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OUR age, among other curious phenomena,
has produced a new religion, designated
Mormonism, and a prophet, named Joe Smith.
Within the last twenty-five years, the sect
founded by this man has risen into a state,
and swelled into the number of three hundred
thousand. It exhibits fanaticism in its newest
garbhomely, wild, vulgar fanaticismsinging
hymns to nigger tunes, and seeing visions
in the age of railways. This rise of the
Mormons is, indeed, a curious and interesting
feature of our age. In sectarian history
nothing so strangely important has happened
for a century at least.

In 1805 there was born in Sharon, Windsor
county, Vermont, United States, a boy to the
house of one Smith there. He was named
Joseph. His parentspoor industrious people
moved shortly afterwards to Palmyra, New
York. Joseph was brought up as a farmer.
Joseph, a vigorous, wild, uncultivated boy,
seems to have been used to working from the
beginning. His lot turned to the homely side
of affairs in general. What he saw of daily
life was the necessity of digging and clearing;
what he heard of religious matters was
through the medium of a squabbling violent
fanatical sectarianism. Joe's career was the
product of these two influences: his "religion"
presents, accordingly, two marked
phenomena; —immense practical industry, and
pitiable superstitious delusion. What the
Mormons do, seems to be excellent; what
they say, is mostly nonsense.

At the very outset of the story, we are met
by the marvellous. Joseph Smith, the ignorant
rustic, sees visions, lays claim to inspiration,
and pretends to communion with angels
and with the Divinity Himself. He is a
ploughboy, and aspires to be a prophet; he
is at first what they call " wild," but
repents in his rude, coarse life, and narrow
way, he really has a genuine interest in the
Bible. In this disturbed variety of feelings
the young Yankee grows up; he is, as you
see pretty clearly, naturally shrewdyet
credulous. The neighbours are puzzled what
to make of Joseph; he complains that
"persecution" was his lot very early. The
neighbouring ministers did not listen very
favourably to Joe's visions. The time for all
that, they told him, was gone by; nobody had
visions now-a-days! But Joseph struggled on;
for he felt some power in himself: felt that he
was, in his way, a shining lightbut, like
many other shining lights, set in a desperately
thick horn lantern! The fact was, Joseph,
naturally gifted, was wretchedly brought up.
Perhaps it would be fair to say that he
hoped to be able to do some good in his
time; so rushed into his career with stratagetic
disguises to help him on. The world
would not listen to plain Joe Smith junior,
prophet, unaided. Joe Smith must have
something to help him. In the Nineteenth
century you must "rig" your spiritual market,
Joe thought, as well as any other. So, to
make things pleasant, he set about cooking
up his own accounts of his own prophecies
with a tale of the marvellous. Accordingly,
in 1827, a rumour spread about among
persons interested in these matters, that Joseph
Smith junior, had made a discovery of importance.
Inspired by a vision, he had searched
in a certain spot of ground, and there had
discovered some records, written on " plates,
apparently of gold," which contained, in
Egyptian characters, an additional Bible!
This was, indeed, the "Book of Mormon,"
from which the sect derive their name. The
book professed to be a sacred and inspired
narrative, reserved for the new prophet to
usher into the world, and is thus described by
one of the Mormon apostles:—

"The Book of Mormon contains the history
of the ancient inhabitants of America, who
were a branch of the house of Israel, of the
tribe of Joseph; of whom the Indians are
still a remnant; but the principal nation of
them having fallen in battle, in the fourth or
fifth century, one of their prophets, whose
name was Mormon, saw fit to make an abridgment
of their history, their prophecies, and
their doctrine, which he engraved on plates,
and afterwards, being slain, the record fell
into the hands of his son Moroni, who, being
hunted by his enemies, was directed to deposit
the record safely in the earth, with a promise
from God that it should be preserved, and
should be brought to light in the latter days
by means of a Gentile nation, who should
possess the land. The deposit was made
about the year four hundred and twenty, on