Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book Six - The Church of the Quacks
The Book of Mormon
Or let us take a trip to Salt Lake City, the headquarters of a still stranger cult.
On the morning of September 22, 1827, the Angel of the Lord delivered unto Joseph Smith, Jr., an ignorant farmer-youth in a "backwoods" part of New York State, some plates which had "the appearance of gold," As we know from the scriptures, it is the habit of the Angel of the Lord to appear in unexpected places and to make miraculous revelations to men in humble walks of life; so, as devout believers, we hold ourselves in readiness. In this case the plates were written in "reformed Egyptian"; but the Angel thoughtfully provided Joseph Smith. Jr., with Urim and Thummim.. two magic stones with which to read the records. They proved to deal with a mystery which has haunted the minds of Bible students for centuries - the fate of the "lost ten tribes of Israel," who were now revealed to have been the ancestors of the American Indians. The Angel told Smith to found a new religion, and gave him prophecies concerning things in general; so, on April 6, 1830, in the town of Manchester, N.Y., there was formally launched the "Church of the Latter Day saints." Smith turned over to his followers his translation of the miraculous plates, called "The Book of Mormon"; obviously like the books which we already know are the revealed word of God. But, on chance that this might not be sufficient, we were offered in the preface two documents, the "Testimony of Three Witnesses," and the "Further Testimony of Eight Witnesses." The latter being the shorter, may be quoted:
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith Jr., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith hath translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings there on, all of which has the appearance of ancient work and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shewn unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith hath got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness that which we have seen, and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
The subsequent career of the Church of the Latter Day Saints bore out the Angel's prophesies and proved conclusively its divine origin; it was persecuted as the saints of old were persecuted, and its followers proceeded to massacre the nearby unbelieving populations, just as the divinely guided Hebrews had done. Driven from place to place, they built at Nauvoo, Ill., a beautiful temple, according to plans revealed in a vision, exactly like Solomon. Finally they settled in Utah, where they have a magnificent marble tabernacle, and some 300,000 followers. The United States government, not being entirely Biblical, objected to their practice of allowing the patriarchs of the tribe to have as many wives as they could support; the government confiscated the church's property, and forced it to conceal the practice of polygamy, as is done by elderly church members in other parts of the country. Recently the head of the church, who bears the title of "Prophet, Seer and Revelator," was persuaded to permit an examination of one of its secret plates, the "Book of Abraham," by egyptologists, who found that it was ordinary Egyptian hieroglyphics, not "reformed," but containing prayers to the sun-god. But this will of course make no difference to the devout followers of Joseph - any more than it has made to devout Catholics and Episcopalians that German scholars have proven that the Bible legends and ritual have come from the Babylonians, and that the four gospels date from the 2nd and 3rd centuries after Christ.
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