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Mormons settle in Illinois, April, 1840—Found the city of Nauvoo—Joseph Smith-His
Biography—Is directed by an Angel to the spot where the sacred record, “ the Book of Mormon," was afterward found-Oliver Cowdrey, his friend, describes the place, in Palmyra, Wayne county, New-York-Records contained in a stone box had been deposited there fourteen hundred years—Records delivered into the hands of the Prophet, (Joseph Smith,) September 22nd, 1827–Gold plates described-Urim and Thummim, etc.—The Prophet ridiculed-Afterward persecuted-Goes to Pennsylvania - Translates the Book of Mormon-Certificates, etc.—The Prophet baptized, in 1829-An cdition of the Book of Mormon printed in 1830_Church of the Latter Day Saints organized at Manchester, Ontario county, New-York, April 6th, 1830 -Mormon Creed-Not even a plausible imposition-Mormons, in 1833, remove to Jackson county, Missouri-Difficulty with their neighbors—Remove to Clay county, Missouri-And from thence to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835-Kirtland Bank-Joseph Smith President-Bank fails—Mormons remove to Caldwell county, Missouri, and build the city of the Far West—Difficulty with their neighbors Expelled from Missouri, 1838-Remove to Illinois in the spring of 1840—City of Nauvoo incorporated, December 16th, 1840—Provisions in its charter-Nauvoo Tavern incorporatedNauvoo Legion-Nauvoo University-Joseph Smith appointed Lieutenant-generalOrdinance of Nauvoo, for repealing acts of the Legislature-Mr. Caswell's description of Nauvoo, and its Prophet-Religious toleration.
In April, 1840, a large number of “the Latter Day Saints,” or Mormons, came hither and located themselves on the east bank of the Mississippi, at a place known and distinguished upon the map, by the name of Commerce, in Hancock county, Illinois. They had been driven from Missouri, and sought refuge here, with “ their little ones and their cattle.” They purchased a considerable tract of land in the vicinity, and commenced building a city, which they called Nauvoo—signifying, as we have been told, by a Mormon preacher, " peaceable, or pleasant."
As the Mormons, and more especially their leader, Joseph Smith, (known generally as Jo Smith,) who unites in his own proper person the “prophet, the seer, the merchant, the revelator, the president, the elder, the editor, the general of the Nauvoo legion, and last, though not least, the tavern-keeper,” ( See note 1.) are destined “to cut a considerable figure in the world;" an account of the origin and progress of this singular sect, and a brief notice of “the Mormon prophet,” we have no doubt, will be acceptable to our readers.
Joseph Smith was born at Sharon, in Windsor county, Vermont, on the 23rd of December, 1805, and of course was thirty-eight years old in De. cember last, (1843.) His parents were in humble circumstances, and the prophet's opportunities of acquiring knowledge in early life were limited. He read indifferently, wrote and spelt badly, and made but little progress in arithmetic. Other, and higher branches of learning, to him were as a sealed book, of which he was totally, and is now exceedingly, ignorant. When he was about ten years of age his parents removed from Vermont, and settled upon a small farm near Palmyra, Wayne county, New-York, where Joseph, the subject of this memoir, aided and assisted his father in the cultivation of his farm, until the year 1826.
Some time in the year 1820, when the prophet” was about fifteen years of age," he began," as he says, “ to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence; but how, or in what way to prepare himself, was a question as yet undetermined in his mind. He perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of the same. He saw that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it, except by chance; and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance, or uncertainty, was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its own particular tenets—this is the way, walk ye in it—while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to each other. It also occurred to his mind that God was the author of but one doctrine, and, therefore, could acknowledge but one denomination as his church, and that such denomination must be a people who believe and teach that one doctrine, (whatever it may be,) and build upon the same. He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines now in the world, which had given rise to many hundreds of different de. nominations. The great question to be decided in his mind was, if any one of these denominations be the church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied in relation to this question, he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible men, and build his hopes on the same, without any certainty and knowledge of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast; to decide without any positive and definite evidence on which he could rely, upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul, was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative that seemed to be left him was to read the Scriptures, and endeavor to follow their doctrines. He accordingly commenced perusing the sacred pages of the Bible, believing the things that he read.” Whether the above reflections passed through the mind of a lad of fifteen, uneducated, and exhibiting, as yet, no evidence of precocious genius; or whether they are the reflections of maturer life, or the emanations of other and brighter intellects than his own, our readers will judge for themselves ;-of this we give no opinion. We follow “the prophet's” own narrative, being desirous of giving him a fair and impartial hearing. “He now saw, that if he inquired of God there was not only a possibility, but a probability-yea, more, a certainty that he should obtain a knowledge--which, of all the doctrines, was the doctrine of
Christ. He therefore retired to a secret place, in a grove but a short distance from his father's house, and knelt down and began to call upon the Lord. At first he was severely tempted by the powers of darkness, which endeavored to overcome him ; but he continued to seek for deliver. ance, until darkness gave way from his mind, and he was enabled to pray in fervency of the spirit, and in faith ; and while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God, he at length saw a very bright and glorious light in the heavens above, which, at first, seemed to be at a considerable distance. He continued praying, while the light appeared to be gradually descending toward him ; and as it drew nearer, it increased in brightness and magnitude ; so that by the time it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness, for some distance around, was illuminated in a most glorious and brilliant manner. He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hopes of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and - he was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system; and immedi. ately his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded, and he was enveloped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features, or likeness. He was informed that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz : that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged by God, as his church and kingdom ; and he was expressly commanded to go not after them. And he received a promise that the true doctrine, the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him; after which the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace indescribable. Some time after having received this glorious manifestation, being young, he was again entangled in the vanities of the world, of which he afterward sincerely and truly repented.
