|(Documented History of the Church 4:535-541)
March 1, 1842.—At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, Editor and Proprietor
of the Chicago Democrat. I have written the following sketch of the rise,
progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which I have
the honor, under God, of being the founder. Mr. Wentworth says that he
wishes to furnish Mr. Bastow, a friend of his, who is writing the history
of New Hampshire, with this document. As Mr. Bastow has taken the proper
steps to obtain correct information, all that I shall ask at his hands,
is, that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without
I was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, on the 23rd
of December, A.D. 1805. When ten years old, my parents removed to Palmyra,
New York, where we resided about four years, and from thence we removed to
the town of Manchester. My father was a farmer and taught me the art of
husbandry. When about fourteen years of age, I began to reflect upon the
importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon inquiring
[about] the plan of salvation, I found that there was a great clash in
religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one
plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular
creed as the summum bonum of perfection. Considering that all could not be
right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I
determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God
had a Church it would not be split up into factions, and that if He taught
one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances,
He would not teach another, principles which were diametrically opposed.
Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of
James—"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all
men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." I retired
to a secret place in a grove, and began to call upon the Lord; while
fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects
with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and
saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features
and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at
noon day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in
incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His
Church and kingdom: and I was expressly commanded "to go not after them,"
at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the Gospel
should at some future time be made known unto me.
On the evening on the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying
unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of
Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and
more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room, indeed the
first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the
appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a
personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that
with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to
be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant
which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the
preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to
commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to
be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for
the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument
in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious
I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this
country and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch
of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their
righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally
withdrawn from them as a people, was made known unto me; I was also told
where were deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of
the records of the ancient Prophets that had existed on this continent.
The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same
things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding
the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last
days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the
Lord delivered the records into my hands.
These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold,
each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so
thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian
characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with
three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six
inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the
unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book
exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in
the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument,
which the ancients called "Urim and Thummim," which consisted of two
transparent stones set in the rims of a bow fastened to a breast plate.
Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the
gift and power of God.
In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America
is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the
Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the
fifth century of the Christian Era. We are informed by these records that
America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of
people. The first were called Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower
of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about
six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the
descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that
the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance
of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle
towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that
now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made His
appearance unto this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the
Gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing;
that they had Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists; the
same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and
blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent, that the people were
cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their
prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of
their prophecies, history, &c, and to hide it up in the earth, and that it
should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of
the purposes of God in the last days. For a more particular account I
would refer to the Book of Mormon, which can be purchased at Nauvoo, or
from any of our Traveling Elders.
As soon as the news of this discovery was made known, false reports,
misrepresentation and slander flew, as on the wings of the wind, in every
direction; the house was frequently beset by mobs and evil designing
people. Several times I was shot at, and very narrowly escaped, and every
device was made use of to get the plates away from me; but the power and
blessing of God attended me, and several began to believe my testimony.
On the 6th of April, 1830, the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints" was first organized in the town of Fayette, Seneca county, state
of New York. Some few were called and ordained by the Spirit of revelation
and prophecy, and began to preach as the Spirit gave them utterance, and
though weak, yet were they strengthened by the power of God, and many were
brought to repentance, were immersed in the water, and were filled with
the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. They saw visions and prophesied,
devils were cast out, and the sick healed by the laying on of hands. From
that time the work rolled forth with astonishing rapidity, and churches
were formed in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, and Missouri; in the last named state a considerable settlement
was formed in Jackson county: numbers joined the Church and we were
increasing rapidly; we made large purchases of land, our farms teemed with
plenty, and peace and happiness were enjoyed in our domestic circle, and
throughout our neighborhood; but as we could not associate with our
neighbors (who were, many of them, of the basest of men, and had fled from
the face of civilized society, to the frontier country to escape the hand
of justice,) in their midnight revels, their Sabbath breaking, horse
racing and gambling; they commenced at first to ridicule, then to
persecute, and finally an organized mob assembled and burned our houses,
tarred and feathered and whipped many of our brethren, and finally,
contrary to law, justice and humanity, drove them from their habitations;
who, houseless and homeless, had to wander on the bleak prairies till the
children left the tracks of their blood on the prairie. This took place in
the month of November, and they had no other covering but the canopy of
heaven, in this inclement season of the year; this proceeding was winked
at by the government, and although we had warrantee deeds for our land,
and had violated no law, we could obtain no redress.
