Life of David Marks
(Limerick, ME: Morning Star, 1831)
L I F E
D A V I D M A R K S,
To the 26th year of his age.
OF HIS CONVERSION, CALL TO THE MINISTRY,
AND LABOURS IN ITINERANT PREACHING
FOR NEARLY ELEVEN YEARS.
W R I T T E N B Y H I M S E L F.
PRINTED AT THE OFFICE OF THE MORNING STAR.
. . . . . . .
Here I found an empty seat. The father of the family died a week before. He was a member of the church, and ever when I saw him was much engaged in the service of the Lord. He once told me, he hoped and believed, that when his time was fulfilled, he should go to his home suddenly. I was informed that he took his dinner, apparently as well as usual, then suddenly fell from his chair. He was taken up immediately 00 but he was dead. 'O Lord, may I also be ready.' I held six meetings in Scriba, and found the two churches in this town, and the one in New-Haven, in a state of engagedness; and, though destitute of an administrator, they appeared to maintain gospel order. On Monday, March 15, we left Scriba, and after a tedious journey, arrived in Canandaigua.
During the week following, I journeyed about one hundred and fifty miles, and suffered much from a tedious storm. Sabbath, March 28, I preached twice to a small assembly in Geneva. Next day, we attended a meeting in Fayette, and tarried at the house of Mr. Whitmer. Here we saw two or three of his sons, and others to the number of eight, who said they were witnesses of a certain book just published, called the "Golden Bible," or "Book of Mormon." They affirmed, that an angel had showed them certain plates of metal, having the appearance of gold, that were dug out of the ground by one Joseph Smith; that on these plates was written a history of the ten tribes of Israel which were lost, and revelations to different prophets that arose among them. They stated the writing could be read by no person, except by the said Smith; and, that the Lord had inspired him to translate and publish the book, -- that none, but twelve chosen witnesses, had been allowed to see these plates, and that now they were "hid up unto the Lord." They further stated, that twelve apostles were to be appointed, who could soon confirm their mission by miracles -- and, that if any one read their bible and did not believe, they would be given up and lost forever. These eight, we understood, were in company with Smith and three others. A copy right was secured by Smith in his own name the book contains about six
hundred octavo pages of small print. Five thousand copies were published -- and they said the angel told Smith to see the book at a price which was one dollar and eight cents per copy more than the cost, that they "might have the temporal profit, as well as the spiritual."
When I was in Ohio, I had quite a curiosity to know the origin of the numerous mounds and remains of ancient fortifications that abound in that section of the country; but could not find that any thing satisfactory was known on the subject. Having been told that the 'Book of Mormon' gave a history of them, and of their authors, some desire was created in my mind to see the book, that I might learn the above particulars. I wished to read it, but could not, in good conscience, purchase a copy, lest I should support a deception; so they lent me one, and I read two hundred and fifty pages; but was greatly disappointed in the style and interest of the work. For, so far from approaching the sublimity of the inspired writers, they would bear no comparison with the Apocrypha, or the Alcoran. Indeed the style is so insipid, and the work so filled with manifest imposture, that I could feel no interest in a further perusal. It contained several extracts from the Scriptures; and, with a little variation, Christ's sermon on the mount. From all the circumstances, I thought it probably had been written originally by an infidel, to see how much he could impose on the credulity of men, and to get money. Yet, I expected they would make converts; for there are many people who are fond of new things; and there is scarcely any system so absurd as to obtain no advocates. Shortly after this, I understood that one of the witnesses baptized Smith, and then Smith baptized others. If one believed the book, he was considered a fit subject for baptism.
On reviewing this pretended revelation, I was forcibly struck with the contrast between the introduction of the gospel of Christ, and that of the 'Book of Mormon.' The former came down from heaven; the latter is said to have been dug out of the earth. The gospel was first preached openly, with power, in the
Recollections of the Rev. David Marks
David Marks grew up on a farm in Junius twp., Seneca Co., New York -- about fifteen miles southeast of his contemporary, Joseph Smith, Jr. Marks lived at Junius between 1815 and 1821, less than ten miles north of the Peter Whitmer, Sr. farm in Fayette twp. Marks probably knew either the Whitmers or their near neighbors a decade before he visited the Whitmer home on March 29, 1830, a week before the "Church of Christ" was formally organized.
Affected as a youth by the same kind of religious revivals that would soon begin to influence Joseph Smith, Jr., David Marks eventually became a Free-will Baptist minister who traveled through the region, preaching, baptizing and strengthening the congregations of his denomination.
Marks published an account of his visit with the Mormon Whitmers in the Limerick Morning Star on Apr. 28, 1830, just days after his experiences in Seneca County, New York. This same story was incorporated into pages 340-341 of his 1831 autobiography. It is interesting to read that Marks came a cross the name "Golden Bible," during his visit with the Whitmers. It is probable that members of the family were then using that term to describe the newly-published Book of Mormon to curious outsiders. Marks came away from his partial reading of the book thinking it was "a history of the ten tribes of Israel." Since the principal characters of the story are descendants of Lehi, a patriarch from the "lost tribe" of Manasseh, Marks' small error concerning the book's subject matter is understandable.
The Whitmers apparently informed Marks that the story told in the Book of Mormon explained the origin of the ancient "mound-builder" earthworks of the Ohio River Valley. This is one of many evidences indicating that the early Mormons equated the "mound-builders" with the civilized Nephites of that book.
After reading nearly half of the book, Marks says: "From all the circumstances, I thought it probably had been written originally by an infidel, to see how much he could impose on the credulity of men, and to get money." This is much the same description some witnesses give of the character and inclination of the ex-Reverend Solomon Spalding, in his own production of a manuscript story told in "the old scriptural style."
A decade later Marks would again encounter Mormonism during his itinerant preaching in western New York. On Feb. 2, 1841, LDS Genesee Conference President, Elder Charles B. Thompson wrote a letter saying: "I held a debate in Attica about two weeks since with David Marks, the Freewill Baptist champion: the question was 'is Mormonism of divine origin or is it an imposition?' The debate continued one day and a half and two evenings, and though the congregation was none of them members of our church, but mostly Freewill Baptists, yet the decision was given in my favor, both by the moderators and the congregation..." The Thompson-Marks debate was reportedly mentioned in a mid-January 1841 issue of the Warsaw Sentinel.
Marks says nothing of Oliver Cowdery (who in 1830 was a frequent guest at the Whitmer home) in his autobiography. Perhaps Cowdery was away from the Fayette-Waterloo area at the time Marks stayed over with the Whitmers. If the "Church of Christ" was indeed organized at Fayette on April 6, 1830 (and not at Manchester, as some sources indicate), David Marks missed seeing and meeting Oliver Cowdery by about eight days.