"Afterward, on the 21st of September, A. D. 1823, it pleased God again to hear his prayers. He had retired to rest, as usual ; his mind was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with a desire to commune with some kind messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God; and also unfold the principles of the doctrines of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he was thus pouring out his desires to the Father of all good, endeavoring to exercise faith in his former promises ; on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room-indeed, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sud. den appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock, or sensation, visible to the extremities of the body. It was, however, followed by a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy that repressed his understanding, and in a mo. ment a personage stood before him.
“ Notwithstanding the brightness of the light, which had previously illuminated the room, there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst; and though his countenance was as lightning, it was of a pleasing, innocent, and glorious appearance ; so much so, that every fear was banished from the heart, and nothing but calmness pervaded the soul.
“The statue of this personage was above the ordinary size of men in this age. His garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.
“ This glorious being declared himself to be an angel of God, sent forth by commandment to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard, and also to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel concerning their posterity, was at last to be fulfilled ; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in peace unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the miltennial reign of universal peace and joy.
"He was informed, that he was called and chosen, to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his marvellous purposes, in this glorious dispensation. It was also made manifest to him, that the American Indians were a remnant of Israel ; that when they first emigrated to America they were an enlightened people, possessing a knowledge of the true God-enjoying his favor and peculiar blessings from his hand ; that the prophets, and inspired writers among them, were required to keep a sacred history of the most important events transpiring among them, which history was handed down for many generations, till at length they fell into great wickedness. The most part of them were destroyed, and the records (by commandment of God to one of the last prophets among them,) were safely deposited, to preserve them from the hands of the wicked, who sought to destroy them. If faithful, he was to be the instrument who should be highly favored in bringing these sacred things to light. At the same time, he was expressly informed, that it must be done with an eye to the glory of God; that no one could be intrusted with these sacred writings, who should endeavor to aggrandize himself, by converting sacred things to unrighteous or speculative purposes.
"The angel, after giving him many instructions concerning things past and to come, disappeared, and the light and glory of God withdrew, leaving his mind in perfect peace; while a calmness and serenity indescri. bable, pervaded the soul. Before many days, the vision was twice Tenewed, instructing him further concerning the great work of God, about to be performed on earth. In the morning he went out to his labor, as usual. The vision was renewed; the angel again appeared ; and hav. ing been informed by the previous visions of the night, concerning the place where those records were deposited, he was instructed to go imme. diately and view them.”
Accordingly he repaired to the place. The prophet's narrative here terminates. Oliver Cowdrey, his friend, however, who says he has visited the spot, describes it as follows:
“ As you go on the mail road from Palmyra to Canandaigua, in New. York, about three or four miles from the little village of Manchester, you pass a hill on the east side of the road—the north end rises suddenly from the plain, and forms a promontory without timber, and is covered with grass. As you pass to the south, you soon come to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or wind, and at a short distance farther, on the left, you are surrounded with the common forest of the country; the first clearing was occupied for pasturage; its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plough of the husbandman, with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side ; and when I,” says Mr. Cowdrey,) “ visited the place in 1830, there were several trees standing."
"How far the records were anciently below the surface,” (says Mr. Cowdrey,) “I am unable to say; but from the fact, that they had been buried some fourteen hundred years on the side of a hill so steep, one is ready to conclude that they were some feet below. A hole" continues the narrator, “of sufficient depth was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. At each edge was placed a large quantity of cement, and into this cement, at the four edges of the stone, were placed erect four others, their bottom edges resting in the cement at the outer edges of the first stone-the four last placed erect formed a box—the corners also were so firmly cemented, that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breastplate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest, etc., from the arms and weapons of the enemy. From the bottom of the box arose three small pillars, composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these
three pillars were placed the records. This box containing the records was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being flat, and the upper crowning. When it was first visited by Mr. Smith, on the morning of the 22nd of September, 1823, a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface. On arriving at this depository a little exertion, and a light-pry, brought to his natural vision its contents.'
“ While contemplating this sacred treasure with wonder and astonishment, behold! the angel of the Lord, who had previously visited him. again stood in his presence, and his soul was again enlightened, as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Ghost; and the heav. ens were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about, and rested