Mormonism -- By: Delavan A. Leonard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 042:165 (Jan 1885)
Article: Mormonism
Author: Delavan A. Leonard


Mormonism

Rev. Delavan A. Leonard

Joseph Smith, the church he founded, and the doctrines he taught, have long stood as a synonym for all that is either absurd or iniquitous, and in the popular apprehension Mormonism is simply a mixture of grossness and credulity, of imposture and lies. Many speak of it only with ridicule, while the mention of the name stirs only contempt and disgust. But a system which has stood the fierce conflicts of more than half a century, has gathered its converts by the hundred thousand from the Old World as well as the New, is in possession of nearly one-tenth of the area of the United States, and is still vigorous, aggressive, defiant, cannot be constituted of pure error, iniquity undiluted, vileness, and villainy,— only this and nothing more.

One of the strangest religious phenomena of modern times is before us; and all the more striking because the Latter-day Church has had its career not at all in the Dark Ages or in Arabia. Its deeds have been done before the public and in a blaze of light. It has lived and prospered in spite of railroad, telegraph, and newspaper; has not been argued down or laughed down; has successfully defied the reason of the nineteenth century and the moral sense of Christendom. Nor are we at all likely to deal

wisely or effectually with this organization, so monstrous and so full of peril, until it is fairly understood; until in its essential features it is thoroughly mastered, and the secret is set forth of its vitality and power.

Historical Sketch

The earlier decades of the present century were marked throughout New England, the Middle States, and the West by wide-spread religious agitation and ferment. William Miller was proclaiming the speedy winding up of this world’s affairs. In Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio the Campbells were filling the hearts of thousands with wonder and expectation by their startling novelties in doctrine, church order, and church rite. But especially was Western New York, then a portion of the rude and uncultured frontier, stirred to the depths by the fervid appeals of scores of circuit riders, and of such evangelists as Bur-chard and Finney. The spiritual outcome of that period, with much that in the shape of overturning and rebuilding was most excellent, contained also not a little which was abnormal to the verge of the monstrous.

In 1820, and in Palmyra, N. Y., an ignorant and graceless youth of fifteen, born of ignoble stock, in which credulity, superstition, and sordidness were inbred, being tremendously, it superficially, wrought upon in a Methodist revival, began to see visions and dream dreams. He claimed even to have heard the voice and seen the shape of the Father an...

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