I will commence my discourse by reading the testimony of three
witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
[The speaker here read the testimony referred to.]
I will also read the testimony of eight witnesses.
[The speaker then read it.]
Brethren and Friends—I appear before you
today for the first time for many months, feeling grateful to our
Father in heaven for his condescension and mercy unto us as a people,
that we are once more, through his kind providence, permitted to
assemble ourselves together in this Tabernacle for the purpose of
Whether I say much or little, it is my sincere desire to be dictated
by the Spirit of the living God. The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints was established upon the earth in the year 1830. Had
it not been for the Book of Mormon, which I now hold in my hands, such
a Church would not have had an existence. The probability is, there
would have been no settlements formed in this Territory, no cities to
adorn these dreary wastes, no tabernacles erected for Divine worship,
and no congregations assembled to hear the words of life. The vast
solitudes of these deserts would have been interrupted only by the
howling of wild beasts, or the still more dismal yells of the
ferocious savage. But this wonderful book has wrought a vast change;
and these sterile regions now "rejoice and blossom as the rose." This
book pro fesses to be sent forth as a Divine revelation from God.
If it be an imposition, as many of our opposers say, then this Church
is an imposition also, and our faith and hope are vain. On the other
hand, if the Book of Mormon be a Divine revelation, as the witnesses
have testified—if God has indeed brought forth the ancient history of
the American continent, and the writings of the ancient Prophets and
Apostles that once inhabited this land—if he has done this, and
reestablished his kingdom and Church upon the earth, then our
opposers, that condemn the book, will be found under condemnation. If
this book be of God, it must have sufficient evidence accompanying it
to convince the minds of all reasonable persons that it is a Divine
revelation. If it has been translated by the gift and power of God,
through the means of the Urim and Thummim, and angels have been sent
from heaven to bear testimony of its truth, then all the inhabitants
of the world are concerned and have an interest in it.
It is not the few individuals only who are within the walls of this
Tabernacle that are interested in its truths; it is not the few
individuals only who inhabit this Territory and the few Saints abroad
in the world who are interested in it; but all the nations of the
earth, without one exception—their emperors, kings, and nobles—their
presidents, governors, and rulers—their popes, archbishops, and
bishops—their learned and unlearned of every religious
society, whether Jews, Mahomedans, Pagans, or Christians, are all
equally interested in it, if it be what it professes to be.
If the Lord will assist and strengthen me by his Holy Spirit, which I
believe he will do, through your prayers, I will endeavor to bring
forth some few of the evidences which establish the Divine
authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
I shall compare this evidence with the evidence for the Divine
authenticity of the Bible. If the two books are supported by an equal
amount of evidence, then all are required to have the same faith in
the one as the other. But if the divinity of the Book of Mormon does
not rest upon as sure a foundation as the Bible, then the people will
have some little reason for rejecting it.
In the first place, I shall examine what evidences the present
generation have to believe the various books incorporated in the Holy
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be of Divine origin. It
must be recollected that the book called the Bible was translated from
manuscripts 247 years ago by King James' translators. The manuscripts
from which the Bible was taken are not now in existence. Up to the
year 1749, they were deposited at a Spanish University, called Alcala,
anciently named Complutem. The librarian sold them to one Toryo, who
dealt in fireworks as materials for making skyrockets. (For authority,
see Marsh's Michaelis, vol. 2, part 1, page 441.)
The oldest manuscripts of any of the books of the Old Testament at the
present day date from the twelfth century of the Christian era. You
will find proof of this in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the 8th
edition, vol. 4, page 695, which series is now being published in
Edinburgh, Scotland. That celebrated work says, "The sacred books of
the Old Testa ment have come down to our times in MSS., the oldest of
which date from the twelfth century. Nothing is known of the history of
the text previous to that period after the return of the Jews from
It is believed by the learned that the Old Testament Scriptures were
all destroyed by the Assyrians nearly six hundred years before Christ.
The Apocrypha informs us that Esdras was inspired to re-write them. In
this manner it is conjectured that the Jews again came in possession
of their sacred writings. These books again perished in the great
persecution of Antiochus. (For further information upon this subject,
see Brett's Dissertation in Bishop Watson's Collect, vol. 3, page 5.)
The history of the inspired writings anterior to the Babylonish
captivity is very brief. The number of copies were very few. In the
days of Josiah, all of the Jews seem to have been destitute of a copy
of the law. During the reign of that king, in repairing the house of
the Lord, a copy of the book of the law was found; and when presented
to the king, he sent five messengers to Huldah, the prophetess,
saying, "Go, enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in
Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found."
The messengers returned and reported to the king that the book found
was indeed a Divine revelation, and the king caused all the
inhabitants of Jerusalem to be assembled to hear the words of the
book. (See 2 Chron. 34.)
For a long period previous to finding the book, the Jews had been
ignorant of the Scriptures, and had fallen into the grossest idolatry.
A new revelation through the prophetess Huldah seems to have been
sufficient to convince the king and all Israel of the divinity of the
book. They must have been inclined, in that age of the world,
to believe the history of the servants of God more than in this age;
for now the people generally require a vast amount of evidence. The
testimony of a dozen witnesses is scarcely regarded.
I have already observed, through the persecutions raised against the
house of Israel, their books were destroyed; yes, even the tables of
stone, for some reason, were taken from them, and all Israel were left
without even a copy of the law, until accidentally they happened to
find one that had been hid in the house of the Lord, as I have already
named; and they were so ignorant with regard to this copy that they
were obliged to send for Huldah, one of the prophetesses in Israel, to
inquire of the Lord to know if it really was his word. They found a
book, but they did not know whether it was true or false; and they
thought it important that it should be determined by the immediate
word of God.
