. I was busy regulating matters connected with the meeting. At length, according, I have no doubt, to a preconcerted plan, an old lady Mormon began to shout, and after shouting a while she swooned away and fell into the arms of her husband. The old man proclaimed that his wife had gone into a trance, and that when she came to she would speak in an unknown tongue, and that he would interpret. This proclamation produced considerable excitement, and the multitude crowded thick around. Presently the old lady arose and began to speak in an unknown tongue, sure enough.
Just then my attention was called to the matter. I saw in one moment that the whole maneuver was intended to bring the Mormons into notice, and break up the good of our meeting. I advanced instantly toward the crowd, and asked the people to give way and let me in to this old lady, who was then being held in the arms of her husband. I came right up to them, and took hold of her arm, and ordered her peremptorily to hush that gibberish; that I would have no more of it; that it was presumptuous, and blasphemous nonsense. I stopped very suddenly her unknown tongue. She opened her eyes, took me by the hand, and said,
"My dear friend, I have a message directly from God to you."
I stopped her short, and said, "I will have none of your messages. If God can speak through no better medium than an old, hypocritical, lying woman, I will hear nothing of it." Her husband, who was to be the interpreter of her message, flew into a mighty rage, and said,
"Sir, this is my wife, and I will defend her at the risk of my life."
I replied, "Sir, this is my camp-meeting, and I will maintain the good order of it at the risk of my life. If this is your wife, take her off from here, and clear yourselves in five minutes, or I will have you under guard."
The old lady slipped out and was off quickly. The old man stayed a little, and began to pour a tirade of abuse on me. I stopped him short, and said, "Not another word of abuse from you, sir. I have no doubt you are an old thief, and if your back was examined, no doubt you carry the marks of the cowhide for your villainy." And sure enough, as if I had spoken by inspiration, he, in some of the old states, had been lashed to the whipping-post for stealing, and I tell you the old man began to think other persons had visions besides his wife, but he was very clear from wishing to interpret my unknown tongue. To cap the climax, a young gentleman stepped up and said he had no doubt all I said of this old man was true, and much more, for he had caught him stealing corn out of his father's crib. By this time, such was the old man's excitement that the great drops of sweat ran down his face, and he called out,
"Don't crowd me, gentlemen; it is mighty warm."
Said I, "Open the way, gentlemen, and let him out." When the way was opened, I cried, "Now start, and don't show your face here again, nor one of the Mormons. If you do, you will get Lynch's law."
They all disappeared, and our meeting went on prosperously, a great many were converted to God, and the Church was much revived and built up in her holy faith.
My friend, Joe Smith, became very restive before I got through with my narrative; and when I closed, his wrath boiled over, and he cursed me in the name of his God, and said, "I will show you, sir, that I will raise up a government in these United States which will overturn the present government, and I will raise up a new religion that will overturn every other form of religion in this country!"
"Yes," said I, "Uncle Joe; but my Bible tells me 'the bloody and deceitful man shall not live out half his days;' and I expect the Lord will send the devil after you some of these days, and take you out of the way."
"No, sir," said he; "I shall live and prosper, while you will die in your sins."
"Well, sir," said I, "if you live and prosper, you must quit your stealing and abominable whoredoms!"
Thus we parted, to meet no more on earth; for in a few years after this, an outraged and deeply-injured people took the law into their own hands, and killed him, and drove the Mormons from the state. They should be considered and treated as outlaws in every country and clime. The two great political parties in the state were nearly equal, and these wretched Mormons, for several years, held the balance of power, and they were always in market to the highest bidder; and I have often been put to blush to see our demagogues and stump orators, from both political parties, courting favors from the Mormons, to gain a triumph in an election. Any man or set of men that would be mean enough to stoop so low as to connive at the abominations of these reckless Mormons, surely ought to be considered unworthy of public office, honor, or confidence. But this is the way with all demagogues, and if our happy and glorious Union is destroyed, it will be done by these office-seekers, who go for their own little insignificant selves, while the true love of country is an eternal stranger in their traitorous hearts.
One fact I wish here to mention, that ought to be made public. When Joe Smith was announced a candidate for President of these United States, almost every infidel association in the Union declared in his favor. I traveled extensively through the Eastern states and cities, as well as in the West, that year; and I must say this was literally true, as far as I conversed with, or obtained reliable information of those infidel associations or individuals. Does not this speak volumes? and ought it not to teach the friends of religion an impressive lesson?
Great blame has been attached to the State, the citizens of Hancock County, in which Nauvoo is situated, as well as other adjoining counties, for the part they acted in driving the Mormons from among them. But it should be remembered they had no redress at law, for it is beyond all doubt that the Mormons would swear anything, true or false. They stole the stock, plundered and burned the houses and barns of the citizens, and there is no doubt they privately murdered some of the best people in the country; and owing to the prejudiced evidence always at their command, it was impossible to have any legal redress. If it had not been for this state of things, Joe Smith would not have been killed, and they would not have been driven with violence from the state. Repeated efforts were made to get redress for these wrongs and outrages, but all to no purpose; and the wonder is, how the people bore as long as they did with the outrageous villainies practiced on them, without a resort to violent measures. I claim to know all about the dreadful conduct of the Mormons, and could state in detail the facts in these cases, but think it unnecessary. This much I think it my duty to state, at least to palliate the seeming high-handed measures of our wronged and oppressed citizens.
