return to page 236
[ 237 ]
THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES OF
THE BOOK OF MORMON.
Mormon style of proof -- Attacks on the Bible examined -- Laws of evidence -- Contradictions between statements -- Urim and Thummim -- Affidavits as to Smith's statements -- Contradiction of probabilities -- Weight of book -- Smith's previous character -- Affidavit of eleven citizens -- Of fifty-one -- Of different individuals -- Smith's witnesses -- Contradictions -- O. Cowdery -- Harris -- Whitmer -- Of the eight witnesses -- Analysis of testimony -- False grounds of the Mormons -- Examination of prophetic evidence -- Summary.
A FEW of the many evidences of imposture, contained in the Book of Mormon, have been examined in the last chapter, and the result of which, must be the conclusion that the book does not commend itself, either to the judgment or the heart. The Mormons have two ways of defending their book. One is by a constant retreat to its external evidence, and the other by an acrimonious assault on the Bible. It is not that the nature of the book shall prove the authenticity of its pretensions; but that the pretensions of the book shall prove its authenticity. The idea is not to receive the Prophet for the sake of the book, but the book for the sake of the Prophet. The Mormons have ever shrunk from a full investigation of the internal evidences of their book; but have sought refuge under affidavits and testimony. This is wise policy too, from
----- 238 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
the fact that it is more easy to avoid personal attacks, and cripple personal investigation, than to protect a printed book. The book remains, awkwardly remains very often, to refute its advocates. No sympathies can be aroused, no feelings awakened by critical disquisition; whereas, all have so much of the hero in them, that a spice of romance, a dash of suffering, plead loudly in extenuation of grave faults and serious deficiencies.
To attack the Bible is not the way to establish their pretended revelation. Even though they could prove every word of the Bible to be false, it would not prove their book to be true. Not only would it not establish it, but would destroy it -- bury it under the mass of ruins they had created. It is not enough to show that the Book of Mormon is as good as the Bible; it must be better, or it is a forgery. It must be better first, in the subject-matter; because the writers of the Book of Mormon pretend to far greater light on the important themes of human salvation. They assert that God was so much more gracious to them, as to give them so much more knowledge about the coming, mission, and death of the Saviour, that they organized churches in his name; called themselves Christians; obtained the Spirit with all its gifts; died martyrs for his sake, and all hundreds of years before he came, while the Jewish prophets were only cheered by a dim ray and comforted by a hope that the Messiah would come. "They looked forward to his day, and were glad." Men so much more blessed, ought to so much more exceed thleir comparatively neglected brethren. Not only in matter, but it must excel the Bible in style. All that the translators of
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 239 ------
the Bible claim is strong patience and unwearied research. The Book of Mormon translator claims inspiration as his means of production. With the Bible it is only human sagacity, increased by labor and invigorated by study; with this other book, Smith says that "therein is the wisdom of God made manifest." As far then as the wisdom of God is superior to the sagacity of men, so far should the Book of Mormon surpass the Bible. Nor can the "Saints" shirk this corollary. The Bible was handed down in MSS. with considerable differences; singularly preserved, it is true, but not without some important alterations. The Book of Mormon is written by Prophets, engraved on metal plates, hidden by a Prophet, found by a Prophet, translated by revelation. It is God throughout on whom it is charged. If it do not exhibit God throughout, it is a forgery. To attempt to extenuate any failings on the plea of human fallibility, is to charge weakness on the Omnipotent. To show that there are errors in the Bible, is a proof of the fallibility of the translators. To show errors in the Book of Mormon, is either to prove Smith an impostor, or it is to find God at fault!
The book does not commend itself; does the manner of its production commend it? It would be well to determine what are the laws of evidence by which to judge. They may be comprised in the following formula:
I. Statements must agree with themselves.
II. Statements must agree with principles previously known.
III. Statements must agree with collateral facts.
IV. Corroboration without collusion among disinterested
----- 240 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
V. Their joint evidence must preponderate over conflicting testimony.
First. Statements must agree with themselves.
