Philadelphia, October 17, 1846.
Correspondence of the Friends' Weekly Intelligencer.
9th month, 1846.
Our course from Nauvoo was to Bloomington, and being in a private carriage, and stopping frequently at the
houses of farmers to water the horses, we often sat awhile, and conversed with the families, which gave us
an opportunity of gathering many little items of intelligence which were interesting, and enabled us to
form a better idea of the true state of the country. We found much prejudice existing against the Mormons as a
body, yet the sympathies of many were enlisted by their sufferings; and indeed, to travel as we did, amidst
their now desolate farms, and see in almost every house nearly all the panes of glass broken, and in some
all demolished, and the sashes broken in pieces, the doors taken off their hinges, the chimneys torn
down, and in some places even the boards of the floors dragged from their resting places, and the country
for miles looking as if a pestilence had suddenly carried off all its inhabitants; this was enough to
awaken the saddest feelings of our natures, and, as we rode along, our moralizings were colored by the
melancholy gloom which had settled on the otherwise beautiful face of the country.
Our driver was a timid man, and knowing the lawless state of the neighborhood, he feared, as we came from
the doomed city, that if we met any of the roving bands we might become captives, (or at least himself,
and the carriage and horses) and therefore tried to avoid the towns which laid directly in our way, by
taking other roads across the prairie; in doing which he lost the nearest path, and we rode many
unnecessary miles amidst the deserted farms of the Mormons, without seeing a living creature, of whom
we could make inquiries. Frequently we turned to take, as we supposed, the last look at the Temple, but
a rising mound brought it again and again in view, and each returning prospect gave us renewed feelings
I will pass over two weeks spent in Illinois, to say a few words more of the Mormons. On our voyage on
the lakes Michigan and Huron, there were several of the "Saints" in company. They appeared to be pleasant,
genteel people, but, perhaps from the want of that sympathy which baptizes one individual into the spirit of
another, we could not perceive any greater degree of holiness among them, than in some of the rest of the
company. Yet we had one of their twelve apostles in our midst, no less a personage than
Wm. Smith, the brother of the Prophet, who now holds the office of Patriarch, and is the only remaining male
of the family. We had considerable conversation with him. He is not an educated man, but appears to be
full of faith and zeal for the cause, and to every objection to Mormonism, he quoted numberless passages
of scripture to confound the unbeliever. It is true, we were generally at a loss to see the application of
the texts as they understood them, but we had the prejudices of many years to contend with, and our eyes
had not been anointed with the eye salve of Joseph's kingdom; so we sat in stupid incredulity, wondering
that the simple truths of the gospel could be so perverted. He conversed freely on their difficulties,
and the new doctrines propagated by the ten apostles who had gone West, and entirely condemned their
immoralities, and appeared to consider them arch deceivers, who had led a misguided multitude to adopt
views and practices inconsistent with morality, and the outrage of all religion. John E. Page and himself
are the remnant of the apostles who truly (as they think) hold to the original faith. They believe that
Joseph appointed James J. Strang as his successor in the prophetic office, and Strang produced a letter
written by Joseph a short time before his death, bestowing upon him the succession; but the other ten
apostles, and the California party, refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the letter, and even dared
to hint, that Strang (who was a lawyer, and a shrewd fellow) had written it himself. But all
the Smith family have full faith in his mission and authority to be the head of the church; accordingly,
at Voree the Saints are gathering together, and expect that city will rival Nauvoo.
I have now in my possession, a letter from William Smith, another from his mother, and a third, signed by
her two married daughters and their husbands, acknowledging their full belief in Strang's appointment by
Joseph, to be the president of the church; also, a declaration of the Voree church, to receive, acknowledge,
and uphold him as prophet, seer, revelator and translator. -- These documents were presented to us by Lucy
Smith, the mother of the deceased prophet.
