5 November 1851
An Hour with the Mormons!
To the Editor of the Belfast News-Letter.
Sir – A number of individuals, presided over by an “Elder,” and calling themselves “Latter-day Saints,” now occupy the little building in King Street, formerly used by the members of the Baptist communion. The walls of our town, on Saturday, being covered with placards, with the striking heading, “Restoration of the Gospel,” and announcing that “Elder Wallace, from the Great Salt Lake Valley,” would preach a sermon, I determined to be present.
When I entered the small meeting-house, I saw about fifty individuals assembled, many of them, like myself, no doubt, brought thither by curiosity. After a rapid glance at the congregation generally, my eyes, wanderers as they are, were next directed to a small table, which sat before a comfortable-looking gentleman, having on it two plates, on which were some pieces of bread, and a glass vessel, containing something very green-looking, “original ginger,” I dare say.
“Elder Wallace” then attracted my notice, talking away from his little desk – to call it a pulpit would be a misnomer. He had not, as is usual, a Bible open before him, but a shilling copy of the Word of God, to all appearance, lay there closed; it being of little use to these gentry as it is not their gospel. What his text was I could not make out; indeed, from the rambling way in which he talked, a text would have answered no purpose.
He had not proceeded far before I had classed this “high priest” – for such I am informed he is, when out at the Mormon settlement – and all his congregation who believed what he said, with those whom Cowper aptly described as
“Church quacks, with passions under no command,
Who fill the world with doctrines contraband;
Discoverers of they know not what, confined
Within no bounds – the blind that lead the blind,
To streams of fatal error drawn,
Deposit in those shallows all their spawn.
The wriggling fry soon fill the creeks around,
Pois’ning the waters where their swarms abound.
Scorned by the nobler tenants of the flood,
Minnows and grudgeons gorge th’ unwholesome food.”
“Elder Wallace” denounced, in no measured terms, the bigotry and superstition of those who still cling to the faith of their fathers, and refused to receive the concoction of Joe Smith as a revelation from heaven. The way in which he defended the character of their “prophet,” the aforesaid Smith, raised my indignation to the utmost, and I could scarcely “keep down my ire” while he proceeded. What was the defence, think your readers? Just this. He instituted a comparison between the Saviour of lost man – “He who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners” – and the infamous false prophet who met with his death from the hands of an indignant population; and asserted that as Christ was innocent, although those in authority at the time, as well as those who had most religion amongst the Jews, cried out for his blood, so, in like manner, although D.D.’s and fanatics tried to prove to the contrary, Smith was innocent, and a true prophet of God! At this shocking comparison, several of his audience seemed very much pleased, and I observed a couple of “saints” elbow each other, as much as to say – “That’s capital.”
Waxing warm, he then lifted in his left hand (which, I forgot to say, was adorned with a ring) the Bible, and declared that the Mormons were the only people who believed the Bible literally. The Methodists, for instance, on any ticklish point, run to Dr. Clarke, and believe him in preference to the Bible. Who was Dr. Clarke? – he was never sent to preach the gospel. “But,” says “Elder Wallace” (still holding the Bible in his hand), “this is not the Gospel. We don’t receive it as such. The gospel existed long before this book was heard of. It was preached by Abraham and Moses.” I was going to ask him to produce what the Mormons call their gospel, and let me see the plates; but I did not like to disturb the repose of “the saints,” many of whom seemed to be almost mesmerised.
He then began to the practical, and said that the same cause will produce the same results, &c. From this he argued that those who believed, repented (thus inverting the order of things), and were baptised (i.e., ducked), were still enabled to do what the apostles did in their time, quoting as proof of this the promise in Mark xvi., 17, 18: – “And these signs shall follow them that believe: in My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” This he knew and had experienced himself.
The man, to my mind, seemed totally ignorant of the plan of salvation, and I then thought that he was recommending to the people
“An ignis fatuus that bewitches,
And leads men into pools and ditches,
to make them dip themselves, and sound
For Christendom in dirty pond;
To dive like wild-fowl for salvation,
And fish to catch regeneration.”
It would be very little use for me to occupy your space by detailing, at any greater length, the foolish things that this “Elder” from the Salt Lake said in his address. Suffice it to say, he boldly stated that the deluded followers of Joe Smith were the only people of God, and tried to prove that all the Christian Churches of our land – its glory and its boast – were little better than the Bushmen of Africa.
This importation from the Far West was dressed a la Yankee, and talked very glibly; but was incapable of speaking a sentence of English correctly, and took the liberty of a “saint” in “laying hands” upon the language with the most unfortunate effect, for I am certain a jury of common tradesmen would have brought him in guilty of murdering his mother tongue. You have heard, no doubt, of the child who, on a visit to her friends in the country, asked a playmate to “come into the gerden to shear gress.” The Elder sometimes talked in the same rather too nice pronunciation. He said something about the “deef hearing, the leem lepping like the hart upon the mountings.”
The preacher then began to “stump” about the number of the Mormonites in England, Scotland, Wales, and America, and coolly told his audience not to be cast down at the opposition of the world, assuring them, “If ye were of the world, the world would love you, but because God has chosen you out of the world, therefore” (capital and consolatory conclusion!) “the world hates you.” His peroration had reference to their hopes and prospects, both with reference to time and eternity, and he ended by an ejaculation for the eternal happiness of the “saints,” which was followed by responsive shouts of “Amen.”
“Elder Wallace” was followed by the regular priest of the sect, who expressed the happiness he had experienced in listening to the “clear, simple, and yet powerful arguments” of the “saint” who had preceded him, and launched out on the same tack, expressing his conviction in the full “restoration of the gospel” that had been preached to Abraham. He then invited any strangers to stop and partake of the sacrament, and hear the experience of the “saints”; but a great many, with myself, departed.
I have now, Sir, given you my impressions on my first visit to the Mormon chapel. I felt pained to see so many dupes of this great imposture, evidently listening with pleasure to such deceitful and soul-destroying doctrines. The cool effrontery of their “prophets,” in commencing such a trade in Belfast, is great, indeed; but I dare say this batch will go like the last which visited the Athens of the North – that is, when they have effectually fleeced their poor dupes, and “stern necessity” compels them to seek out a new field for the exercise of their art.
That some of the ignorant and “anythingarian” of the population should be gulled by these “saints” is not very strange; but that any intelligent member of our community, much less any individual who has known the truth, should be led astray by these speculators in the credulity of human nature, is beyond conception. Should there be one or two, as I believe there are, the sooner they return to the “old paths” the better for their present peace, as well as for their eternal interests.