Joseph Smith, born in 1805, sees an angel in 1820, who tells him his sins are forgiven. In 1823 he sees another angel who tells him of the existence of certain plates, their locality, and his destiny to obtain, translate, and publish them. Next morning, 22d September, 1823, Smith goes to the place, has a look into the stone box containing them, again sees the angel, endures a conflict with the powers of darkness, receives much instruction, and is finallv commanded to cover up the box for four years. On the morning of 22d September, 1827, he goes to the box in the hill and obtains the plates with the "Urim and Thummim," and commences the translation. Now what does he see? The plates, about 7 by 8 inches large, and about six inches thick; besides these there were the "Urim and Thummim, two white stones set in the rim of a bow," and "a brass breastplate worn by the ancients" (vide. J. Smith's Autobiography). This is the first statement with regard to the matter. On page 189 of Smith's Revelations (Doctrines and Covenants) is another statement in which "the sword of Laban and the brass director of Nephi" were added to the list. Which is true? If he only saw the plates, interpreters, and breastplate, as he said he did in his early statements, how comes he to change it two years afterward? Whichever is true, or if they both be false, the first-law evidence would determine his rejection.
Another very serious discrepancy occurs as to this Urim
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 241 ------
and Thummim. In the Book of Mormon there are two mentioned. One, p. 522, is possessed by Jared's brother, who seals them up with his plates, and hides them. These plates and interpreters, according to the Book of Mormon, have never been found. Ether, the last surviving descendant of Jared's company, engraves a succinct history of his fore fathers on twenty-four golden plates and dies, p. 549. These plates of Ether are found by the people of Limhi, about 120 B. C., p. 161. With these plates was brought the breast-plate referred to, but with them neither the plates of Jared's brother, nor his interpreters. They have not been found. Besides these, there is another pair of interpreters, possessed by one Mosiah, who declares he received them, they "having been handed down from generation to generation," p. 204. All that Mosiah knew about Jared was by means of Ether's plates of gold which he interpreted by his two interpreters. The interpreters of Mosiah were handed down to Mormon. If the Book of Mormon be true, these must be the interpreters Smith obtained; but, in his Revelations, p. 189, two years after, he says, "they were those given to Jared's brother." Here is a palpable contradiction between Smith in the Book of Mormon and Smith in the Doctrines and Revelations, and by the first law of evidence, he should be rejected.
Not only has Smith contradicted himself in his own works, but still more extensively in the statements he has made to his companions and neighbors; many of these have testified to such contradictions.
Peter Ingersol, one of Smith's most intimate friends, makes affidavit, and says, " that Smith told me the whole affair was
----- 242 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
a hoax, that he had no such book, and did not believe that there was such a book in existence; but, said he, as I have got the damned fools fixed, I shall carry out the fun."
Willard Chase testifies that "Smith came to me, wanting me to make him a chest to put his Gold Bible in, and promised me a share in the book to do so. He told me he was commanded to keep it two years, without letting it come to the eye of any one but himself."
Isaac Hale, Smith's father-in-law, also affirms, "I asked Smith who was to be the first to see the book of plates? He said it was a young child."
Rev. N. C. Lewis testifies that "Smith told me he was commanded to exhibit the plates to all the world at a certain time, then about eighteen months distant, and promised that I should see the plates. When that time came, he said he had been deceived."
Henry Harris testifies that "Smith told me that he could not obtain the plates until he was married, and that no one was to see them but himself and wife."
Alva Hale testifies that Joseph "promised me that I should see the plates, and appointed a time; but when it came, appeared angry, and refused to keep his word."
Levi Lewis testifies that "Smith told me that God had deceived him, and that this was the reason he did not show them."
Sophia Lewis testifies that she " heard Smith say the book of plates could not be opened by another person than his first born, which was to be a male; and that she was present at its birth, and that it was still-born, and much deformed."
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 243 ------
The question is, are these deponents to be believed? Either they are perjurers, or Smith is an impostor. These, one Smith's father-in-law, are parties well known and respected where they lived. They are perfectly disinterested. Its success would cost them nothing. Had they been disposed to assist in the imposture, they could have made a great deal. Although testifying to additional circumstances, they all confirm each other's statements. Either they are all perjurers, or they all tell the truth. The above are but a selection from many. The Smiths never could, and did not, oppose to these affidavits any thing but a bare denial, but moved out of that part of the country, where they could obtain no converts. They must be believed; Smith did contradict himself, and should therefore be rejected.