Why not this generation go and do likewise? Why not inquire of the
Lord whether the Book of Mormon is a Divine revelation? The copy found
anciently contained the words of the Lord. And the people were so
rejoiced that the whole nation of Jews gathered together to hear it
read, and rejoiced over it, and gave heed to its precepts. They were
not like the present generation; they did not fight it, and testify
all manner of evil against it, and publish lies against it; but they
believed it on the testimony of the prophetess.
It is very probable that the Jews copied these sacred writings upon
various materials. Bishop Watson informs us that "the Hebrews went so
far as to write their sacred books in gold, as we may learn from
Josephus, compared with Pliny." He further says, "Those books which
were inscribed on tablets of wood, lead, brass, or ivory, were
connected together by rings at the back, through which a rod was
passed to carry them by." "The first books," continues Bishop Watson,
"were in the form of blocks and tables, of which we find frequent
mention in Scripture, under the appellation of sepher—that is, square
tables. That form which obtains among us (he quotes from Pliny), is
the square, composed of separate leaves, which was also known, though
little used among the ancients."
These copies of the Scriptures were destroyed, so that the Jews were
again left destitute of the sacred writings. How they again obtained a
copy, this generation are not informed.
Esdras informs us in the Apocrypha that he was inspired of God to
write a great number of the books of the Old Testament Scriptures, so
that the Jewish people might again be in possession of them. But how
are this generation to know whether Esdras was a true Prophet or not?
How are they to know that he was actually inspired of God to perform
so great a work? It seems that the learned have no confidence in him,
or they would not have placed his books among the Apocryphal writings
as being doubtful.
But soon after the days of Esdras the sacred books again perished. How
did the Jews again obtain copies? None of the learned can answer this
question. For seventeen long centuries, the history of the sacred text
is unknown. We are informed by learned writers that about three
centuries before Christ the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into
Greek, called the Septuagint; but have we any copies of the
Septuagint? No. You may search all the archives of the nations, and
you cannot find one of these ancient copies. Fifteen hundred years
after this supposed translation, you find some Greek and Hebrew
manuscripts. Let us inquire into the situation of the manuscripts from which our present Hebrew and Greek Bibles were formed. We
are informed by St. Chrysostom, an ancient Christian writer who lived
soon after the days of Christ, that "many of the prophetical monuments
have perished; for the Jews being careless, and not only careless, but
also impious, have carelessly lost some of these monuments; others
they have partly burned, partly torn in pieces."
We are also informed by St. Justin, another early Christian writer,
that the Jews actually did destroy a great number of the prophetical
books, in order that the world might not perceive the agreement
between the ancient Prophets in the Old Testament and Christianity.
Here, then, we have the testimony of early Christian writers that many
of the prophetical books of the Old Testament were destroyed.
We are also informed by the Catholics, "That many, and very many of
the canonical books of Scripture have quite perished, and not so much
as appeared in the days of the very ancient fathers; so that nothing
but the names of those books have come unto us." (See Mumford's
Question of Questions, sec. 1. 7.)
We are also informed, by those manuscripts that are dated from the
12th century of the Christian era, that the few books that were
preserved during the long reign of persecution and error had become
very much altered and mutilated—so much so, that when the learned
gathered a large number of manuscripts together, they found no two
that agreed. A great variety of readings in these manuscripts
discouraged many of our translators, some three centuries ago, from
translating the Old Testament, lest the world should turn to atheism.
If they had translated them all, they would have had several hundred
Bibles, all clashing and differing from each other.
It must be recollected that the Catholic canon of Scripture was not
formed until the year 397. Prior to that period, the people were left,
some of them to believe in this manuscript, and some in that—some to
reject this one, and some that; and many of the Christian fathers in
the second and third centuries of the Christian era were entirely
unable to determine what manuscripts were spurious, and what ones to
receive as divine. Mumford speaks thus upon this subject—
"If you fly to the tradition of the Church only of the first four
hundred years, remember that the Council of Carthage, just after the
end of those years, alleged the ancient tradition of their fathers,
which they judged sufficient for defining our canon. They, who were so
near those first four hundred years, knew far better the more
universal tradition of that age than we can, twelve hundred years
after it. True it is (nothing being defined till then), private
doctors were free to follow what they judged to be truest; and as you
find them varying from our canon, some in some books, some in others,
so you will find them varying from one another, and varying also from
you" (meaning the Protestant Canon). "For, in those first four hundred
years, Melitus and Nazianzen excluded the Book of Esther, which you
add. Origen doubts of the Epistle to the Hebrews, of the second of St.
Peter, of the first and second of St. John. St. Cyprian and Nazianzen
leave the Apocalypse or Revelation out of their canon. Eusebius
doubts of it."
Mumford further says—"All those holy fathers agreed ever in this,
that such books were evidently God's word which had evidently a
sufficient tradition for them. Now, in the days of those fathers who
thus varied from one another, it was not by any infallible means made
known to all that those books about which their variance was
were recommended for God's infallible word by a tradition clearly
sufficient to ground belief; for the Church had not as yet examined
and defined whether tradition did clearly enough show such and such
books to be God's infallible word. But in the days of St. Austin, the
third Council of Carthage, anno 397, examined how sufficient or
insufficient the tradition of the Church was which recommended those
books for Scripture about which there was so much doubt and
contrariety of opinions. They found all the books contained in our
canon, of which you account so many apocryphal, to have been
recommended by tradition sufficient to found faith upon. For on this
ground (Can. 47), they proceeded in defining all the books in our
canon to be canonical. Because, say they, we have received from our
fathers that those books were to be read in the Church. Pope Innocent
the First, who lived Anno Domini 402, being requested by Exuperius,
Bishop of Toulouse, to declare unto him which books were canonical, he
answers (Ep. 3), that having examined what sufficient tradition did
demonstrate, he sets down what books are received in the canon of the
Holy Scriptures, in the end of his Epistle, chap. 7. To wit, just
those which we now have in our canon; and though he rejects many other
books, yet he rejects not one of these." (See Mumford's Question of
Questions, sec. 3, pars. 4, 12.)