But still there were some incredulous ones, even at Voree, who could not give full belief to the Strang
hierarchy, and therefore it was necessary to get up faith by various revelations and visions, and among them
was one in which Strang said, he was informed that there were plates buried for him too; so taking several
of the gifted ones with him, he pointed out to them a certain tree, which had been shown to him in a vision,
under which was deposited the buried treasure. While they were digging he staid some distance from them,
that he might not be accused of deception; and there, enclapsed by the roots, as if the little radicles had
grown around them, they found several small plates, apparently of copper, covered with cyphers, unintelligible
to all but the new prophet. A Mormon elder, who was with us on the Lakes, gave us the narrative, and told
us he was the one to whom the plates were given when they were taken from their hidden depository, and that
he was the first one who examind them. Upon our inquiring whether it was not probable that Strang had placed
them there, he seemed to think from their situation it was utterly impossible; and when we queried as to his
belief in it being a heavenly appointment, he replied, 'I do not only believe, but I know it, for I
have had revelations myself confirming it.' Of course, we could no longer appear to doubt with such evidence
Strang has been decyphering the plates at his leisure, and as he still retains them, the unbeliever may
receive full satisfaction by looking at them. They are not as large as Joseph's plates, being only about
two inches wide, and two and a half long. Joseph's plates (they say) were of bright gold, but Strang's are
of dark, dim looking copper; and those who are opposed to Strang bring forward a passage of scripture, the
words of which I do not recollect, but the signification is, that 'the things of God shall never be dimmed,'
to show the falsity of his pretensions. After Joseph's death, there was an attempt to prove that Sidney
Rigdon had been appointed by the prophet as his successor, and a sealed revelation was produced, said to
have been written by Joseph some months before; but the ten apostles, believing they would each like a share
of the government, have not been willing to acknowledge the authenticity of either the Rigdon or Strang
revelations. This, with some other differences, has produced a schism, which has spread throughout the
whole Mormon body.
Rigdon, gaining but few adherents, has resigned his claim, and acknowledged that of Strang; while the
opposing party refer to a revelation in their Book of Covenants, which says, "that if Joseph transgresses,
he shall not have power, except to appoint another," and as in the letter and revelation which
Strang produced, his councillor, gathering place, &c., are mentioned, and as Joseph did transgress, they
consider the whole affair null and void. They have also doubts on another subject: Joseph, they consider,
held they Keys of the Kingdom in this world and of the world to come, and that he received them from Peter,
James and John -- and as there was no regular transferring of them to Strang, he cannot hold them, and therefore
cannot be the true successor. Each party have a place of meeting for worship in Philadelphia, but the congregations are small.
William Smith, in addition to his apostolic and patriarchal character, is a rhymer. I have several of his
poems in my possession, -- two verses of one of his efforts in that line, may not be inappropriate here.
God did his servant, Joseph, call
To make his mercy known to all,
His last day purposes reveal,
And all the tribes of Israel seal;
But wicked men, in bloody strife
Have sought, and taken his sweet life,
But now his place is filled, you see,
By James J. Strang of fair Voree.
The angels too have bless'd the place
With messages of Truth, and Grace,
Sent forth from shining worlds above
To show God's Wisdom, Pow'r, and Love;
This Truth springs out from under ground
To testify to all around
That James, a Prophet's called to be,
And lead God's church, in fair Voree.
The city of Voree, which received its name from Joseph, in his letter of appointment to Strang, is on White
river, on the borders of Racine and Walworth counties, Wisconsin, twenty-six miles west of lake Michigan.
It is described as a beautiful place, having immense hydraulic power, an inexhaustible quarry of stone, a
soil not to be surpassed, and supplied with plenty of timber. The city lots sell at $50 per lot, and
conditions are inserted in all the deeds, that no liquor shops shall ever be opened upon them. -- These
Mormons have learned some wisdom by their past misfortunes, and have discovered that morality must go with
the profession of religion to be successful in their operations; therefore, they now proclaim temperance,
and the most strict morality as their mottoes.
Religious delusions, in all ages, have influenced the feelings of the strong man, as well as the weaker one
-- and it has been an instructive lesson to be with these people, and observe how their minds cling with the
greatest tenacity to many things, which appeared to us to be the most ridiculous absurdities. Blessed, indeed,
is that faith that looks not outwardly for signs and miracles, but depends on the monitions and pointings of
the Divine light in the soul of every seeking individual, who, turning inward from the plans and theologies
taught in the schools of men, meets, in the "silence of all flesh," the true Teacher, the "Great I AM," whose
voice, though still speaking in the awful tones of thunder, from pole to pole, is yet "the still small voice"
heard in the soul, coming, as formerly to the prophet in the cave, only after the storm and the whirlwind
have passed by.