II. Statements must be probable.
In 1823 Smith disinters the box, looks into it, covers it up, and leaves it for four years. When he first visited it, "the crowning top of the box was visible from the road, though not sufficiently so to attract the attention of the traveler unless previously directed to it." It was thus in 1823. After the snows and rains of four winters such a box would be quite bare, and would have been inspected and robbed. To say that God should act thus in preserving "his holy word" is ridiculous and improbable.
Smith avers, that after receiving these plates, etc., he was "waylaid by two ruffians, one armed with a club; still keeping the plates, etc. concealed, he beats them off, runs from them, and arrives at his father's house, a two miles' run, before them." (Smith's Autobiography.) This may appear a small
----- 244 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
feat till we remember what he had to carry. "The plates of gold measure 7 x 8 inches, and six inches thick, and are fastened through the back edge with three rings." A box of tin, 10 x 14, and 3 inches deep, weighs about 125 lbs. gross. The box may weigh 10 lbs., leaving the net weight of tin 115 lbs. Now 10 x 14 x 3: 115:: 7 x 8 x 6: 92 lbs. Had these gold plates been tin, they would have weighed about 90 lbs. But the relative weight of tin and gold is as 19.25 to 7.58. So that 7.58: 19.25 = 92: 220.44. Hence, this mass of gold plates, as they were not so compactly pressed as boxed tin, would have weighed nearly 200 lbs. Besides these plates, he had, according to his third story, a breast-plate of brass, Laban's sword, the crystal interpreters, the "brass ball with spindles" director of Lehi. Yet he packs this horse load, keeps these large and awkward shaped things completely concealed, and, at the same time, beats off and outruns two empty-handed men a distance of two miles. Statements must be probable, and, therefore, these ought to be rejected.
III. Statements must agree with collateral facts.
What is Smith's previous character? While the prophets and apostles were poor, many of them ignorant, and some of them very young, still their characters were irreproachable. Smith's youth, ignorance, and low position would be no valid argument against him; but what was his reputation? Only those who know him best can testify. Such disinterested testimony we subjoin:
Affdavit made by eleven residents of J. Smith's village.
" We, the undersigned, being personally acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, sen., with whom the Gold Bible,
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 245 ------
so called, originated, state, that they are not only a lazy indolent set of men, but also intemperate, and their word not to be depended on, and that we are heartily glad to dispense with their society."
Signed by eleven male residents of Manchester, Ontario, N. Y., November 3, 1833.
On December 4, 1833, fifty-one other men of standing and reputation made affidavit to a similar effect. "We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family for a number of years while they resided near this place, and have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for 'visionary projects,' spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth. Joseph Smith, sen., and his son Joseph in particular, were considered entirely destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits."
This was signed by fifty-one men of well-known reputation.
Williard Chase made affidavit before Judge Smith, that "I have regarded Joseph Smith, jun., from the time I became acquainted with him, as a man whose word could not be depended on. After the family became Mormons, their conduct was more disgraceful than before. Although they left this part of the country without paying their just debts, yet their creditors were glad to have them do so rather than to have them stay."
Parley Chase affirms, "I was acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, sen., both before and since they became Mormons, and state that not one of the male members of the
----- 246 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
Smith family are entitled to any credit whatever. They were lazy, intemperate, and worthless men; very much addicted to lying. In this they friequently boasted their skill. Digging for money was their principal employment. In regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike."
Joseph Capron testified that "the whole object of the Smith family appeared to be to live without work. While digging for money, they were constantly harassed by creditors who are still unpaid."
Henry Harris testifies that "the character of Joseph Smith, jun., for truth and veracity was such that I would not believe him under oath. I was once on jury before a justices' court, and the jury could not and did not believe his testimony to be true."
Levi Lewis testifies "he knows Smith to be a liar; that he saw him intoxicated at three different times while pretending to translate the Book of Mormon; that he has heard him say adultery was no crime."
Barton Stafford, on oath before Judge Baldwin, testified, "Joseph Smith, sen., was a noted drunkard, that most of his family followed his example, especially Joseph Smith, jun., the Prophet, who was much addicted to intemperance. That he got drunk in my father's field, and that when drunk would talk about his religion."
Here are positive statements made by men who knew Smith well; who had known him long; who had no motive to exaggerate. They are not bare assertions uttered without thought, and repeated without exactness, but deliberate, written
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 247 ------
affidavits. No attempt has been made to meet them, only to cry persecution and run away. To cry persecution is not to answer grave accusations. To run away is to tacitly admit, if not the direct charge, certainly their inability to refute it.
