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The Mormon Prophet   By: (1858-1923)

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The Mormon Prophet

BY

LILY DOUGALL

Author of The Mermaid, The Zeitgeist, The Madonna of a Day, Beggars All, Etc.

TORONTO

THE W.J. GAGE COMPANY (LIMITED) 1899

COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.

All rights reserved.

PREFACE.

In studying the rise of this curious sect I have discovered that certain misconceptions concerning it are deeply rooted in the minds of many of the more earnest of the well wishers to society. Some otherwise well informed people hold Mormonism to be synonymous with polygamy, believe that Brigham Young was its chief prophet, and are convinced that the miseries of oppressed women and tyrannies exercised over helpless subjects of both sexes are the only themes that the religion of more than two hundred thousand people can afford. When I have ventured in conversation to deny these somewhat fabulous notions, it has been earnestly suggested to me that to write on so false a religion in other than a polemic spirit would tend to the undermining of civilised life.

In spite of these warnings, and although I know it to be a most dangerous commodity, I have ventured to offer the simple truth, as far as I have been able to discern it, consoling my advisers with the assurance that its insidious influence will be unlikely to do harm, because, however potent may be the direful latitude of other religious novels, this particular book can only interest those wiser folk who are best able to deal with it.

As, however, to many who have preconceived the case, this narrative might, in the absence of explanation, seem purely fanciful, let me briefly refer to the historical facts on which it is based. The Mormons revere but one prophet. As to his identity there can be no mistake, since many of the "revelations" were addressed to him by name "To Joseph Smith, Junior." He never saw Utah, and his public teachings were for the most part unexceptionable. Taking necessary liberty with incidents, I have endeavoured to present Smith's character as I found it in his own writings, in the narratives of contemporary writers, and in the memories of the older inhabitants of Kirtland.

In reviewing the evidence I am unable to believe that, had Smith's doctrine been conscious invention, it would have lent sufficient power to carry him through persecutions in which his life hung in the balance, and his cause appeared to be lost, or that the class of earnest men who constituted the rank and file of his early following would have been so long deceived by a deliberate hypocrite. It appears to me more likely that Smith was genuinely deluded by the automatic freaks of a vigorous but undisciplined brain, and that, yielding to these, he became confirmed in the hysterical temperament which always adds to delusion self deception, and to self deception half conscious fraud. In his day it was necessary to reject a marvel or admit its spiritual significance; granting an honest delusion as to his visions and his book, his only choice lay between counting himself the sport of devils or the agent of Heaven; an optimistic temperament cast the die.

In describing the persecutions of his early followers I have modified rather than enlarged upon the facts. It would, indeed, be difficult to exaggerate the sufferings of this unhappy and extraordinarily successful sect.

A large division of the Mormons of to day, who claim to be Smith's orthodox following, and who have never settled in Utah, are strictly monogamous. These have never owned Brigham Young as a leader, never murdered their neighbours or defied the law in any way, and so vigorous their growth still appears that they claim to have increased their number by fifty thousand since the last census in 1890. Of all their characteristics, the sincerity of their belief is the most striking. In Ohio, when one of the preachers of these "Smithite" Mormons was conducting me through the many storied temple, still standing huge and gray on Kirtland Bluff, he laid his hand on a pile of copies of the Book of Mormon, saying solemnly, "Sister, here is the solidest thing in religion that you'll find anywhere... Continue reading book >>




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