In the fall of 1833, our Illinois Conference was held in Union Grove, Padfield's, St. Clair County, September 25th. It fell to the lot of Bishop Soule to take this Western tour, in the summer previous to our conference. He came to my house on his Western round of conferences. He traveled in a two-horse carriage, with an excellent span of horses, and he needed such, for the Missouri Conference sat in Arkansas Territory, at Salem, Washington County, a long way in the interior, and west of the Mississippi. He had mountains to climb and large rivers to cross, through a sparsely-populated country. My son-in-law, William D. R. Trotter, rode the Blue River Mission, which was in Pike and Calhoun Counties, and lay directly in the bishop's route. My quarterly meeting was in this mission. Trotter, the missionary, was at my house, so we started in company with the bishop. After we crossed the Illinois River, we had a hilly country to pass through to get to the quarterly meeting, almost without roads. So steep were some of the hills, and so deep the hollows and ravines, that we had to loose the horses from the bishop's carriage and let it down by hand; then hitch on and drive up the hills. It seemed to me that if these were episcopal honors, I would beg to be excused from wearing them; and really it appeared to me that it was enough to discourage a bishop himself. But those who know Bishop Soule, know him to be a man of indomitable courage.
After much labor to man and beast, we got safe to the quarterly meeting. The bishop stayed with us over Sabbath, and preached two excellent sermons, which had a good effect on the congregations; and the curiosity of many was gratified, for if circumstances had not transpired to bring him to our camp quarterly meeting, they would have lived and died without ever seeing a Methodist bishop.
Our Western country, in certain locations, was, in 1832 and 1833, fearfully visited with that dreadful scourge, the cholera. On Monday of our camp-meeting, a very severe case of cholera took place with a hearty young man, that terminated fatally in eight or ten hours. The people generally believed it to be contagious; hence we deemed it most prudent to close the meeting, though our prospects for a good meeting were very encouraging. Bishop Soule, with great labor and fatigue, prosecuted his journey, and reached the Missouri Conference, but was taken sick with a violent attack of fever, so that he did not reach our conference till the last hour of its session. The conference had elected me as their president. We had done all our business, and the council had made out all the appointments, and we were just about adjourning, when the bishop arrived. I sent a messenger to him, and inquired of him if he wished to say anything to the conference; but he declined coming into the room, and requested all those who had been elected to office to wait until he had rested a little, being much fatigued, and he would ordain them. They did so, and were ordained accordingly.
At this conference, in the fall of 1833, the brethren in Jacksonville, though few in number and comparatively poor, petitioned for a station preacher. Their request was granted, and Thomas J. Starr was appointed their preacher. Few and poor, however, as the brethren in Jacksonville were, there was a great improvement, in point of numbers and wealth, from the time of their first organization as a class till now. I am sorry that it is out of my power to give the date of the organization of the first class in Jacksonville, but I think it was in 1827, when it was embraced in what was then called the Mississippi Circuit, and Thomas Randle and Isaac House were the circuit preachers. In the course of this year, the first quarterly meeting ever held in Jacksonville was held in a log-house, owned by old Father Jordan. It was held up stairs, and I well remember it was an interesting quarterly meeting. In 1831 the Jacksonville Circuit was formed from apart of the old Mississippi Circuit, and John Sinclair, now of the Rock River Conference, was the circuit preacher; but from the rapid growth of the town, and increase of population, the Methodists have two large churches and pastoral charges, and there are many more churches in the city, belonging to other denominations. The Presbyterians have a flourishing college located here, and the Methodists have a female college, numerously attended. There is also another flourishing female college in Jacksonville, but to what denomination it belongs, or whether to any particular one, I am not prepared to say. The Illinois State Hospital for the Insane, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, the Institute to Educate the Blind, all under the fostering care of the state, are located in Jacksonvine. Indeed, it is the Athens of Illinois, and speaks loudly in favor of the state, and of the citizens of Jacksonville and surrounding country in particular. These institutions have high claims on all benevolent sympathizers in human woe, and all the real friends of a sanctified literature that will issue streams of light and life, to bless unnumbered thousands of our fallen race.
Our Illinois Conference, for 1834, was holden at Mount Carmel, October 1st. This year, the brethren in the town of Rushville desired to be organized into a station, and pledged themselves for the support of a preacher. I consented, and appointed T. N. Ralston, and it has remained a station ever since.
At one of our early camp-meetings in Schuyler County, Rushville Circuit, there was a general religious excitement. Many professed religion and joined the Church. Among the rest was a very intelligent and interesting young lady, a Roman Catholic. She was deeply convicted, and knelt at the altar and prayed fervently for mercy, and, after a sore conflict, she found peace in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Her conversion was a clear one. She joined the Methodist Church, and desired me to baptize her. I inquired of her whether she had not been baptized. She told me she had been baptized by the Roman priest, but she was aware of her own knowledge that the priest was a very wicked man, and that she did not believe he had any right to administer the ordinances of the Church on account of his wickedness, and, therefore, she was dissatisfied with her baptism. After mature reflection on the subject I baptized her, and she proved to be a worthy member of the Church.