The Pope of Rome gathered together these contending persons in the
form of a council, and they sat in judgment upon various manuscripts
professing to be divine. That quarrelling and contending Council
decided that a certain number of books should be admitted as divine,
and should form the true canon of Scripture, and that no other books
should be added. We are informed that this Council rejected a vast
number of books. Some of these rejected books were considered by part
of the Council of Divine origin.
The manuscripts of the New Testament which these ancient apostates in
the third Council of Carthage pronounced canonical have never reached
our day. The oldest manuscripts of the New Testament which this age
are in possession of are supposed to date from the sixth century of
the Christian era. We have none of the original manuscripts written by
any of the Apostles or inspired writers. We have five manuscripts in
existence that were supposed to have been written as early as the
sixth or seventh century after Christ. Three of these you will find
deposited in the Royal Library of Paris.
1st. The Vatican Manuscript, noted 1,209. This was probably written by
the monks of Mount Athos; first heard of as being in the possession of
Pope Urban the eighth. Some of the leaves are wanting; the ink in some
places faded. The letters have been retraced by a skillful and faithful
hand. (See Unitarian Editors of the Improved Version of the New
Testament, and Marsh.)
2nd. The Clermont or Regises Manuscript, 2,245. This dates from the
seventh century. It was found in the monastery of Clung, called
Clermont, from Clermont in Beauvais, where it was preserved.
Thirty-six leaves of it were stolen by one John Aymon, and sold in
England, but since recovered. It is Greek and Latin, and contains the
Epistles; but that to the Hebrews by a later hand. Like other
Greek-Latin Codices, the Greek has been accommodated to the Latin.
(For authority, refer to Wetstein, Unitarian Editors, Professor
Schweyhausen, quoted by Bishop Marsh, vol. 2, page 245.)
3rd. The Ephrem Manuscript. This also is said to have been written in the seventh century. It was first discovered by Dr. Allix,
in the beginning of the eighteenth century. It is in great disorder;
many leaves lost, many wholly illegible; and the whole is effaced to
make room for the works of Ephrem, the Syrian, under which the sacred
text may be perhaps deciphered by transparency. (See Unitarian Editors
of the Improved New Testament.)
The Vatican, Clermont, and Ephrem Manuscripts will be found in the
Library at Paris.
4th. The Alexandrian Manuscript. This was probably made in the sixth
century; Cassimer Oudin says the tenth. It was deposited in the British
Museum in 1753. Cyril, Patriarch of Constantinople, presented it to
Charles the First in 1628, by his ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe. It was
written by the monks for the use of a monastery of the order of
Acoemets, i.e., vigilant, never sleeping. Its original text is no
longer visible; written with uncial letters; no intervals before the
words. It has been altered from the Latin version, and was written by
a person who was not master of the Greek language. (For authority, see
Cassimer Oudin, Wetstein, &c., &c.; as quoted by Bishop Marsh in his
Michaelis' Introduction, vol. 2, page 185, and following.)
5th. The Cambridge Manuscript, or Codex Bezae. Concerning this, Bishop
Marsh says—"Perhaps, of all the manuscripts now extant, this is the
most ancient." Theodore Beza used it for his edition of the New
Testament. It was found at Lyons, in the monastery of St. Irenaeus,
A.D., 1562. Beza himself owns of it that it should rather be kept for
the avoiding of offense of certain persons, than to be published. It
was deposited in the University Library at Cambridge, England. Uncial
letters; no intervals between the words. It is very ungrammatical. It
varies from the common Greek text in a greater degree than any other.
(See Unitarian Editors, Bishop Marsh, vol. 2, page 229.)
Besides these, there are above twenty manuscripts of later date in
large letters, of different portions of the New Testament; and some
hundreds in smaller characters. It appears, from the superscriptions
of very many manuscripts of which we are in possession, that they were
written on Mount Athos, where the monks employed themselves in writing
copies of the Greek Testament. Some manuscripts, ascribed to the
highest antiquity, have been discovered to be the composition of
impostors as late as the seventeenth century, for the purpose of
foisting in favorite doctrines and imposing upon Christian credulity.
The Montford and Berlin MSS., for instance. (See Marsh, vol. 2, page
All the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament known to the
world differ from each other in almost every verse. And the same is
also true in relation to those of the Old Testament. One of the
ancient Christian writers, Jerome, in his commentaries upon the
Prophets, complains of the corruption of his manuscript Greek copies.
Bellarmine testifies that the Greek copies of the Old Testament are so
corrupted that they seem to make a new translation, quite different
from the translations of other copies. All, therefore, is uncertainty,
not only in relation to the Hebrew manuscripts, but also the Greek.
If, soon after the beginning of the Christian era, the Old Testament
manuscripts were by the Jews partly destroyed, lost, burned, and torn
in pieces, so that the learned of that early age could not obtain
anything but the names of the lost books, it is not to be supposed
that we, who live some seventeen hundred years later, are in
possession of copies more pure and genuine than Jerome,
Bellarmine, and other ancient writers.
In relation to the manuscripts of the New Testament, Mr. Cressy writes
in these words—"In my hearing, Bishop Usher professed that, whereas he
had of many years before a desire to publish the New Testament in
Greek, with various lections and annotations; and for that purpose had
used great diligence and spent much money to furnish himself with
manuscripts, yet, in conclusion, he was forced to desist utterly,
lest, if he should ingenuously have noted all the several differences
of reading which himself had collected, the incredible multitude of
them almost in every verse should rather have made men atheistical
than satisfy them in the true reading of any particular passage." (See
Exomol. Ca. 8, Nu. 3.)
