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Rev. Tobias Spicer (1788-1862)

(Boston, 1851)

  • Title Page

  • Preface (under construction)
  • Contents (under construction)
  • Pages 110-113 (the Mormons)

  • Transcriber's Comments










    OF HIS

    V I S I T   T O   E N G L A N D.

    B O S T O N:
    1 8 5 1.


    110                      CHAMPLAIN  DISTRICT.                     

    said, "Did you not, Brother M.?" Nearly all his discourse was a vindication of Methodism; and he constantly appealed to Mr. M. for the truth of his assertions. This discourse completely disconcerted the good old Brother M., so that he made out but little in attempting to preach in the Bishop's presence in the afternoon. His influence was completely nullified in this place; and he went away without effecting anything. This organization, formed with so much hope by our disaffected brethren, is at present, in all this part of the country, in a very feeble state. They are doing very little, and have very few societies in existence,.

    M O R M O N S.

    While I was in this district, the Mormons, so called, made their first appearance in these parts. It was pretended by Joseph Smith, -- a man who lived in the State of New York, -- that he had miraculously discovered several golden plates in Palmyra, near where he lived, which he dug from the earth. On these, he pretended, there were wonderful inscriptions, containing the history of a very ancient people, who once inhabited this country, and raised those artificial mounds which abound in some of the Western States. These records he pretended to have translated and published in a book called the "Book of Mormon," which is considered as the Mormon Bible.

    But it has been since ascertained that this book was written, at least a considerable part of it, by a Mr. Spalding, as a matter of amusement for himself and his friends. It was an attempt to account for the origin of the western mounds, in which he drew all the materials from his own imagination. He designed to publish this, but

                         CHAMPLAIN  DISTRICT.                      111

    never did. This manuscript somehow found its way into the hands of Joseph Smith and his associates, and was at first published merely as a catch-penny. But Smith availed himself of it to turn it to some account in getting up a new religious association.

    Some of the preachers of this strange whim found their way within the bounds of my district, and gained some attention. They professed to heal the sick and to raise the dead. In one instance, they imposed on a family, and attempted to heal an elderly lady, a member of our church. The preacher baptized her, and, after praying and a great deal of ceremony, until her feelings were wonderfully wrought up, he commanded her to rise up and walk. She immediately sprang upon her feet, clapping her hands and exclaiming, "Glory to God! I am healed!" But her rejoicing was short; she could not walk; she fell to the floor, and had not the strength to rise. But this was enough to make a story of; and it was published all abroad as a miracle, without telling the whole of it. However, the facts in the case were shortly published, over the proper signature of the lady and some of her friends.

    They made such a noise about the book of Mormon, especially the golden plates from which it was said to have been translated, that a number of gentlemen residing in Essex county, N. Y., addressed a letter to the post-master who lived near where it was pretended the golden plates were found. The reply was signed by eight of the most respectable gentlemen in the place. They declared that the story about the plates was considered, by all persons of good sense in that place, as wholly unworthy of notice; that if any person there should for a moment believe the story, he would be laughed at for his credulity; that Smith's followers were

    112                      CHAMPLAIN  DISTRICT.                     

    mostly confined to the most ignorant and worthless part of the community; that Smith and his friends had for some time been searching with mineral-rods for hidden treasures. They concluded by saying, that such is the character of Smith and his associates, their want of veracity and common honesty, -- such their idleness and neglect of paying their debts, that there is but little evidence that they are the chosen and inspired instruments by whom God would make any new revelation to man.

    I attended one of their meetings, held in the west part of Castleton, Vt. There were two of their preachers present, and both addressed us at some length. The first spoke about an hour; he was a man of some talents, and displayed some ingenuity, and quite a familiarity with the Scriptures. He had formerly been a Baptist. His discourse was concerning the different dispensations. We had the dispensation of Adam in paradise, of Noah, of the patriarchs, of the prophets, of John the Baptist, of Christ, and of the apostles. Each of these, he said, succeeded the other, and each was brighter as it advanced along the track of time. These had all passed away; but the prophets and apostles had predicted a brighter and more glorious dispensation to come. Here he quoted largely from the Old and New Testaments such passages as refer to the final triumph of Christianity. These all, he said, refer to Mormonism, or the "Latter Day Saints." "Truth shall spring out of the ground;" -- this, he said, alluded to the golden plates so mysteriously obtained. The two rods, described in Ezekiel xxxvii, 16-29, which were to become one in the hand of the prophet, he said, were the Bible and the Book of Mormon; the latter was a supplement to the former, to make it perfect; one was the Jewish Bible, and the other was the Bible for the Gentiles. The

                         CHAMPLAIN  DISTRICT.                      113

    latter day had come, the heavenly kingdom had commenced, and the millennial glory had begun.

    After he sat down, the other arose, and entertained us about half an hour, making very strong assertions, and warning us at our peril not to reject Mormonism. He said they knew what they asserted to be true; that many angels had appeared, and had confirmed the truth of Mormonism. They had heard these angels with their own ears, and seen them with their own eyes, and knew they were from heaven and spoke the truth; and God would soon destroy all the wicked from the earth, if they did not embrace the truth.

    To these strange assertions, fallacious reasonings, and terrible denunciations, I listened with becoming attention; but none of them moved me to either faith or fear. As to the angels who had announced the truth of Mormonism, hearing and seeing would not have quite convinced me. I thought I should want to examine them a little, and see if I could not feel them, and ascertain if they had not flesh and bones; or, if I found they were real spirits, I should like to have questioned them a little, whether they were really from heaven, and how long since they left there, and whether they had not been expelled from heaven. And I think, before I could have believed they were really good angels, after hearing them testify to such nonsense, I should have smelled of them, to be sure they had not come from heaven by the way of hell; for I should have greatly doubted their veracity. But, notwithstanding the ridiculous pretensions of these people, they made some converts from among a certain class in those parts, and since then have made many more in other parts of our country. There is scarce anything too absurd to find more or less adherents.

    Transcriber's Comments

    Following his administrative assignment to New Haven between 1827 and 1828, Methodist Minister Tobias Spicer was assigned to the "Champlain District" of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This district was composed of western Vermont, along with a narrow band of neighboring New York State. Spicer was the Presiding Elder for the Church in this district from 1829 to about mid-1833, and thus had an opportunity to encounter some of the first Mormon missionaries sent to eastern New York and Vermont.

    Spicer does not provide his readers with an exact time frame for the events he relates as occuring in and around Essex County, New York. Presumably the stories of the unhealed "elderly lady" and the report received from a "post-master" in Smith's home region of western New York were published in one or more newspapers along the western shores of Lake Champlain in 1832 or early 1833. Smiliar reports on the Mormons were circulated in New England by papers like the New Hampshire Gazette and the Vermont Patriot during this same period.

    It is also unknown who the two LDS "preachers" were who addressed the religious meeting held in "the west part of Castleton, Vt." in 1832 or early 1833. This meeting was presumably held in Rutland County, near the southern end of Lake Bomoseen, a few miles north of Poultney. Spicer's report of the Mormon missionaries preaching divine dispensationalism sounds fully credible, as does his recollection of their using the 37th chapter Ezekiel for LDS proof-texting.

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    last revised 10-16-2001