There were many sick, who were thus inhumanly driven from their houses,
and had to endure all this abuse and to seek homes where they could be
found. The result was, that a great many of them being deprived of the
comforts of life, and the necessary attendances, died; many children were
left orphans, wives, widows and husbands, widowers; our farms were taken
possession of by the mob, many thousands of cattle, sheep, horses and hogs
were taken, and our household goods, store goods, and printing press and
type were broken, taken, or otherwise destroyed.
Many of our brethren removed to Clay county, where they continued until
1836, three years; there was no violence offered, but there were
threatenings of violence. But in the summer of 1836 these threatenings
began to assume a more serious form, from threats, public meetings were
called, resolutions were passed, vengeance and destruction were
threatened, and affairs again assumed a fearful attitude, Jackson county
was a sufficient precedent, and as the authorities in that county did not
interfere they boasted that they would not in this; which on application
to the authorities we found to be too true, and after much privation and
loss of property, we were again driven from our homes.
We next settled in Caldwell and Daviess counties, where we made large
and extensive settlements, thinking to free ourselves from the power of
oppression, by settling in new counties, with very few inhabitants in
them; but here we were not allowed to live in peace, but in 1838 we were
again attacked by mobs, an exterminating order was issued by Governor
Boggs, and under the sanction of law, an organized banditti ranged through
the country, robbed us of our cattle, sheep, hogs, &c., many of our people
were murdered in cold blood, the chastity of our women was violated, and
we were forced to sign away our property at the point of the sword; and
after enduring every indignity that could be heaped upon us by an inhuman,
ungodly band of marauders, from twelve to fifteen thousand souls, men,
women, and children were driven from their own firesides, and from lands
to which they had warrantee deeds, houseless, friendless, and homeless (in
the depths of winter) to wander as exiles on the earth, or to seek an
asylum in a more genial clime, and among a less barbarous people. Many
sickened and died in consequence of the cold and hardships they had to
endure; many wives were left widows, and children, orphans, and destitute.
It would take more time than is allotted me here to describe the
injustice, the wrongs, the murders the bloodshed, the theft, misery and
woe that have been caused by the barbarous, inhuman, and lawless
proceedings of the state of Missouri.
In the situation before alluded to, we arrived in the state of Illinois
in 1839, where we found a hospitable people and a friendly home: a people
who were willing to be governed by the principles of law and humanity. We
have commenced to build a city called "Nauvoo," in Hancock county. We
number from six to eight thousand here, besides vast numbers in the county
around, and in almost every county of the state. We have a city charter
granted us, and charter for a Legion, the troops of which now number
1,500. We have also a charter for a University, for an Agricultural and
Manufacturing Society, have our own laws and administrators, and possess
all the privileges that other free and enlightened citizens enjoy.
Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added
fuel to the flame, it has spread with increasing rapidity. Proud of the
cause which they have espoused, and conscious of our innocence, and of the
truth of their system, 'midst calumny and reproach, have the Elders of
this Church gone forth, and planted the Gospel in almost every state in
the Union; it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages,
and has caused thousands of our intelligent, noble, and patriotic citizens
to obey its divine mandates, and be governed by its sacred truths. It has
also spread into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, where, in the year
1840, a few of our missionaries were sent, and over five thousand joined
the Standard of Truth; there are numbers now joining in every land.
Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany,
Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the
Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work
from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may
assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly,
nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited
every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the
purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the
work is done.
We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and
in the Holy Ghost.
We believe that men will be punished according to their own sins and
not for Adam's transgression.
We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be
saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:
(1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by
immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the gift
of the Holy Ghost.
We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy and by the
laying on hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and
administer in the ordinances thereof.
We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive
Church, viz: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions,
healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated
correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and
we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things
pertaining to the kingdom of God.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of
the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American]
continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and that the
earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the
dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let
them worship how, where, or what they may.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and
magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in
doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of
Paul, "We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many
things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything
virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these
Respectfully, &c., JOSEPH SMITH.