Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/181

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169
MORMONISM FROM A MORMON POINT OF VIEW.

with two iron wires, almost entirely corroded, and were found, along with charcoal, ashes, and human bones, more than twelve feet below the surface of a mound of the sugar-loaf form common in the Mississippi Valley. Large trees growing upon these artificial mounds attest their great antiquity, and doubtless they contain much that will reward future investigation. No key has yet been discovered for the interpretation of the engravings upon these brass plates, or of the strange glyphs upon the ruins of Otolum, in Mexico; but when an amount of talent, learning, and labor, equal to that bestowed upon Egyptian hieroglyphics or Assyrian cuneiform characters, has been devoted to American antiquities, we may hope to learn something of those mysterious races whose history the Book of Mormon professes to tell.

But if we admit that the plates themselves may have been genuine, our faith in the founder of Mormonism, as a sincere religious enthusiast, is staggered by his mode of interpreting their contents. He tells us that he found along with the records an instrument, called by him the Urim and Thummim, and described as consisting of "two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow." Through the medium of this instrument, he says that he translated the unsealed portion of these scanty records, the result being a bulky volume in English, but he does not explain whether he used it as a magnifier, nor how it proved to be a Rosetta stone for his hieroglyphics, merely asserting that it was "by the gift and power of God." That Joseph Smith believed in his own mission, his character and career alike appear to indicate, and the many ecstatic visions which he describes were probably real enough to him, but the compilation of the Book of Mormon was an act involving much time and labor, and cannot be accounted for by ecstasy.

In these days of La-Salette and Paray-le-Monial it is, perhaps, too much to say that a miracle, in order to find acceptance among educated persons, must be relegated to a remote age and country, and must be invested with a certain amount of external dignity. It is, however, a severe test of faith to be called upon to accept miracles and revelations from a prophet well known to men yet living as "Joe Smith," and referred to as "Mr. S." in the writings of so eminent a disciple as Mr. Orson Pratt. A most remarkable man Mr. S. undoubtedly was, capable of inspiring alike inestinguibil odio, ed indomato amor. The bitter hostility of his opponents was more than equaled by the devoted zeal of his converts, and, although murdered by mob violence at the early age of thirty-eight, he had already so well accomplished his work that the new creed, instead of dying with him, continued to spread with increasing rapidity, and was preached by his apostles and elders in every quarter of the globe. He was a New-Englander, born a. d. 1805, in the State of Vermont, and began to have visions when he was about fourteen years of age. In 1830