The learned admit that in the manuscripts of the New Testament alone
there are no less than one hundred and thirty thousand different
readings. (See Encyclopedia Britannica, eighth edition.) It is true
that many of those differences are of no particular consequence, as
they do not materially alter the sense. But there are many thousands
of differences wherein the sense is entirely altered. How are
translators to know which of the manuscripts, if any, contain the true
sense? They have no original copies with which to compare them—no
standard of correction. No one can tell whether even one verse of
either the Old or New Testament conveys the ideas of the original
Just think! 130,000 different readings in the New Testament alone! How
our translators could separate the spurious from the genuine is more
than I can tell. How they could distinguish between the original
communicated to the ancient Prophets and Apostles, and 130,000
different readings that were introduced in the dark ages by copyists,
is not easy to determine.
But, admitting that we had an ancient copy of the Bible, or the Old
and New Testament—supposing the translators by some means were put in
possession of such a copy, and that the individuals whose names are
attached to many of those books professed to be inspired, yet how is
this generation to determine whether those authors, if they were
indeed the authors, were inspired men? How do we know they were
inspired to write those books? The Latter-day Saints believe that the
Bible in its original was the word of God, and was written by Divine
inspiration. But we do not believe it because history informs us of
this, or tradition tells us so; but we believe it because the Book of
Mormon, confirmed by the ministry of angels, informs us of the fact.
But how is this generation to know that those ancient authors were
inspired of God? Do they bear testimony of their own inspiration?
Bishop Chillingworth, Hooker, and many other learned commentators have
told us that the Bible cannot bear testimony of its own inspiration.
If the Bible cannot prove its own inspiration, how are people in the
present and past ages to know that these books are inspired? It is
true, we are informed that some individuals wrote by commandment; and
some, we are told, wrote according to their own opinions. How are we
to detect, that part which they were inspired to write from that part
which was written according to their own opinions? We cannot, without
new revelation. Without some testimony of a higher nature than
tradition, we never can learn these matters.
Having made these few remarks in regard to the Old and New Testaments
in their present condition and bearing, and having learned that they are very imperfect in their present state, and that they have
been translated from manuscripts that cannot be depended upon—that
there are no original copies in this day with which the world are
acquainted—having established these facts, now let us turn to the
Book of Mormon, and see if it rests upon evidences of the nature of
these I have already presented to this congregation.
The Book of Mormon professes to be translated not from manuscripts
containing 130,000 different readings, nor by the learning of men who
can render a translation as they please; neither does it profess to be
translated from altered, mutilated manuscripts manufactured by monks
or impostors upon Mount Athos to impose upon Christian credulity; but
it was translated from the original plates themselves—the very plates
on which the inspired writers themselves wrote: and they were also
translated, not by the learning of men, but by the power of God and
the inspiration of the Almighty.
We are told, in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, that three
men—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, saw the plates,
or the original from which this book was translated by Joseph Smith,
Jun.; he having obtained the plates in the western part of New York
through the ministration of an holy angel, as he testifies, from where
they were deposited by an ancient Prophet that inhabited America some
1,400 years ago. He testifies that he was sent by an angel of God to
bring these gold plates to light—that he obtained with them the Urim
and Thummim, and translated the book. But, before the Lord would
permit the book to go to the nations, he was determined that they
should have more than one witness. Joseph Smith's testimony was not to
go forth alone. Therefore, in 1829, about one year before the rise of
this Church, or before this book was offered to the world, three other
names were called upon by an angel from heaven.
"Perhaps," you may say, "they were deceived." Let us examine
there was any possibility of their being deceived. They had learned,
by reading the manuscript from which this book was printed, that the
Lord, when he should bring this book to light in the latter days,
would bear testimony of it in a miraculous and wonderful manner to
three witnesses, besides the translator. These three men, after having
learned this fact, met together, and went and saw Mr. Smith, and
inquired of him whether it would be their privilege to behold these
plates and know from heaven that this book was true. Joseph Smith
inquired of the Lord concerning the matter; and the Lord gave them a
promise that, if they would sufficiently humble themselves, they
should have this privilege.
They, in no connection with Mr. Smith, who made the fourth individual,
went out into the open field, near a grove of timber, a little
distance from the house of Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca County, New
York. They bowed down before the Lord in broad daylight—not in the
night; so there could be no deception: they humbled themselves before
him, called upon his holy name with all their hearts; and while they
were thus engaged in calling upon the name of the Lord, they saw in
the heavens above a glorious light, and a personage descending. This
personage came down and stood before them: he laid his hands upon the
head of David Whitmer as one of the three witnesses, and said,
"Blessed be the Lord and they that keep his commandments;" and then he
took the plates and turned them over, leaf after leaf, excepting a
certain portion of the leaves that were sealed up, which Mr. Smith was not permitted to translate; but that portion he had
translated was turned over, leaf after leaf, and presented before
their eyes, and they saw the engravings upon the plates.
This angel, clothed in brightness and glory, stood before them with
the plates in his hands, showing them the engravings upon them. They
also heard the voice of the Lord out of the heavens, commanding them
to bear record of the things they saw and heard to all nations,
kindred, tongues, and people. The testimony which they have borne I
have read in your hearing.
Now, was there any possibility of these three men, together with Mr.
Smith, who was in their company, being deceived? If they were
deceived, then there is the same reason to suppose the Apostles were
deceived, who profess to have seen Jesus ascend into heaven from the
Mount of Olives. There would be the same reason to suppose that Peter,
James, and John were deceived when they saw Moses and Elias on the
Mount of Transfiguration; if these men were deceived, then there is no
truth nor certainty in anything that ever was beheld; for no persons
could bear testimony in stronger language than these three witnesses
have done in the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith, Jun., could not be deceived himself; for it was by an
angel that he was commanded to go to the place where the records were
deposited; it was by an angel he was told to take them from the place
of their long deposit, together with the Urim and Thummim; and it was
by the Urim and Thummim, connected with prayer, that he was enabled to
translate the plates into the English language: consequently, he could
not be deceived.
