Friday, November 02, 2007

What Mormons believe: Part 3

Continuing on the theme of The Book of Mormon, I wanted to show parts of two historical documents on this post. As the story goes, Joseph Smith was not alone as he translated the golden plates. He had a few people, which helped him in those early days and Smith writes about them in "The Pearl of Great Price." In this document, Smith recounts the "history" of these early visions and revelations.

In part of the account, Smith tells of a friend named Martin Harris. From behind a curtain, Smith would say aloud the translation of the golden plates and Harris and others would copy down the words. Here is Smith's account of a time Martin Harris went to New York City in order to validate Smith's translation.

“I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them….Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows: “I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters that had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters.” [Joseph Smith put forth this claim in The Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith – History, 1:62-64, 1982 edition)]

Mr. E.D. Howe, a contemporary of Joseph Smith and researcher on Mormonism during its early years, decided to verify these claims by writing to Professor Charles Anthon at Columbia University. . Howe asked Professor Anthon about this event and the Professor responded in a letter to Howe dated February 17, 1834. This letter can be found in Howe’s publication "Mormonism Unveiled", p. 270-72. Below is the letter sent by Professor Anthon to Howe. It is a little long but worth reading. This sort of hard evidence is nearly irrefutable.

“Dear Sir:
I received this morning your favor of the 9th instant, and lose no time in making my reply. The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” is perfectly false.

Some years ago, a plain and apparently simple-hearted farmer called upon me with a note from Dr. Mitchell of our city, now deceased, requesting me to decipher, if possible, a paper, which the farmer would hand me, and which Dr. Mitchell confessed he had been unable to understand. Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax.

When I asked the person who brought it how he obtained the writing he gave me, as far as I can now recollect, the following account: A ‘gold book,’ consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of ‘gold spectacles’! These spectacles were so large that if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned toward one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face. Whoever examined the plates through the spectacles, was enabled not only to read them but fully to understand their meaning.

All this knowledge, however, was confined at the time to a young man, who had the trunk containing the book and spectacles in his sole possession. This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, deciphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain to those who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the plates having been deciphered “by the gift of God.” Everything in this way, was effected by the larger pair of spectacles.

The farmer added that he had been requested to contributed a sum of money toward the publication of the “golden book,” the contents of which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm and handing over the amount received to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to come to New York and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which he brought with him, and which had been given him as a part of the contents of the book, although no translation had been furnished at the time by the young man with the spectacles.

On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as a part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving, and he then took his leave carrying the paper with him.

This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and nourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived.

I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained anything else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.”

Some time after, the same farmer paid me a second visit. He brought with him the golden book in print, and offered it to me for sale. I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his manner was strangely urgent. I adverted once more to the roguery, which had been in my opinion practiced upon him, and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the “curse of God” would come upon him should he do this.

On my pressing him, however, to pursue the course which I had recommended, he told me that he would open the trunk, if I would take the “curse of God” upon myself. I replied that I would do so with the greatest willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature, provided I could only extricate him from the grasp of the rogues. He then left me.

I have thus given you a full statement of all that I know respecting the origin of Mormonism, and must beg you, as a personal favor, to publish this letter immediately, should you find my name mentioned again by these wretched fanatics.

Yours respectfully,
Charles Anthon”


At 10:13 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

I know you told me this on Sunday, but reading through it I wonder what LDS kids learn in school about history. Do they learn the traditional history we all learn in America (which I'll admit is a bit biased :) ) about world and us history? Or do they (in Utah and other heavily LDS public schools) incorporate this stuff much like creationism is fighting to be taught in public schools? You probably might now know the answer, but I was just thinking out loud.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

PS I'd LOVE to know how the LDS church covers up all of this, the excuses, the rebuttals against this stuff.

(all so strangely familiar... yet more far out than one would imagine)

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Mark... these are great posts. We now serve in a place teaming with Mormons. In fact, I see more Mormon church buildings than I do Christian here. We are number two in Mormon population, next to Salt Lake.

In a recent visitation with some Mormons, I actually heard these two men say that they believe that Jesus is the One and Only Son of God for THIS planet. And that God the Father as we know Him is the only God for THIS planet... but there are many Gods... one for each planet. I was stunned to actually hear them confess this. I explained that they seem to have a problem with the fallacy of equivocation, meaning they use the same words Christians do: God the Father, Jesus Christ, etc. but their meanings for these are utterly and completely different. Therefore, they were preaching a different "gospel," which as Paul states.. is no good news at all.

Needless to say, they have not returned. :)

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I am not sure what the LDS schools teach. And I think they ususally try to NOT discuss these issue. If they do, they would probably just try to discredit the source from which they come.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, the more I study Mormonism, the deeper the heresy goes. Before I started my studing, I thought they were just falling into heresies like "adoptionism" or Arianism. But the more I learn, the more I see that they are actually teaching "tritheism/polytheism."

I really wonder how much the average LDS church goer knows what their church teaches.


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