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Early Mormonism

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"
Galatians 1:8

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit."
Matthew 7:15-17

Joseph Smith Jr. and Family
Eyewitness Statements
Divine Revelation
Book of Abraham
Slavery - God's Will

Brigham Young
False Prophecies
Doctrinal Issues
  • Wallace Bowman
  • Jesse Hartly
  • Henry Jones
  • Book of Mormon
    Textual Difficulties
    Modern Words
    Modern Revival Scenes
    Other Modern Ideas
    Modern Discoveries
    Some Additional Self-betrayals

    Reformation of 1856
    Doctrine of Blood Atonement
    Human Sacrifice
    * "Grayed Out" titles will be added soon

    Joseph Smith Jr. and Family


    "An Extraordinary Document - The Prophet buys Egyptian Mummies -
    Translates Papyri found with them - Another Translation by a Scientist -
    Delusion, Deception, or Folly? Was Joseph Smith a "Spirit Medium?"

          During the lifetime of the Mormon Prophet much importance was attached to his "translation" of the papyri found with some Egyptian mummies, which he designated, "The Book of Abraham." The translation has been extensively published in the Mormon papers, both in England and America, and has probably been translated into different languages in Europe where the elders have found converts. In addition to its newspaper publicity it formed the chief attraction of a pamphlet published in Liverpool in 1851, by the apostle Richards, under the title of "The Pearl of Great Price" - a title which, by the way, the profane regarded as more applicable to its cost than its quality.
          The Mormons were taught to regard the finding of the mummies, the papyri, and the translation, as a manifestation of "the Lord" working indirectly in a providential way with "his servant Joseph;" thus corroborating his claim to be an inspired translator, and confirming the faith of the Saints by the supposed harmony of his teaching with that of Abraham. The apostle-editor, Richards, was himself so impressed with the stamp of divinity apparent, as he thought, in the contents of the "Pearl of Great Price," including the Book of Abraham, that he conceived it impossible for any one to carefully peruse the revelations, translations, and narratives therein without being deeply impressed with a sense of the divine "calling of the man through whom they have been communicated to the world."
          When Joseph, according to his statement, translated the Book of Mormon from the gold-plates, no one was ever permitted to see him at his work: he sat at the other side of a blanket, which served as a curtain to separate him from his amanuensis, and in that position he dictated to the latter the contents of the book. The facsimile of the original characters on the plates, found in another chapter, was not accompanied with its English translation, nor was it sufficiently extensive of itself to engage the attention of the savants who might have expressed an opinion concerning its genuineness; but in the Book of Abraham which has confirmed so much the faith of the Saints in the Book of Mormon, Joseph furnishes the learned with an opportunity for testing his claim to the gift of interpretation.
           The critics state that Joseph had on his side of the curtain the "lost manuscript" of Solomon Spaulding, which he interpolated with extracts from the Old and New Testaments, adding to them his own crude knowledge of Methodism, and thus palmed upon his credulous scribes, Harris and Cowdery, the Book of Mormon. This is the prevailing view of the opponents of Mormonism as to the origin of that book. But it may yet be accepted that Joseph's seclusion behind the curtain with his crystal "interpreters" answers to the dark seances so common in the experience of modern Spiritualism. There is much in Joseph's history to confirm such a theory. He has frequently been charged with pretending to give revelations through a "peep-stone" which he placed in his hat, then putting his face against the hat and excluding all light therefrom, in that manner is said to have read the language of the heavens. The Author is acquainted with a gentleman who, when he was a boy, was frequently in the company of Joseph at Nauvoo, as his father was very intimate with the Prophet. This gentleman is what is now called clairvoyant, and relates that Joseph frequently put his "Urim and Thummim," "interpreters," or "peep-stones," or whatever else they might be called, into his hat when the boy was visiting him, and by looking upon them as Joseph did, he claims to have had wonderful panoramic visions. There are multitudes of persons throughout the world - many in Utah now - who claim perfect familiarity with this "peep-stone" business, and the better Joseph Smith is known, the nearer he approaches those gifted persons, and the easier is he understood.
          The correctness or incorrectness of his so-called translation of the gold-plates admitted of neither corroboration nor detection. These men, "because of their great faith," were permitted to see the plates, and "an angel" told them that the translation was correct. Eight other men of Joseph's acquaintance were chosen "to witness" to the world that they had seen the plates, and "hefted" them, and that the engraved characters had the appearance of ancient workmanship. Beyond this, all is faith. In the publication of the hieroglyphics and their translation in the Book of Abraham it is quite otherwise.
          Hundreds of scholars have made the science of hieroglyphics a special study, and without difficulty can read the inscriptions, on the tombs of the Ptolemies and Pharaohs and decipher the picture-writing upon the walls of the ruined temples at Thebes. Impressed with the interest of a corroboration or a contradiction by science of Joseph's inspired translation of the papyri found with the mummies, two French travellers MM. Remy and Brenchley, during a visit to Utah in 1855, gathered up the Prophet's story, and in the work published by these gentlemen in 1860, in Paris, two translations are given.
          Some time in July, 1833, these mummies, with other curiosities, were on public exhibition at Kirtland, at that time the headquarters of the Prophet. When the proprietor of the mummies exhibited to Joseph the papyri found with them, he unhesitatingly gave as interpretation of them, and in return the showman handed to the inspired man the following certificate:
           "This is to make known to all who may be desirous concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, junr., in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters in my possession, which I have in many eminent cities shown to the most learned, and from the information that I could ever learn or meet with, I find that of Mr. Smith, junr., to correspond in the most minute matters.