We have proved that the other three witnesses could not be deceived;
consequently four men bear testimony that they not only saw the
plates, but also that they saw an angel of God: they also heard his
voice, and saw the plates in his hands and the engravings upon the
plates, and heard the voice of God out of heaven commanding them to
bear their testimony to all people upon the face of the earth to whom
the translation should be sent.
Can you find, among all the nations and kingdoms upon the earth, one
individual that can bear testimony that he has ever seen the original
of any one of the books of the Old and New Testament? No. We defy the
world to produce a true copy of the original of any book of the Bible,
and prove it to be such. They may search their libraries from
beginning to end, and examine all the archives of the nations, and
they cannot find an original copy, or even a copy written centuries
after the original writer was known to exist.
The learned have conjectured that some of those five manuscripts I
have mentioned were written in the sixth century; but this is
disputed. Cassimir Oudin says that the Alexandrian Manuscript, instead
of being written in the sixth century, was made in the tenth. With
regard to the times of their being written, no dependence can be
But here four men actually beheld the original plates, saw an holy
angel, and heard the voice of God. Are they the only witnesses? No:
there are eight other men, whose names and testimony I have read before
this congregation—persons with whom I am individually acquainted as
well as with the translator and the three witnesses I have already
named. I have been at the house where this Church was organized. I
have seen the place where the angel descended and showed them the
Eight other witnesses testify that Joseph Smith showed them the
plates, and that they saw the engravings upon them, and that
they had the appearance of ancient work and curious workmanship. They
describe these plates as being about the thickness of common tin,
about eight inches in length, and from six to seven in breadth. Upon
each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings,
which were stained with a black, hard stain, so as to make the
letters more legible and easier to be read. Through the back of the
plates were three rings, which held them together, and through which a
rod might easily be passed, serving as a greater convenience for
carrying them; the construction and form of the plates being similar
to the gold, brass, and lead plates of the ancient Jews in Palestine.
Thus we see that twelve individuals saw the plates before the contents
were placed before the world, and before they were called upon to
believe in them. Is not this a sufficient testimony and evidence? If
the world would not believe twelve men who have seen the originals,
handled them with their hands, beheld the engravings upon them—four
of whom had seen the angel of God and heard his voice—if they would
not believe this, would they believe the evidence and testimony of ten
thousand individuals? Jesus declares—"In the mouth of two or three
witnesses every word shall be established."
When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and go into his
presence, we are informed we shall be judged by his word. "My word
shall judge you at the last day," says Jesus. "The words that I speak
unto you shall judge you." If, then, the words which he spake, and
which he inspired his Apostles and Prophets to declare to the people,
are to be the laws by which mankind are to be judged at the last day,
it is necessary that they should have some little evidence and
testimony concerning his words.
We are presenting this evidence and testimony before you; and if the
Lord gave four witnesses, and by them condemned the antediluvian
world—namely, Noah and his three sons—if their preaching, their
testimony, and works of righteousness condemned the antediluvians, and
they were overthrown by the flood, why may we not suppose that four
witnesses alone, if God did not see proper to send any more, would
condemn any other generation?
We find that Lot was the only witness who was sent to warn the
inhabitants of Sodom, and to call upon his kinsmen to flee from the
midst of those cities, in order to escape the terrible judgments
announced against them. He testified that an angel of God came to him
and told him that the Lord was about to destroy those cities: he said
that this angel lodged with him overnight, and that the Lord had sent
him as a witness; and his testimony condemned his kinsmen and the
inhabitants of Sodom, and they were overthrown and perished in their
Who was sent to the inhabitants of Nineveh to warn them? Only one
witness—namely, Jonah. He was sent to a strange nation—to a people
that were unacquainted with him: they could not tell by any natural
appearance whether he was a righteous man or an impostor. He had a
curious story to tell them, that he came part of the way to their
country in a ship, and part of the way in the belly of a whale. But
how could they know that he came in the belly of a whale, or that he
was not an impostor? Yet the Lord told them, through Jonah, that if
they did not repent, they would all be destroyed in forty days. They
concluded to repent, and the Lord spared them, which made Jonah angry.
When the Lord sent a preparatory message to prepare the way for his Son, he sent one witness, instead of raising up four. John the
Baptist went forth into the wilderness, clothed himself in a curious
style, living on locusts and wild honey, and began to preach
repentance to the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem, and to the Jews
throughout the land. How were they to know he was a messenger sent to
prepare the way before the Most High? Yet they certainly would be
condemned for not receiving his testimony; for Jesus himself said—"The
scribes and Pharisees rejected the counsel of God against themselves
in rejecting John."
How did John convince the vast multitudes that he was sent to testify
of the first advent of the Son of God? We are informed by one of the
Evangelists that "John did no miracle," as great a Prophet as he was;
yet the people were condemned, because they rejected the counsel of
God against their own souls, by rejecting his testimony. How much
greater, then, will be the condemnation of individuals who reject four
witnesses, instead of one!
If the present generation have the testimony of four witnesses sounded
in their ears—if the Book of Mormon, containing their testimony, is
published and sent forth in the different languages of the earth, and
the people have the privilege of hearing and reading that testimony,
will it not produce far greater condemnation upon them than what came
upon the Jewish nation in ancient days, by rejecting the testimony of
one witness only?
We see, then, that we have the advantage of this generation so far as
evidence concerning the Book of Mormon is concerned. There are men now
living that have seen the original of the Book of Mormon—that have
heard the voice of God. Where is there a man who has heard the voice
of God testifying concerning the truth of King James' translation?
Where is there a man on the face of the earth that ever had it
confirmed to him by the administration of an angel? But here comes
evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon such as any court of justice
is obliged to receive.