We are bound in all honesty to believe these solemn assertions of over seventy well-known and well-reputed men. To believe them is to reject Smith. To commence God's work of salvation on the earth, required his Son, Jesus Christ, and the new testament of his blood. God would not select such a work as the Book of Mormon to continue the object that needed his Son to commence. He would neither select such a work, nor choose such a man to introduce it, nor in such a manner.
IV. There must be corroboration without collusion among disinterested witnesses.
To judge the Book of Mormon by the precedent laid down in the Bible, it is extraordinary for a Prophet to need witnesses at all. But Smith's only crutch are his twelve witnesses. He has introduced them and they must be cross-examined. A jury who knew him best, believed him the least. If not to be believed by a jury on another's case he ought not to be believed by the world on his own. We have seen that he has so contradicted himself that we can not believe him for his own sake; now, can we believe him on the evidence of his friends? The Book of Mormon says, "There shall be three witnesses." These records were to be shown to no more than three. When Moses brought down firom the mountain the tables of stone, on which God had
----- 248 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
written the law, and brake them in pieces before the people, the pieces lay there in the sight of all, a God-marked ruin, symbol of Israel's folly. These plates obtained in secrecy by a drunkard, a liar, and a cheat are to be secretly shown to three persons on whose testimony it is pretended, God will condemn the world. The Book of Mormon says he shall show them to three witnesses, Smith showed them to eleven! Not only the Book of Mormon, but Smith pretends to get a revelation in March, 1829 (Doc. and Cov. p. 172), and makes God to say, "I will give unto these three witnesses power that they may behold and view these things as they are, and to none else will I give this power to receive this same testimony among this generation." This is in March, 1829, yet in 1830 be pretends that eight others saw and handled the plates and bore not only the same but a still more explicit testimony. Out of his own mouth does Smith condemn himself and his witnesses.
On page 189, Doctrines and Covenants, Smith pretends that God has said, these three witnesses should see the plates, and breast-plate, and sword of Laban, Urim, and also the miraculous directors of Lehi. "You shall testify of them, that you have seen them with your eyes." Now, in their testimony, prefixed to the Book of Mormon, they assert nothing of the kind. They say that they did see the plates, but not one of the other things that God said they should testify about. If they had seen them they would have testified of them; if they had seen the plates they would have seen these other things also, according to their pretended God's word; they did not testify of them, therefore, they did not see them.
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 249 ------
They did not see these curiosities; either then, they did not see the plates or Smith's god is a false and deceiving god. If they did not see the plates their testimony fails. If they did see the plates, and not these other things also, their god fails, and Mormonism falls in either case. It may be urged this promise was contingent on their faith; and that may have failed them. Paragraph 3 of the same revelation says, "Wherefore you have received the same power and the same faith, and the same gift like unto him" (Joseph Smith). They had the faith but yet did not see these things. Paragraph 2 of the same revelation says, "You shall testify you have seen them even as my servant Joseph has seen them." If Smith had seen, they should see; if they saw, they should testify. They did not testify, therefore, they did not see them. They did not see these things, consequently Joseph Smith never saw them either, for they were "to see them even as Joseph saw them." This conclusion is inevitable. Smith's witnesses, therefore, only prove him an impostor!
THE TESTIMONY OF THREE WITNESSES.
"Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God, the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and
----- 250 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we behleld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless the voice of the Lord comnmanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
Several sound objections can be urged against this testimony. 1. There is no date nor place. 2. This is not three separate affidavits, "corroborating without collusion," but one testimony, signed by three men. 3. Who wrote this statement -- which of the three -- was it the three conjointly -- or neither of them? Compare these words with Smith's pretended revelation, Doctrines and Covenants, p. 173, and any one will see the author of the Revelation is the author of the testimony. This testimony is, therefore, drawn up by Smith himself. There is necessarily corroboration, but there certainly must hlave been collusion!