I have been pleased to observe the dependence of these people, on some occasions, upon Divine inspiration. At
one of their meetings which I attended, the preacher spoke for a little while and then, stopping in the midst
of his address, remarked, that he felt confused, -- that he believed that preaching to be beneficial, either to
the speaker or hearers, must be inspired, -- that the Divine truths must flow as from vessel to vessel, and
that the feelings of the audience would be brought to acknowledge, that the words were indeed the record of the
movings of the Spirit upon the mind of the speaker, if he were properly qualified;" but that he must confess he
was not then in that state, and feared that any communication he might make would be without a good influence upon
his congregation. Requesting then the prayers if those present for an accession to his faith and strength, he
resumed his seat. It was an interesting occasion, and the feelings were still more excited by one of the elders
rising and placing his hand affectionately upon the sunken head of the preacher, expressed his unity with his
conduct, and his increased belief in his ministerial gift, as he had thus been able to discern between the
promptings of his own mind, or acquired knowledge, and the influence of that Spirit that leadeth into all truth.
I have had considerable conversation with a married couple, who told me that they had been Presbyterians,
and had been married eleven years when they went to Nauvoo, and that while there, they had been sealed
together. To my query as to the meaning of the sealing, they replied, That the ministers of other societies
being only ordained of men, had not received the power to perform such ceremonies, and they considered
they had been living an unholy life together until the marriage was sanctified by the anointed
priesthood at Nauvoo, where they had been sealed together, not only for time, but for eternity. That man
was not a perfect being in himself, neither could a woman be, but that the union of the two formed the
perfect creature, and in that state of being sealed together could they alone be fitted for eternity.
They have another singular idea, founded on the passage, "In my Father's house there are many mansions."
These mansions they interpret to be kingdoms, and that every man is glorified in his kingdom by the
number of his family; that as Abraham and Jacob were honored by the number and greatness of their posterity,
so must they be by theirs, and also by the number of relatives and friends they can bring into the Mormon
heaven; therefore, they are baptized for the dead of their families, who were not Mormons, supposing
thereby they can bring them into their kingdoms, and their glory be increased by the number of souls
added unto them.
The Book of Mormon, which is Joseph's translation of the history recorded upon the golden plates, is
considered by the believers to account satisfactorily for all the discoveries that have been made in
America of the remains of an ancient people, more civilized than our present race of Indians. They believe
that the earthquake, which occurred at the period of the crucifixion upon Mount Calvary, extended to
America, and that many large cities in this country were buried deeply at that time; and the scientific,
the curious, and the faithless, are referred to the Book of Mormon for the solution of all doubts upon
the subject. It was amidst the horrors of that frightful convulsion of nature (according to the record) that
Jesus appeared to the remnant of the saved of the Western world, and testified to them of his life and
death at Jerusalem, and established the Christian church among them.
Probably some of our friends may think I have made too long a digression from the narrative of our journey,
in saying so much of the Mormons; but I have found, from the inquiries of many, that an interest was
awakened for these people, and a desire to know more of their history, and as we had access to sources
of information which they had not, they wished to hear more of them than merely the little that could be
told in the description of our visit to Nauvoo -- and my Mormon acquaintances may be surprised at my
incredulity when they have presented me with so many evidences of what they consider the truth; but
could I accept in full faith their versions of the scriptures, and receive, as they do, the history of the
rise and progress of their society, I should inevitably have to become -- what I cannot be -- a Mormon.
Note 1: One of the most interesting disclosures made by this correspondent in his Sept., 1846 letter to the
Philadelphia Friends' Weekly Intelligencer, is that Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of Joseph, Hyrum and
William Smith, had instrusted that same correspondent with three letters from members of the Smith family,
"acknowledging their full belief in Strang's appointment by Joseph, to be the president of the church." The
writer does not say whether these letters were originals or copies, nor whether they were supplied for his
own personal use, for publication, or for forwarding to some third party. Evidently these three letters were
not directed to recipients at Voree, or else they would have been left in the possession of William Smith or
some other Mormon traveler. For more on Mother Smith's Strangite loyalty see notes appended to an article in
the Wisconsin Racine Advocate of
Sept. 16, 1846.
Note 2: William Smith appears have been particularly wont to speak with traveling strangers regarding Latter Day
Saint doctrines and viewpoints; see also his conversation with Rev. James Murdock, as paraphrased in the
Peoria Register of Sept. 3, 1841