But are we to receive the testimony of all individuals that may come
and pretend to have heard the voice of God and to have seen angels?
May not impostors come forth and say they have seen angels? I reply
that there is this distinction to be made: A man that is sent of God,
who has a true message, will always be able to present something
connected with the nature of the message and the circumstances
surrounding it, which will prove it to be true. If there should be a
thousand individuals bearing witness that they had heard the voice of
God and seen angels, we shall always be able to detect the impostor
from the servant of God by examining the doctrine. There are evidences
distinguishing a true message from a false one, that the whole world
may be enabled to discern between the two.
For instance, there is no individual upon the face of the earth who
can directly prove that Joseph Smith did not see the angel of God and
obtain the plates: no individual upon the face of this earth can prove
that the three witnesses did not see the angel and the plates:
consequently, their evidence cannot be directly negatived, unless they
deny their own testimony, which they have not done. The only possible
way to condemn these men as impostors is to examine the nature of
their testimony, to see whether it is reasonable and scriptural.
Is there anything unscriptural in hearing the voice of God, or in an
angel's descending from heaven, bearing testimony to a book in which
all nations are interested? It is a book sent to prepare the way of
the Lord for his second coming. Was it unreasonable for the
Lord to send angels to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Was it unreasonable
for them to take dinner with Abraham, and for him to wash their
feet? For Lot to lodge them in his house? For Joshua, Gideon, Daniel,
Isaiah, Ezekiel, Peter, Paul, or the wise men and shepherds of Israel,
or for Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Zacharias, or for various
other holy men and women to see angels sent from heaven? It was
neither unreasonable nor unscriptural.
Paul says, "Are they (the angels) not all ministering spirits, sent to
minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?" If, then, they
have this office assigned to them, to minister to the heirs of
salvation, it is not an unscriptural doctrine that they should
minister to those four men. It is just as reasonable that God should
send an angel to four men in the last days, and introduce his kingdom
and preparatory work for the second advent of the Son of God, as it
was for an angel to be sent to Zacharias in order that a messenger
might be raised up to prepare the way for his first coming. The one is
a little more reasonable than the other; for the latter-day coming is
to far transcend in glory and power his first coming, when he appeared
among the Jews. At his second coming the earth will tremble and roll
to and fro like a drunken man; the mountains shall fall, the valleys
be raised, the crooked places made straight, and the rough places
smooth, when the Lord is revealed in his glory and power.
If all these things are to be fulfilled, Israel gathered, the fulness
of the Gentiles brought in, and Zion built up—if the great Latter-day
Work mentioned by the ancient Prophets has to be fulfilled, then it
would not be unreasonable that an angel should be sent from heaven to
begin a work of this magnitude.
But, perhaps, you may admit that it is perfectly scriptural and
reasonable that an angel should be sent; but, then, you may ask if
there may not be something connected with the Book of Mormon which
would render it inconsistent, and not entitled to credit, and which
would prove that its pretenses were an imposition.
In reply, I ask, What is there about the Book of Mormon that is
inconsistent? What does it profess to be? It professes to contain the
history of part of the tribe of Joseph, who came out of the land of
Jerusalem 600 years before Christ, and colonized the American
continent. These Indian tribes are their descendants. When they first
came here, they were a righteous people, and had with them the
Scriptures, containing the law of Moses. When they came here, they
made plates of gold, and on them they recorded their history, wars,
contentions, &c. These plates were handed down among the ancient
inhabitants of America for a thousand years after they came here.
Their prophecies were recorded from generation to generation. Jesus
Christ appeared to them on this land after his resurrection, just the
same as he did to the people in Palestine, and showed them the wounds
in his hands and in his feet. He descended before them in South
America, and put an end to the law of Moses, which they practiced on
this continent; and he introduced the Gospel in its stead, taught them
faith and repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, as in
Jerusalem. He taught the people to come with broken hearts and
contrite spirits, and humble themselves, and be baptized by immersion
for the remission of their sins, and had his servants lay hands on
them for the gift of the Holy Ghost, as Paul and Peter did.
The teachings of Jesus were re corded on these gold plates, and
they were handed down until some 400 years after Christ. Many sacred
revelations are recorded on them, and prophecies that reach to our
day, and down to the end of all things.
If you search this record from beginning to end, you will find the
historical part perfectly consistent. You cannot prove that Joseph
Smith is an impostor from any inconsistencies in the historical part
of the work.
If you search the discoveries of all the antiquarians that have
written since the discovery of America concerning the ancient
inhabitants of this land you cannot put your finger upon one particle
of evidence from their researches that will come in contact with the
Book of Mormon.
If you examine its prophecies, you will find many that the Jewish
records speak nothing of—prophecies that relate to the Indians, and
that relate to the rise of this Church, to the Millennium, and to many
things that the other Prophets have not touched upon; and also many of
the events predicted in the Jewish Bible were delivered to the
Prophets in this land. Compare the prophecies of the Jewish records
with those in the Book of Mormon, and you will find no clashing or
jarring; consequently, you cannot condemn the Book of Mormon, Joseph
Smith, and these witnesses to be impostors from the prophetic
declarations of that book.
Try its doctrine, and you will find that the Gospel taught in ancient
America 1,800 years ago is like that taught in ancient Judea and the
regions round about. Did the ancient Apostles in Palestine teach faith
in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins? So
did the ancient Apostles and Prophets in America. Did the Apostles in
Judea practice the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost?
