Knowledge of the BOM in NY Before Publication - 1829
The Palmyra Freeman - August 11, 1829
The greatest piece of superstition that has ever come within the sphere of our knowledge is one which has for sometime past, and still occupies the attention of a few superstitious and bigoted individuals of this quarter. It is generally known and spoken of as the "Golden Bible." Its proselytes give the following account of it: In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario county, reported that he had been visited in a dream by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited this Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin. After having been thrice thus visited, as he states, he proceeded to the spot, and after having penetrating "mother earth" a short distance, the Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles! He had been directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, "under no less penalty" than instant death! They were therefore nicely wrapped up, and excluded from the "vulgar gaze of poor wicked mortals!" It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.
An account of this discovery was soon circulated. The subject was almost invariably treated as it should have been -- with contempt. A few however, believed the "golden" story, among whom was Martin Harris, an honest and industrious farmer of this town. So blindly enthusiastic was Harris, that he took some of the characters interpreted by Smith, and went in search of some one, besides the interpreter, who was learned enough to English them; but all to whom he applied (among the number was Professor Mitchell, of New York,) happened not to be possessed of sufficient knowledge to give satisfaction! Harris returned, and set Smith to work at interpreting the Bible. He has at length performed the task, and the work is soon to be put to press in this village!! Its language and doctrines are said to be far superior to those of the Book of Life!!!
Now it appears not a little strange that there should have been deposited in this western world, and in the secluded town of Manchester, too, a record of this description, and still more so, that a person like Smith (very illiterate) should have been gifted by inspiration to read and interpret it. It should be recorded as a "new thing under the sun." It is certainly a "new thing" in the history of superstition, bigotry, inconsistency, and foolishness. -- It should, and it doubtless will, be treated with the neglect it merits. The public should not be imposed upon by this work, pronounced as it is, by its proselytes, to be superior in style, and more advantageous to mankind, than the Holy Bible!
The following, it is said, will be the title page of the work:
"The Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi:
"Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites, written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way the commandment, and also by the spirit of prophesy and of revelation; written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed. -- to come forth by the gift and power of God; unto the interpretation thereof -- sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile -- the interpretation thereof by the gift of God: an abridgement taken from the Book of Ether.
"Also, which is a Record of the people of Jared, which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven; -- which is to shew unto the remnant of the house of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers: -- and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; manifesting himself unto all nations. And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement seat of Christ. -- By JOSEPH SMITH, Junior, Author and Proprietor."
Note 1: The above is thought to be a faithful reproduction of the text of the article appearing in Jonathan A. Hadley's Palmyra Freeman a few days before it was reprinted in the Aug. 27, 1829 issue of the Niagara Courier. A shortened version of the article was featured in the Aug. 31 issue of the Rochester Daily Advertiser and Telegraph. That edited version of the article was reprinted by Eber D. Howe in the Sep. 22, 1829 issue of his Painesville Telegraph and in the Oct. 2, 1829 issue of the Massachusetts Salem Gazette.
Note 2: An exhaustive search of old upstate and western New York newspapers has, so far, failed to uncover any earlier, specific published reference to the Book of Mormon. However, the July and August 1829 issues of the Rochester paper, Paul Pry's Bulletin, make some obscure references to Joseph Smith's "Golden Bible." No contemporary sources provide any indication that Joseph Smith, Jr. was being "persecuted" as early as 1823-27 for claims regarding a gold Bible (or even for his miracle-affirming, restorationist religious views). The picture which emerges from a close study of early sources, is that Smith first began to talk in public about the gold Bible in the year 1827, and that he did not proclaim it to be a divine revelation intended for modern Christians, until late 1827 or early 1828. For more details see Jonathan A.Hadley's 1842 letter, in which he refers to the 1829 Palmyra Freeman calls it "the first article on the Mormons."
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX