Mormon History

Ezra Booth Letter #1 - 1831

The Ohio Star - October 13, 1831

For the Ohio Star.

                            Nelson, Portage County, Sept. 12th, 1831.


Dear Sir: -- I received your's of the 2d instant, and heartily thank you for the favor. It revives afresh in my recollections the scenes of past years, upon the remembrance of which I dwell with a mixture of pleasurable and painful sensation. I arrived at my home on the 1st of the present month, having finished my tour to the west, since which time the scenes and events in the history of my life, for the last few months, have passed in review before my mind.

You are not, it is probable, ignorant of the designs of my most singular and romantic undertaking: sufficient to say, it was for the purpose of exploring the promised land -- laying the foundation of the City of Zion, and placing the corner-stone of the Temple of God. A journey of 1000 miles to the west, has taught me far more abundantly, than I should probably have learned from any other source. It has taught me quite beyond my former knowledge, the imbecility of human nature, and especially my own weakness. It has unfolded in its proper character, a delusion to which I had fallen a victim, and taught me the humiliating truth -- that I was exerting the powers of both my mind and body, and sacrificing my time and property to build up a system of delusion, almost unparalleled in the annals of the world.

If God be a God of consistency and wisdom, I now know Mormonism to be a delusion; and this knowledge is built upon the testimony of my senses. In proclaiming it, I am aware I proclaim my own misfortune -- but in doing it, I remove a burden from my mind, and discharge a duty as humbling to myself, as it may be profitable to others. You had heard the story of my wanderings, and "was induced to believe that I had been visited with a species of mental derangement," and therefore, you "had given me up, as one among those friends of early association, who in the lapse of time, would be as though they had not existed." You had concluded that the magic charm of delusion and falsehood, had so wrapped its sable mantle around me, as to exclude the light of truth, and secure me a devoted slave. But, thanks be to God! the spell is dissipated, and the "captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and not die in the pit."

When I embraced Mormonism, I conscientiously believed it to be of God. The impressions of my mind were deep and powerful, and my feelings were exerted to a degree to which I had been a stranger. Like a ghost, it haunted me by night and by day, until I was mysteriously hurried, as it were by a kind of necessity, into the vortex of delusion. At times I was much elated; but generally, things in prospect were the greatest stimulants to action.

On our arrival in the western part of the State of Missouri, the place of our destination, we discovered that prophecy and visions had failed, or rather had proved false. This fact was so notorious, and the evidence so clear that no one could mistake it -- so much so, that Mr. Rigdon himself said that "Joseph's vision was a bad thing." This was glossed over, apparently, to the satisfaction of most persons present; but not fully to my own. It excited a suspicion that some things were not right, and prepared my mind for the investigation of a variety of circumstances, which occurred during my residence there, and indeed, to review the whole subject from its commencement to that time. My opportunities for a thorough examination, were far greater than they could have been, had I remained at home; and therefore I do not regret that I made that journey, though I sincerely regret the cause of it. Since my return, I have had several interviews with Messrs. Smith, Rigdon and Cowdery, and the various shifts and turns, to which they resorted, in order to obviate objections and difficulties, produced in my mind additional evidence, that their's is nothing else than a deeply laid plan of craft and deception.

The relation in which Smith stands to the church, is that of a Prophet, Seer, Revealer and Translator; and when he speaks by the Spirit, or says he knows a thing by the communication of the Spirit, it is received as coming directly from the mouth of the Lord. -- When he says he knows a thing to be so, thus it must stand without controversy. A question is agitated between two Elders of the church -- whether or not a bucket of water will become heavier by putting a living fish in it? Much is said by each of the disputants; when at length, Smith decides in the negative, by saying -- "I know by the Spirit, that it will be no heavier." Any person who chooses, may easily ascertain by actual experiment, whether the Prophet was influenced in this decision by a true or false Spirit.

It is not my design at this time, to enter into particulars relative to the evidence, upon which my renunciation of Mormonism is founded. This evidence is derived from various sources, and is clear and full, and the conviction which it produces, at least on my mind, is irresistible. You are not aware of the nature of this deception, and the spirit that uniformly attends it; nor can you ever know it, unless you yield to its influence, and by experience learn what it is to fall under its power: "from which my earnest prayer is, that you may ever, ever escape."

There probably never was a plan better suited to lead the sinner and the conscientious, when in an unguarded hour they listen to its fatal insinuations. The plan is so ingeniously contrived, having for its aim one principal point, viz.: the establishment of a society in Missouri, over which the contrivers of this delusive system, are to possess the most unlimited and despotic sway. To accomplish this, the Elders of the Church, by commandment given in Missouri, and of which I was both an eye and an ear witness, are to go forth to preach Mormonism to every creature; and now, said Mr. Rigdon -- "The Lord has set us our stint; no matter how soon we perform it -- for when this is done, he will make his second appearance."

I do in sincerity, and I trust in deep humility, return unfeigned gratitude to the God of infinite mercy, who, in condescension to my weakness, by a peculiar train of providences, brought me to the light, enabled me to see the hidden things of darkness, and delivered me from the snare of the fowler, and from the contagious pestilence which threatened my entire destruction. The scenes of the past few months, are so different from all others in my life, that they are in truth to me "as a dream when one awaketh." Had my fall affected only myself, my reflections would be far less painful than they now are. But to know -- that whatever influence I may have possessed, has been exerted to draw others into a delusion, from which they may not soon be extricated, is to me a source of sorrow and deep regret. They are at this moment the object of my greatest anxiety and commiseration. I crave their forgiveness, and assure them, that they will ever have an interest in my addresses to the throne of grace. It shall be my endeavor to undo as far as possible, what I have done in this case, and also to prevent the spread of a delusion, pernicious in its influence, and destructive in its consequences to the body and soul -- to the present and eternal interests of men.

I am through restoring mercy and grace, as in former years, though unworthily, yet affectionately your's in Christ.        EZRA BOOTH.

Note 1: This letter, written by former LDS Elder, Ezra Booth, was the first of a series articles he penned upon the subject of the early Mormons. The series was published first in Lewis L. Rice's Ohio Star, with the ninth and final letter appearing there on Dec. 8, 1831. The Booth letters were reprinted with only slight changes in Eber D. Howe's Painesville Telegraph, beginning on Oct. 25, 1831. See Chapter XV in Howe's 1834 Mormonism Unvailed for a reprinting of the entire series of Booth's letters. The series was also reprinted in the Norwalk, Ohio Huron Reflector, without additional comment, beginning on Nov. 21, 1831.

Note 2: Booth reproduces a most interesting quotation from Sidney Rigdon: "The Lord has set us our stint; no matter how soon we perform it -- for when this is done, he will make his second appearance." It is almost without doubt that Rigdon truly believed his own words in this regard. Today the original Mormon plan, to establish the Kingdom of God in the Missouri "Zion," has been almost entirely forgotten. In mid-1831 that plan was very much alive, imparting massive energy to the Mormon drive to prepare for (and help bring on) the millennial reign of Christ, with Joseph Smith, Jr. serving as Christ's vicegerent upon Earth. Modern students of Mormonism can little imagine the fantastic and wildly compelling atmosphere that surrounded the pioneer core of the very earliest Mormons -- God's Chosen People, the New Israelites -- called to claim and possess a new Promised Land in the American West. Had the Mormon occupation of Missouri gone according to plan, the Saints would have converted and enlisted as armed allies the dispossessed American Indians, converted or run off the frontier gentiles, seized control of the lucrative Sante Fe Trail-head trade, and positioned themselves to conquer New Mexico all the way westward to the California coast. Brigham Young's later conception of the "State of Deseret" was but a rump remnant of the original 1830 plan for a Millennial Mormon Empire in the American West. Such an "empire," given a large enough influx of blindly devoted converts, might well have gained enough power to precipitate a civil war in the United States -- not a political war between South and North, but a religious war between West and East.