So did the ancient Israelites of America. Did Jesus and his disciples
organize the Church in Asia with revelators and inspired men in
it—with prophets and prophetesses, with dreams, visions, and
revelations? So did the ancient Israelites in America do the same
thing. They, the ancient Apostles, organized the Church with miracles
and gifts, with power to heal the sick, to cast out devils, to work
miracles, and with power over the elements. The Book of Mormon tells
us that the Israelites on ancient America organized one after the same
pattern. Consequently, if we examine the whole structure of the Church
in Palestine and the structure of the Church in ancient America, we
find no jar; so, no man upon the face of the earth can condemn
Joseph Smith and these three witnesses from any inconsistency in their
Compare the miracles that are recorded in the Book of Mormon with
those recorded in the Bible, and you will find no unreasonable
miracles in the one, more than in the other. There is no fish story in
it—nothing about a man's being carried in a whale's belly three days
and three nights; though, if such a story was in it, we should believe
it, the same as we do the Jewish history of Jonah. There is nothing
said in this book about three men being put into a furnace of fire,
heated seven times hotter than ever before, and yet the three men
receiving no harm. We believe the Bible when it records this great
miracle; but there is nothing which to the atheist is so apparently
inconsistent as that.
The miracles recorded in the Book of Mormon were of such a nature as
to be worthy of the exertion of Divine power. If the sick were healed,
it was because Jesus had promised his servants they should lay their
hands on them, and they should be healed. If they prophesied, it was
concerning future events, because the Lord wanted them to
understand that which was to come.
Is there anything in this book that contradicts any scientific truth?
You may ransack all the libraries in the world, and gather together
all the books of science, and compare with this book, and you will
find no clashing; consequently, where is your ground for condemnation?
You cannot condemn it from its historical, prophetic, and doctrinal
writings, or because of any unreasonable miracles said to have been
wrought among the ancient Israelites on these lands, or because it
contradicts any scientific truth, or because it is unscriptural or
unreasonable that people should see angels in these days.
We defy this whole generation to bring up any testimony to condemn the
truth of this book. It will face this generation from this time until
the second coming of Christ, and then through the Millennium. And when
this generation come up from their graves at the great and last day,
the books will be opened, and by the word of God declared on this
continent and on the Eastern continent the inhabitants of the earth
will be judged.
You may bring all the lies and newspaper stories you can hatch up, and
all the misrepresentations you can conceive, and use them against the
Divine truths of the Book of Mormon, to save your crumbling apostate
systems from utter ruin; you may pile up your falsehoods like
mountains; you may fill your railroad carriages to the brim with them,
or you may send them by the electric current the world round, and it
will not stop the onward progress of the truths of "Mormonism"
revealed from heaven: it cannot stay the arm of the Almighty from
building up his kingdom in the last days, or hush the voice of his
servants from warning the nations to repent and to turn away from
their lyings and whoredoms, and from all their wickedness and
abominations which they continually practice before the Lord.
The word of God is something that cannot be destroyed; but it will
appear in the day of judgment, and you and I will be judged by it.
I believe the Book of Mormon; I believe it because I consider that I
have not only the testimony of these twelve witnesses, but a vast
amount of other evidence and testimony such as you have not in
relation to the things that are contained in the Jewish record.
For instance, what evidence and testimony have the present generation
and the generations that have lived during the last seventeen
centuries that Jesus Christ, the great Redeemer of the world, arose
from the dead? You have the testimony of four individuals, and no
more, provided that their testimony has not been corrupted, altered,
and mutilated in the oldest manuscripts now known. Who are they?
Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter. The other four writers of the New
Testament have not said a word about seeing Jesus after his
resurrection. The New Testament was written by eight men—Matthew,
Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude. Four of these men have
given their testimony that they saw Jesus after his resurrection; the
other four have told us nothing about it.
But it may be asked, "Does not the Apostle Paul testify that Jesus was
seen by upwards of five hundred brethren at once?"
But none of those five hundred brethren have spoken of this, or handed
down their testimony.
Perhaps it will be argued that the four witnesses that saw
Jesus—namely, Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter, performed great
miracles, and thus established their testimony; and consequently, we
are bound to believe them.
But how do you know that they performed miracles?
"They have told us so."
How do you know they tell us the truth? Were you there to behold the
miracles they wrought? Only six of the eight writers of the New
Testament say anything about miracles. Suppose they all testify that
there were wonderful miracles wrought, have we not as good reason to
believe eight men that testify to miracles in these days?
If all the men on this stand have kept journals (and some of them
have for a quarter-of-a-century), and if they have recorded what their
eyes have seen and their ears have heard; and if the several hundred
Elders in this large assembly have done likewise, and recorded all the
miraculous things their eyes have seen and their ears heard; and if
the generations to come should gather up our journals and manuscripts,
and entitle them, The Acts of the Apostles and Elders of the
Nineteenth Century, they would find tens of thousands of miracles
recorded in these journals where the sick have been healed, the eyes
of the blind opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped—where the lame
have been made to leap as an hart, and where people have been raised
up from the last stages of cholera, in the name of Jesus Christ, and
where those who were born blind have had their eyes opened.
Would they not have as much reason to believe the journals and
writings of the Latter-day Saints in relation to the miracles wrought
as you have to believe the testimony of the six writers of the New
Testament on the same subject? Who are the New Testament writers? They
are interested witnesses, everyone of them.
"But the world saw their miracles."
How do you know?
"These six writers say so."
Have you the testimony of any of the world that they actually saw even
one miracle wrought by the Apostles of Jesus Christ? No, you have not.
Perhaps you may say that when the lame man at the beautiful gate of
the Temple was healed, it was done publicly before the multitude.
How do you know this? Luke says so in the Acts of the Apostles, and
you believe it on his testimony alone. How do you know that Jesus
Christ was transfigured on the mount? That Moses and Elias appeared to
Peter and James and John on that occasion? Have Peter, James, and
John given their testimony? Not a word; but Matthew, Mark, and
Luke—three men who were not present, who did not see the
transfiguration, and who did not see Moses and Elias, say so; but
their testimony is secondhanded.
We believe that Peter, James, and John actually did see holy
angels—did behold Moses and Elias, and see Jesus transfigured, upon
secondhanded testimonies given on the subject.