But who are these witnesses? As the salvation of the
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 251 ------
world is made to depend on their testimony, it is important we know how much their evidence is worth. O. Cowdery was a school-master, became clerk for Smith to write his translation, in 1829, after Harris had become dissatisfied. He, too, soon grew to desire a stronger evidence of Smith's pretensions; so, in April, 1829, Smith gets a revelation to appease him, saying, "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have from a god? (In passing, it is a singular coincidence that Mohammed used this same argument.) And, behold, I grant unto you a gift, if you desire it of me to translate, even as my servant Joseph;" but not these plates; oh! no, but (par. 12), "there are other records kept back; you shall assist in bringing to light those parts of the Scriptures." He begins to write again, but is again disturbed in mind, and another revelation is obtained for him. He tried to exercise "his gift," but failed, and Smith puts these words into the mouth of God:
"Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time. Behold, the work which you are called to do, is to write for my servant Joseph; and, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you. Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom if me that I have dealt with you after this manner. Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought, save it was to ask me; but, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right,
----- 252 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right; but if it be not right, you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought, that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong: therefore, you can not write that which is sacred, save it be given you from me. Now, if you had known this, you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now. Behold, it was expedient when you commenced, but you feared, and the time is past."
Can any man read this wire-working, and charge it on the Being who says, " As far as the east is from the west, so are my ways from men's ways?" Oliver is foiled, and submits. A short time after the organization of the Church, Hiram Smith charges Oliver Cowdery, in print, with going to his house, while he, H. Smith, was in prison, "and ransacking and carrying off all the valuables; compelling my aged father, by threatening to bring a mob over him, to deed over to him about one hundred and sixty acres of land, to pay a note, he said I had given, for $160, which note was a forgery!" Sidney Rigdon, J. Smith's counselor, at Independence, Mo., in 1838, charged Cowdery and David Whitmer, both witnesses, with being "connected with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive and defraud the Saints." Joseph Smith (Times and Seasons, vol. i., pp. 81, 83, 84) charges Cowdery and Whitmer with being "busy in stirring up strife and turmoil among the brethren in 1838 in Missouri;" and that "they were studiously engaged in circulating false and slanderous reports against the Saints," and he demands, "Are they not murderers at heart? Are not their consciences seared with a hot
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 253 ------
iron?-" These vile men were consequently cut off from the Church, being too deeply implicated to deny their testimony, and too thoroughly defamed beforehand for such denial to have weight.
Martin Harris was a rich farmer. Before he became acquainted with Smith, he had been Quaker, Universalist, Restorationist, Baptist, Presbyterian. He was a violent, quarrelsome man, "known to frequently whip and kick his wife, and put her out of doors." (Richard Ford and G. W. Stoddard's affidavits.) Lucy Harris, his wife, affirms that "her shoulders and back were often black and blue in many places;" "once he beat me so severely that marks remained more than two weeks;" "once he struck me over the head several times with the butt-end of a whip three or four feet long." His first acquaintance with Smith was by Smith's "going to him and saying, 'I have a commandment from God to ask the first man I meet to give me $50 to help me to do the Lord's work in translating the Golden Bible.'" Martin believed, contributed, grew intimate, and became scribe. Not satisfied, however, he wished to see the plates; but Smith put him off, giving him a slip of paper, with some of the characters inscribed, and sent him to Professor Anthon of New York, who warned him of being hoaxed. Harris returned dissatisfied, and still wanted to see the plates; and Smith, to give him a quietus, obtained a revelation, March, 1829 (Doc. and Cov., p. 171), and says, par. 2, " Behold, if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, even if it were possible for you to show them all these things I have committed unto you. Oh! this unbelieving generation, mine anger is kindled
----- 254 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
against them;" and in par. 5, Harris is commanded to say no more about it, "except he shall say I have seen them, and they have been shown me by the power of God, and not of man." Observe, this is March, 1829. The revelation given immediately previous to their seeing the plates was in June, 1829; so that here is Smith's pretended God, wanting Harris to testify that he had already seen the plates, three months before he pretended to have seen them at all. God wanting Harris to lie!
Harris, however, is not satisfied even with all this spiritual machinery at work around him. He determines to steal 118 pages of translation he had made, hoping that Smith would reproduce it, and by comparing the two to examine how far verbatim were his revelations. Smith is too cunning. He obtains a revelation commanding him not to retranslate, but promising that a better and fuller account of the same matters should be found in the next book; and he then plays off Cowdery against Harris as scribe. The book is finished, the "testimony" is gotten up, his signature extorted the last when it ought to have been the first, and it goes to the world. But we may, perhaps, be astonished to find, that though Harris's testimony has convinced many thousands who have embraced Mormonism, it did not convince Harris himself, nor deter him from desiring to commit murder and adultery. In March, 1830, Smith has to severely rebuke him, and got a revelation commanding him to "repent, and keep the commandments which you have received by the hand of my servant Joseph, in my name; and it is by my almighty power that you received them." "Repent, lest I smite you and
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 255 ------
your sufferings be sore -- how sore, you know not; how exquisite, you know not; yea, how hard to bear, you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things -- which suffering caused even God, the greatest of all, to tremble, because of pain and blood at every pore. I command thee not to covet thy neighbor's wife, nor seek thy neighbor's life. And again I command thee to impart freely of thy property to the printing of the Book of Mormon. Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer!" (Doc. and Cov., p. 194.)
In 1837 Smith prints this language about his coadjutor and witness: "There are negToes who have white skins as well as black ones. Granny Parish and others, who acted as lackeys, such as Martin Harris! But they are so far beneath my contempt, that to notice any of them would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make." (Elder's Journal, 1837.) This is rather hard, remembering that he had completely ruined Harris. We must, however, believe the prophet, and urge that to notice the testimony of Martin Harris is "too great a sacriffle for a gentleman to make!" And yet it is on the testimony of such a man, the Mormons believe and contend, that God will condemn mankind.
Notwithstanding the declaration of the Book of Mormon, or of Smith's pretended revelation of March, 1829, that God would give the testimony to "these three, and to none else," yet Smith felt that their testimony wanted bolstering up, and he has, therefore, added the testimony of eight otlhers. Although by the revelation above, it is evident that the testimony could not have been given by God, and is, therefore, worthless; still it ought to be examined.
----- 256 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
"Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.
"Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto whom this work shall come, that Joseph Smith, jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen; and we lie not, God bearing witness of it."
CHRISTIAN WHITMER. HIRAM PAGE.
JACOB WHITMER. JOSEPH SMITH, Sen.
PETER WHITMER, Jun. HIRAM SMITH.
JOHN WHITMER. SAMUEL H. SMITH.
Observe, there are three Smiths, four Whitmers, and Page, a relation of Cowdery's, who make the above statement. There is no need to investigate their characters. To acknowledge their testimony true, will add no weight to the Mormon cause.
But their testimony destroys itself. First. There is neither date nor place. Second. It is not an affidavit. Third. It is evident that Joseph wrote it himself. Fourth. It contradicts the testimony of the three. It needed an " angel from heaven" to show the plates to the three witnesses who were, it is said, chosen by God; Smith himself showed these things to these eight whom he himself chose. Fifth. The three, although chosen by God, saw only
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 257 ------
with the "eye of faith," saw, but touched not; these, forbidden by God, "handled and hefted them." They were so sacred that Smith divided his translating room with a blanket, he sitting on one side, his scribe on the other, to prevent Harris from seeing them; so professedly sacred, that it needed many revelations, the delay of three years, many warnings, menaces, and maledictions, the maintenance of profound secrecy, and the adoption of subterfuges and fanatical paraphernalia, before these three could get a glimpse of them; and now, it is pretended, they were freely handled and loosely hefted by these eight men, who had been forbidden by God. These statements differ; one is certainly false, and whichever it is, Smith is an impostor. Sixth. Smith says, that "when the plates were translated, they were given back to the angel." How then could he show them to these eight men? Seventh. Smith pretends to have found one book "bound by three rings passing through the back edge, and a part of them was sealed." These men "handle the leaves," not of the whole, sealed as well as translated, but of the part that "Smith had translated." Either he must have broken those sacred rings, or they must have handled the whole. It is to confirm this ringed book their testimony is advanced. But they did not see this ring-bound book, and therefore their testimony is worthless. Eighth. If Smith did show them some plates, which we are willing to believe he did; they could not tell whether they were "the leaves Joseph Smith had translated;" they could not tell that " they were the plates of which have been spoken;" they could not tell whether they were "as many" as translated. All they had was Smith's bare word.
----- 258 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
All we have is Smith's bare word too. But we have already shown that that word, even on oath, would not be believed by a jury of his acquaintances. Unbelievable in trivial matters, how shall we credit him when universal salvation is at stake? Ninth. They were confessedly ignorant men. Their statement of "ancient work and curious workmanship," is the opinion of men who necessarily know nothing about it. For an astronomer to obtain the testimony of an infant school as to the correctness of the "nebular theory," or the undulation of light, and who should require the world to believe it on their testimony, would be just as wise as to require the world to believe the Book of Mormon on the testimony of these men. Who shall charge God with making the salvation of the world depend on the contradictory opinions of these men, as to something of which they are entirely and confessedly ignorant?
V. The testimony of the witnesses must preponderate over conflicting evidence.
The testimony produced against Smith has never been met. Recrimination or silence has been their manner of treating it. The cry of "persecution" has been raised, and they "ran away." Such evidence demands attention and refutation, or it demands belief. Orson Pratt, the ablest Mormon writer, says, "We must prove these men did not see what they pretend, before we can disprove the Book of Mormon." (Authenticity of Book of Mormon.) This is an error. The onus probandi rests with the affirmative. It is impossible to prove a negative. Truth is that which is. Falsehood is that which is not. We can prove truth, or that which is,
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 259 ------
but we can not prove that which is not. The affirmative produce their case, and the negative examine it. It is for them to prove that Smith's previous character was good; that his word is to be believed; that his statements were consistent; that they were probable; that they did agree with collateral facts; that there was no collusion; at the same time that there was full harmony among disinterested witnesses of unimpeachable character. Till they do this, the world is not responsible for unbelief. Till they do this, to believe Smith, is a sign of a hastily and easily satisfied mind. They have not done this, therefore men should not believe.
Still they are not without an argument. They rely greatly on their prophetic proof. They try to show that God was to reveal himself to Ephraim; quote the promises made to that tribe; refer to Ezekiel, xxxvii. 15, 28, inferring thence that the stick of Judah is a book, the Bible; that the stick of Ephraim is also a book, the Book of Mormon. To establish the identity of the Book of Mormon with this book or stick, is now the grand difficulty. They use Isaiah, xxix., and attempt to wrest it to mean the coming forth of the Book of Mormon from the ground; the inability of Professor Anthon to decipher the characters, etc., etc. This is their tower of strength,
"Which if to totter, is their all to fall."
"And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hands of the spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his
----- 260 THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. -----
sight: there was none left, but the tribe of Judah only" (2 Kings, xvii. 18, 20). God says he rejected them, and cast them out of his sight. Smith says he led them to America, and blessed them "above the house of Judah." Which is right? It is a question between God and Joseph Smith. To believe the one, is to reject the other.
Admitting that Ephraim was to be blest, as pretended, it does not help the Book of Mormon. There was not a single Ephraimite on the continent of America, according to their book itself. The Nephites were descendants of Manasseh (Book of Mormon, p. 235). The people of Zarahemla were Jews, and were of the "seed of Zedekiah" (Book of Mormon, p. 411). These not being Ephraimites, their record can not be the "stick or records of Ephraim." The Mormon prophetic argument falls to the ground, therefore, because Ephraim's promises do not refer to others. Again, Ezekiel says, "Write, for Joseph the stick of Ephrain and for all the house of Israel, his companions." Wherever Ephraim is, all the house of Israel are there also. Not an isolated family, as Smith pretends, separated by thousands of miles of sea and land, but with Israel, his companions. If the papyrus roll of the Bible be properly symbolized by a stick, a stick can not mean a book of gold plates. We find, then,
I. Statements must agree with themselves.
Smith has over and over again contradicted himself, and must, therefore, be rejected.
II. Statements must agree with known principles.
Smith has transcended all probability, and must, therefore, be rejected.
------ THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCES. 261 ------
III. Statements must agree with collateral facts.
Smith's character, both previously and at the time, was notoriously bad, and, therefore, must be rejected.
IV. Disinterested and unimpeachable witnesses must, without collusion and preconcert, confirm each other's statement.
There was preconcert and collusion among Smith's witnesses; they were all deeply interested; they were men of such bad character that the Mormons themselves accused and criminated, and finally cut them off; and their testimony is contradictory. Therefore Smith must be rejected.
V. Their evidence must preponderate over all conflicting testimony.
So far from this, their testimony destroys itself, and, therefore, Smith must be rejected.
As Joseph Smith is the founder of Mormonism, and as, consequently, the truth of Mormonism depends entirely on the pretensions of Smith, so, therefore, all should reject Mormonism.