      Travelling with and Proprietor of Egyptian mummies.

          The reader will not fail to remark the impudence of such a document. What possible value could be attached to the statement of an ignorant showman about the "deciphering" of a language of which he had not the slightest knowledge? But Chandler wanted a customer for his mummies, and the Saints purchased them for Joseph a few days afterwards;, and "much to our joy," says the Prophet, "we found that one of these rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph," etc. . . . "Truly we can say that the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of truth," etc. In 1842 the inspired translation was first published in the Times and Seasons, with the accompanying preface:
           "Who these ancient inhabitants of Egypt were I do not at present say. The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is beautifully written on papyrus with black, and a small part red ink, or paint, in perfect preservation. The characters are such as you find upon the coffins of mummies, hieroglyphics, etc., with many characters and letters like the present [though probably not quite so square] form of the Hebrew without points. The records were obtained from one of the catacombs in Egypt, near the place where once stood the renowned city of Thebes, by the celebrated French traveller Antonio Sebolo in the year 1881. He procured a license from Mehemet Ali, then viceroy of Egypt, under the protection of Chevalier Drovetti, the French consul, in the year 1828, and employed 433 men four months and two days - if I understand correctly, Egyptian or Turkish soldiers - at from four to six cents per diem for each man, entered the catacombs, June 7th, 1831, and procured eleven mummies. There were several hundred mummies in the same catacomb. . . . On his way from Alexandria he put in at Trieste, and after ten days illness expired in 1832. Previous to his death he made a will of the whole to his nephew, Mr. Michael H. Chandler (then in Philadelphia), whom he supposed to have been in Ireland. Accordingly the whole were sent to Dublin, and Mr. Chandler's friends ordered them to New York, where they were received at the custom-house in the spring or winter of 1838. In the month of April of the same year Mr. Chandler paid the duties and took possession of his mummies. Mr. Chandler, who expected to find diamonds or other valuables, was disappointed. He was immediately told, while yet in the custom-house, that there was no man in the city who could translate the roll; but was referred by the same gentleman to Mr. Joseph Smith, junr., who, continued he, possesses some kind of power or gifts by which he had previously translated similar characters. I was then unknown to Mr. Chandler, neither did he know that such a book or work as the Records of the Nephites had been brought before the public. He took his collection on to Philadelphia, where be obtained his certificate of the learned (See Messenger and Advocate, p.235), and thence came on to Kirtland. Thus I have given a brief history of the manner in which the writings of Abraham and Joseph have been preserved, and how I came into possession of the same - a correct translation of which I shall give in its proper place."[1]
          When the travellers, Messrs. Remy and Brenchley, returned to Paris, they placed the hieroglyphics in the hands of a young savant of the Museum of the Louvre, M. Theodule Deveria, whose translation is here placed parallel with that of the Prophet Smith:

    Facsimile No. 1
    Hieroglyphics Representing the Resurrection of Osiris


    By the Mormon Prophet
    By the Hieroglyphists
    Fig. 1 The angel of the Lord. The soul of Osiris, under the form of a hawk (which should have a human head).
    Fig. 2 Abraham fastened upon an alter. Osiris coming to life on his funeral couch, which is in the shape of a lion.
    Fig. 3 The idolatrous priest of Elkenah attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice. The god Anubis (who should have a jackal's head) effecting the resurrection of Osiris.
    Fig. 4 The altar for sacrifice by the idolatrous priest standing before the gods Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, and Pharaoh. The funeral-bed of Osiris, under which are placed the four sepulchral vessels called canopes, each of them surmounted by the head of the four genii.
    Fig. 5 The idolatrous god of Elkenah. Kebh-son-iw, with a hawk's head.
    Fig. 6 The idolatrous god of Libnah. Tioumautew, with a jackal's head.
    Fig. 7 The idolatrous god of Mahmackrah. Hapi, with a dog's head.
    Fig. 8 The idolatrous god of Korash. Amset, with a human head.
    Fig. 9 The idolatrous god of Pharaoh. The sacred crocodile, symbolic of the god Sebet.
    Fig. 10 Abraham in Egypt. Altar laden with offerings.
    Fig. 11 Design to represent the pillars of heaven as understood by the Egyptians. An ornament peculiar to Egyptian art.
    Fig. 12 Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament over our heads; but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens, answering to the Hebrew Shaumahyeem. Customary representation of ground in Egyptian paintings. (The word Shauman is not Egyptian, and the Hebrew word is badly copied).

          M. Deveria observes, with respect to this papyrus, that he never saw the resurrection of Osiris represented in funerary MSS. He is of opinion that, if it exists, it must be extremely rare, and that if the present figure be not a modern imitation of the great bas-reliefs in which this mythological scene is represented, it has at all events been altered, for Anubis should have a jackal's head.

    Facsimile No. 2
    Hypocephalus or Funerary Disk


    By the Mormon Prophet
    By the Hieroglyphists
    Fig. 1 Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in governmment, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to the celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years, according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh. The spirit of four elements (according to Champollion), or rather of the four winds, or the four cardinal points; the soul of the terrestrial world. This god is always represented with four ram's heads, and his image has certainly been altered here. - They have also evidently made a very clumsy attempt at copying the double human head of the god figured below, fig. 2, instead of the four ram's heads. The word Jah-oh-eh has nothing Egyptian in it ; it resembles a Hebrew word badly transcribed.
    Fig. 2 Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial, or the place where God resides; holding the key of power, also, pertaining to other planets; as revealed from God to Abraham, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar which he had built unto the Lord. Ammon-Ra, with two human heads, meant probably to represent both the invisible or mysterious principle of Ammon, and the visible or luminous principle of Ra, the sun; or else the double and simultaneous principle of father and son; which characterizes divinity in the religion of ancient Egypt. - The word Oliblish is no more Egyptian than those already met with, nor than those which are to be found in the Mormon explanation.
    Fig. 3 Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority: with a crown of eternal light upon his head: representing, also, the grand key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed. The god Ra, the sun, with a hawks head, seated in his boat. In the field the two symbolical figuring, according to M. de Rouge, the fixed points of an astronomical period.
    Fig. 4 Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian, signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob in its revolution, and in its measuring of time. The Hebrew word Roki'a, expansuna, solidum, ecalum,firmamentum, besides being badly described, has no relation whatever to this figure, which represents a mummified hawk, called in Egyptian Ah'em. It is the symbol of the divine repose of death; its extended wings have reference to the resurrection.
    Fig. 5 Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; that is, one of the governing planets also; and is said by the Egyptians to be the sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese, or the moon, the earth, and the sun, in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power throuoh the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob. The mystic cow, the great cow, symbolizing the inferior hemisphere of the heavens. It is called the virgin cow at ch. 162 of the funerary ritual, which, particularly enjoins that its image be painted on the hypocephalus, and another image of it in gold on the throat of the defunct. It is the form of Hathor, who figures on several monuments under the name of noub, gold. Behind the cow is a goddess, whose head, represented by a mystic eye in a disk, is incorrectly copied.
    Fig. 6 Represents the earth in its four quarters. The four funerary genii, the sons of Osiris, Amset, Hapi, Tioumautow, and Kebhsoniw.
    Fig. 7 Represents God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-Words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham in the form of a dove. The form of Ammon, with a bird's tail, or Horammon (?). An ithyphallic serpant, with human legs, offers him a symbolical eye. This last figure has certainly been altered in the hypocephalus of the Mormons.
    Fig. 8 Contains writing that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God. Four lines of the linear hieroglyphic text, which are numbered from bottom to top, instead of from top to bottom. The meaning is: O great God in Sekhem; 0 great God, Lord of heaven, earth, and hell. . . . Osiris S'es'enq. These last wordsinform us that the personage in whose mummy this hypocephalus was found was called S'es'enq or S'esonchis, a name written Sesak in the Bible, and of which there is no known example anterior to the twenty-second dynasty; that is, to the ninth century before our era, but which may be much posterior to it.
    Fig. 9 Ought not to be revealed at the present time. Also.
    Fig. 10 Also. Also.
    Fig. 11 Also - If the world can find out the numbers, so let it be. Amen. Also.
    Fig. 12 - 15 Will be given in the own due time of the Lord. The above translation is given as far as we have any right to give, at the present time. Four lines of writing similar to the former, of which they are the pendant. They appear to be numbered upside down, and are illegibly copied.
    Fig. 16 - 17 Also. Two more lines which cannot be deciphered in the copy. it begins above the god with two human heads, fig.2; and there is in it twice mention made of a sacred dwelling-place in Heliopolis.
    Fig. 18 - 21 Also. These columns of writing, illegible in the copy. It is evident to me that several of the figures to be found in these various MSS. have been intentionally altered.
    - T. DEVERIA -

    Facsimile No. 3
    Initial painting of a funerary MS. of the Lower epoch, which cannot
    be anterior to the beginning of the Roman dominion.


    By the Mormon Prophet
    By the Hieroglyphists
    Fig. 1 Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh's throne by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the septre of justice and judgement in his hand. Osiris on his seat.
    Fig. 2 King Pharaoh, the first person on the left of our engraving, whose name is given in the characters above his head. The goddess Isis. The star she carries in her right hand is the sign of life.
    Fig. 3 Signifies Abraham in Egypt; as before in the interpretation of No.1, Fig.10. Alter, with the offering of the deceased, surrounded with lotus flowers, signifying the offering of the defunct.
    Fig. 4 Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand. The goddess Ma.
    Fig. 5 Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand. The deceased led by Ma into the presence of Osiris. His name is Horus, as may be seen in the prayer which is at the bottom of the picture, and which is address to the divinities of the four cardinal points.
    Fig. 6 Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince. Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of astronomy in the king's court. An unknown divinity, probably Anubis; but his head, which ought to be that of a jackal, has been changed.

          The English text of the "Book of Abraham," published with these rude engravings, covers ten pages in the "Pearl of Great Price," entitled "A translation of some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham written by his own hand upon papyrus."[2]
          In all probability, many of the Mormons will be staggered by the translation of M. Deveria, but many more will treat it with indifference. Those who devote some consideration to this subject will be very apt to carry their thoughts to the translation of the Book of Mormon, where their confidence in its divinity and truthfulness is not likely by this circumstance to be much increased. Brigham Young has been in possession of the two translations for several years, but the Mormon press has been silent on the opposition of science to inspiration.
          With the Prophet's story of the supposed Book of Abraham placed side by side with the translation of the papyrus by the scientist, the reader may possibly conclude that Joseph Smith imposed upon the credulity of the Saints, and hence that the claim throughout this work that Joseph was sincere is here unsupported. The Author, notwithstanding, still clings to the assertion that Joseph believed sincerely that he was inspired, and the pride with which he gave this translation to the world supports that conclusion. Had be ever doubted the correctness of his translation, he never would have given to the public the facsimile of the characters and his translation of them. Joseph Smith at this time was over thirty years of age, and had passed through too rough an experience to have risked his reputation upon anything about which he had the slightest doubt. If the translation of the scientist is correct, and it bears upon its face evidence to that effect, then Joseph was as much deceived as many others have been before and since, who have laid claim to the possession of divine and supernatural powers, and the receiving of revelations. A noticeable case is given elsewhere in this work, where it is related how Joseph Morris gave to a handful of his people, in a moment of extreme peril, a revelation from God that "not a hair of their heads should be injured," and the very next minute two women were killed and the jaw of a little girl blown off, and before that difficulty terminated the very revelator himself lay stiff in death among his own people many of whom still believe him to have been a prophet and revelator! The revelations of Joseph Smith concerning the throwing down of towers, scattering the watchmen, and the restoration of the exiles to Jackson county, Missouri, were as signally unfulfilled, yet the Mormons believe them still to have been divine, and Joseph a revelator! In the face of such palpable failures no rational interpretation can be given to what is called "the faith of the Saints," than that that faith being attested in some instances within their own experience by positive truths, they dread to harbour a doubt of anything that comes to them with the same authority, lest in doing so they should "doubt the Lord."
           Since the foregoing was written, the Author has received the following communication from a gentleman who has been about thirty years associated with Mormonism, and who personally knew well the Prophet:
            "Joseph Smith was no more and no less than a "spirit-medium" - more impressional than clairvoyant or clairaudient. Being the first of the age operated upon by spiritual power, he was very crude in his conceptions, both of the character and modus operandi of spiritual communications, and gave them all the weight of divine revelations, while they were really no more than the opinions of the spirits of men who had once lived on the earth."
          During one of the periods of Joseph's concealment from the officers of the law he indited an "Address to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," dated Nauvoo, September 6th, 1842, in which he gives the names of his visitors from the other world, which tends to confirm the supposition that the Mormon Prophet was nothing more than a "medium" through whom it is claimed the spirits of the dead communicated. Joseph says:
           "And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets - the books to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book. The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light. The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as posssessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times.
            "And again, the voice of God, in the chamber of old father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places, through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And the voice of Michael the archangel; the voice of Gabriel and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring each one their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honours, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little - giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope."
          To the reader unacquainted with the phenomena of spiritualism the claims of the founder of Mormonism to revelation and the gift of interpretation must bear the stamp of craziness or imposture, but the believer in such manifestations experiences no difficulty in comprehending the position which he occupied.
          Probably all the writers on these phenomena, from the days of Emanuel Swedenborg to the present hour, would admit that there was some ground for the assertion of the Mormon Prophet that he had received and communicated with visitors from the unseen world, who represented themselves to be the personages he named - save the highest. But while they would admit the probability of such representations, they would condemn the use made of their communications by Joseph Smith; for while modern psychomancists seek for intelligence by means of communication with the spirits of the dead they deny to those spirits any right to dictate to them any peculiar system of faith or any direction of their actions. In this way the modern spiritualist asserts that he moves in harmony with the general intelligence and science of his age, while, on the contrary, Joseph Smith became the slave of every spirit that assumed a great name, and following without a question their dictum, travelled back to the barbaric ages in which they lived, reviving the institutions of their times - such as slavery, polygamy, and theocratic sovereignty - and thus placed himself in direct opposition to the intelligence of the present day.

    FOOTNOTES: [1] "Autobiography of Joseph Smith." [2] Times and Seasons, vol..iii., p.704

    Stenhouse, T. B. H., The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1873, pages 507 - 522.

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