Now, we have the testimony of individuals themselves concerning the
Book of Mormon—not the testimony alone of Elders Richards and
Woodruff, or of any of these Elders—but the testimonies of persons
who beheld the angel and heard his voice.
Therefore, the testimony establishing the truth of the Book of Mormon
is far superior to that establishing the Bible in its present form.
I do not know but I am wearying you; but I have endeavored in my
simple way to lay before you the evidence and testimony you have for
believing the Jewish record, compared with the evidence and testimony
you have for believing the ancient records of America, called the Book
of Mormon; and any persons who will carefully examine this subject
will be obliged in their own hearts to say there is a
hundredfold more evidence to prove the Divine authenticity of the
Book of Mormon than what we have to prove the Palestine records.
But this is not all. We do not rest our evidence alone on the
testimony of these twelve witnesses; our hopes are built upon a
foundation surer than all these external testimonies. The Latter-day
Saints are not that enthusiastic people who open their mouths and
swallow down doctrines because they are popular, because their fathers
believed them; but we believe a doctrine because we have evidence to
substantiate it; and then, in addition to this, we seek for more truth
The Book of Mormon informs us how we may not only have faith in that
book because of the evidence and testimony accompanying it; but how we
may obtain a knowledge concerning its truth. The Book of Mormon
informs us, as well as the Holy Scriptures, that if we will repent and
be baptized, we shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We have tried the experiment. We have repented of our sins, we have
turned from our transgressions, and humbled ourselves, like little
children, before the Lord; we were buried in the water, and brought
out of the water; then hands were laid upon us, and we received the
gift of the Holy Ghost, and this gave us a knowledge of the truth.
What are the effects of the Holy Ghost? Jesus says, in the last
chapter of Mark, "These signs shall follow them that believe; In my
name they shall cast out devils; speak with new tongues; 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."
The promise of the signs was not to the Apostles alone, but he said
unto them, "Do you go and preach the word in all the world; and he
that believes your testimony and is baptized shall receive salvation,
and those that will not believe shall be damned; and these signs shall
follow them that do believe." We have believed, repented, been
baptized, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost; and we found the
promise verified. If it were not so, we should then know it to be an
imposition. If we found that Jesus did not fulfil his promise after we
fully obeyed his word, we should then know the same to be false.
Let me say to this congregation that there would not have been a
Church of Latter-day Saints five years upon the earth, had he not
fulfilled his promise after we had obeyed his word, because he made
this promise not only in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, but
by direct revelation through the Prophet, that if the people would do
thus and so, they should be blessed with such and such gifts. Now,
suppose the people, after having tried it, did not receive those
gifts, the whole Church would have apostatized, and turned and
declared it all false—Book of Mormon, Bible, and everything else. Why?
Because these books made a promise on certain conditions, which was
But when the people believed and were baptized for the remission of
sins, and filled with the Holy Ghost, and the visions of the future
were opened to them, and the spirit of prophecy rested upon them, and
they beheld the sick recovering, the blind receiving their sight, and
the deaf hearing, "Surely," said they, "this must be of God; for the
Lord never would have confirmed an imposition to us by granting the
gifts of the Gospel."
But may not the Devil perform miracles? Satan was to come with all
power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of
unrighteousness in them that perish, because they had pleasure in
un righteousness. "Now, how do you know but these are some of
the strong delusions?"
But prove to us that we have had pleasure in anything contrary to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ—that this people have not obeyed the Scriptures
of eternal truth. Those signs that were to come, and these living
wonders, &c., were to be practiced by individuals that had pleasure in
unrighteousness and who rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ—they were
to go forth like the magicians in the days of Moses to withstand the
power of Moses. We see them on one hand turning the water to blood,
and Moses doing the same; in short, Moses performed numerous miracles
(by the power of God), and the magicians did the same. How are we to
distinguish between the two? Moses believed and obeyed the words of
the Most High God, and the magicians were fighting against him, and
yet they did miracles—not in the name of God, but by their
enchantments; and so it is with all wicked miracle workers from their
day down to the second coming of Christ: they perform their lying
wonders by the power of Satan—by the means of somnambulism,
spirit-rapping, spirit-writing, or whatever it may be. But when people
repent, and are baptized, and perform miracles in the name of the
Lord, such miracles are designed to profit and benefit mankind—such as
laying hands on the sick that they may be healed, speaking and
interpreting tongues; hence you may know them to be of God: therefore
it is easily to be distinguished which of the two powers should be
received, and which should be rejected.
May God bless all those who love the truth, whether Jew or Gentile,
bond or free—whether it be those who have received the Gospel and
Book of Mormon, or those who are inquiring to know concerning its
truth. If they desire to know the truth, may the God of heaven, who
has sent forth his angel and confirmed the truth unto many, pour out
his Holy Spirit upon them, and enlighten their minds, inasmuch as they
go before God with an honest heart, that they may know, as the
Latter-day Saints know, that this work is a message from the Almighty,
to be proclaimed to every nation, kindred, and people upon the face of
the whole earth. And when they know from God that this work is true,
they will not be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind
of doctrine, but they will be built upon a foundation upon which they
can rest secure. Though the whirlwinds of persecution may beat upon
them—though they may be hated, derided, and suffer the loss of all
things, time after time—though they may be driven to and fro, and
scattered from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, and
their Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles be put to death, yet, with
all this distress and poverty brought upon them by being robbed and
plundered of their lawful possessions, and with all the injury they
may sustain from year to year, they will have something in the midst
of it all that will give them joy, peace, and happiness; and that
something is A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH—not merely a faith that the
foundation on which they are built is of God, but a knowledge that
they are established upon a rock that cannot be moved, which is as
firm as the throne of Jehovah, and as secure as the eternal attributes
of the Almighty.
May God bless us and prepare us for his heavenly kingdom, and save us
therein, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus. Amen.