Mormon History

Ezra Booth Letter #2 - 1831

The Ohio Star - October 20, 1831


The second letter of Mr. Booth, giving an exposition of this delusion, which has of late occupied no small share of public attention in this section of the country, will be found in this paper. We intended to have accompanied his first letter with some introductory remarks, which we considered necessary to enable our readers to understand the subject; but the circumstances at the time forbade. We therefore take this opportunity to say to those who are unacquainted with Mr. Booth, that he was formerly a highly esteemed preacher of the Methodist persuasion -- that he was one of the earliest subjects of the Mormon faith, in this county -- that under the influence of what he supposed to be a divine command, he was induced to leave his family and his home, and accompany the impostor Smith, and his deluded followers, to Missouri, in search of the "Land of Promise" -- that in process of time he became convinced of the duplicity of Smith and Co., and returned to his family and friends, deeply penitent and humble, under a sense of the errors into which he had been led and into which, in turn, he had been the instrument of leading others -- and that he feels now called upon by a sense of duty, to expose the fraud, and repair the injury his example has done, as far as in him lies.

We earnestly bespeak for Mr. Booth, the charity of our readers, so far as to believe him sincere in his former delusion, as well as in his present efforts to atone for it. We had an opportunity of conversing with him, soon after he embraced Mormonism; and we became entirely convinced of his sincerity, and uprightness of purpose; and the pain we felt at witnessing his delusion, was equal to the pleasure with which we heard of his recovery from it. In a private note accompanying one of his letters, Mr. Booth gives the following as his reasons for now writing upon the subject: "1st. To discharge a duty which I owe to God and the public. 2d. To rescue, if possible, the honest and conscientious who are involved in it. 3d. To prevent others from falling into it. 4th. To comply with the request of a number who have solicited an exposure of Mormonism."

Our readers are aware, that with the exception of a small article some time since copied from a neighboring paper, we have published nothing heretofore on the subject of Mormonism. A few words in explanation of this course, may not be amiss at the present time. We early became convinced that mormonism was one of those delusions which would receive no check, but rather the reverse, from newspaper opposition; and hence we resolved to let it take its course, blameless ourself of giving it notoriety, or of interfering with the faith of those who honestly embraced it. Most of the stories which have found their way into the papers, we have supposed about as extravagant in their details, as mormonism itself was false in its pretensions. The letters of Mr. Booth are of a different character. They are a kind of official exposition of the fraud, authentic and incontrovertible, by one who has enjoyed every opportunity of learning it by sad experience. We had much rather propagate sentiments thus authenticated, than give publicity to anonymous and at least questionable testimony from other sources. On reflection, we do not regret the course we have taken. While some may feel surprize that a man of Mr. Booth's good sense should be "taken in" by such an absurd piece of fraud as mormonism, others will perhaps regard it as a providential means of bringing to nought one of the most extraordinary devices of the great adversary, to ensnare the souls of men.  


                                            Nelson, Portage Co. Oct. 2, 1831.


Were there none but myself interested in the exposition of Mormonism, I can assure you my time would be otherwise employed than in writing upon a subject which has heretofore been to me one of deep interest, and at times has occasioned the most painful anxiety of mind. I could wish, if possible, to bury it in oblivion; and to remember it no more for ever. But as this is a thing which cannot be accomplished in a moment, for the sake of others, who may be exposed to the delusion, from which, through the mercy of God, I have been recovered, and others who are at present involved in it; and also in compliance with your request, I will, as far as I have ability, unfold a system of darkness, fraught with glaring absurdity, and as deceptive as falsehood itself.

This system, to some, carries the face of plausibility, and appears under an imposing form. It claims the Bible for its patron, and proffers the restoration of the apostolic church, with all the gifts and graces with which the primitive saints were endowed. It is called the fulness of the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile; and is the test by which every man's faith is to be tried. Judgments are denounced against the sinners of this generation; or in other words, all who reject the book of Mormon, are threatened with eternal damnation. Great promises are made to such as embrace it; signs and wonders are to attend them, such as healing the sick, the blind made to see, the lame to walk, &c.; and they are to receive an everlasting inheritance in "the land of Missouri," where the Savior will make his second appearance -- at which place the foundation of the Temple of God, and the City of Zion, have recently been laid, and are soon to be built. It is also to be a city of Refuge, and a safe asylum when the storms of vengeance shall pour upon the earth, and those who reject the book of Mormon, shall be swept off as with the besom of destruction. Then shall the riches of the Gentiles be consecrated to the Mormonites; they shall have lands and cattle in abundance, and shall possess the gold and silver, and all the treasures of their enemies.

The Mormonite preachers go forth, proclaiming repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. The form of baptism is similar to other orders; only it is prefaced with -- "having authority given me of Jesus Christ;" also, the laying on of hands -- "In the name of Jesus Christ, receive ye the Holy Ghost." Many of them have been ordained to the High Priesthood, or the order of Milchesidec; and profess to be endowed with the same power as the ancient apostles were. But they have been hitherto unsuccessful in finding the lame, the halt, and the blind, who had faith sufficient to become the subjects of their miracles; and it is now concluded that this work must be postponed until they get to the Missouri; for the Lord will not show those signs to this wicked and adulterous generation. In the commandment given to the churches in the state of New-York, to remove to the state of Ohio, they were assured that these miracles should be wrought in the state of Ohio; but now they must be deferred until they are settled in Missouri.

As the Mormonite church depends principally upon the commandments, and as most of them are concealed from the world, it will be necessary to make some statement respecting them. These commandments come from Smith, at such times and on such occasions as he feels disposed to speak, and Rigdon or Cowder[y] to write them. Their exact number I have never taken pains to ascertain. I have in my possession the "27th commandment to Emma my daughter in Zion;" and should presume there are betwixt fifty and a hundred. They received the addition of five or six while in Missouri; and these are considered a miracle in themselves, sufficient to convince any rational mind. But none but the strong in faith are permitted to witness their origin. I had an opportunity of seeing this wonderful exhibition of the wisdom and power of God, at three different times; and I must say, it bore striking marks of human weakness and wickedness. They are received by the church as divinely inspired, and the name of the Lord is substituted for that of Smith. They are called "The Commandments of the Lord." They are considered "The mysteries of the Kingdom;" and to divulge them to the world, is the same as casting pearls before swine. When they and the Scriptures are at variance, the scriptures are wrongly translated; and Smith, though totally ignorant of the original, being a translator or alterator, can easily harmonize them. Every thing in the church is done by commandment; and yet it is said to be done by the voice of the church. For instance, Smith gets a commandment that he shall be the "head of the Church," or that he "shall rule the Conference," or that the Church shall build him an elegant house, and give him 1000 dollars. For this the members of the church must vote, or they will be cast off for rebelling against the commandments of the Lord. In addition to the book of Mormon, and the Commandments, there are Revelations which are not written. In this department, though Smith is the principal, yet there are others who profess to receive revelations; but after all, Smith is to decide whether they come from the Lord or the devil. Some have been so unfortunate as to have their revelations palmed upon the latter. These revelations entirely supersede the Bible, and in fact, the Bible is declared too defective to be trusted in its present form; and it is designed that it shall undergo a thorough alteration, or as they say, translation. This work is now in operation. The Gospel by St. Matthew has already received the purifying touch, and is prepared for the use of the church. It was intended to have kept this work a profound secret, and strict commandments were given for that purpose; and even the salvation of the church was said to depend upon it. The secret is divulged, but the penalty is not as yet inflicted. Their revelations are said to be an addition to the Bible. But instead of being an addition, they destroy its use; for every thing which need to be known, whether present, past or future, they can learn from Smith, for he has declared to the church, that he "knows all things that will take place from this time unto the end of the world." If then, placing the Bible under circumstances which render it entirely useless, is infidelity, Mormonism is infidelity.

Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdrey, and Martin Harris, may be considered as the principals in this work; and let Martin Harris tell the story, and he is the most conspicuous of the four. -- He informed me, that he went to the place where Joseph resided, and Joseph had given it up, on account of the opposition of his wife and others: but he told Joseph. "I have not come down here for nothing, and we will go on with it." Martin Harris is what may be called a great talker, and an extravagant boaster; so much so, that he renders himself disagreeable to many of his own society. The money he has expended, and the great things he has done, form a considerable topic of his conversation; he understands all prophecies, and knows every thing by the spirit, and he can silence almost any opposer by talking faster, and louder than he can: or by telling him, "I know every thing and you know nothing; I am a wise man and you are a fool;" and in this respect, he stands a fair sample of many others in the church. Yours affectionately,

E. BOOTH.       


Note 1: Booth's remarks concerning the early Mormon teachings respecting the Book of Mormon are intriguing. He says that Mormonism (then taking the Book of Mormon as its basis): "is called the fulness of the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile; and is the test by which every man's faith is to be tried." Thus, the book was not merely a missionary tool, but it and the "system" in which it came wrapped was an actual "voice of warning," proclaiming an imminent divine judgment. Booth says: "Judgments are denounced against the sinners of this generation; or in other words, all who reject the book of Mormon, are threatened with eternal damnation." It goes without saying that acceptance of the book and its message also entailed acceptance of the authority of the Mormon priesthood, then headed (in practice, if not yet in legality) by Joseph Smith, Jr.

Note 2: Booth says that "the City of Zion... is also to be a city of Refuge, and a safe asylum when the storms of vengeance shall pour upon the earth, and those who reject the book of Mormon, shall be swept off as with the besom of destruction." This nearly forgotten tenet of early Mormonism taught that the Latter Day Saints, joined by the converted and racially transformed American Indians, would hold the region round about Independence, Missouri as a divinely appointed stronghold in a coming war between the Saints and the gentiles. During the course of that war terrible destruction would be wrought upon the eastern half of the United States, and those among that nation's inhabitants who chose Mormon "righteousness" over gentile "wickedness," were assured of a place of refuge in the western "Kingdom of God."

Note 3: Booth also relates that the earliest Mormons believed, that in the course of this war between "the righteous" and "the wicked," that "the riches of the Gentiles" would be "consecrated to the Mormonites; they shall have lands and cattle in abundance, and shall possess the gold and silver, and all the treasures of their enemies." Such a doctrine might be construed from an overly literal reading of millennial passages in the book of Isaiah -- and, indeed, the Mormons reproduced exactly these sentiments in the pages of their 1838 Elders' Journal. Booth seems to allocate such a divinely mandated "consecration" to the end of the civil war, much as the members of the Middleton, Vermont Wood money-digging cult looked forward to such a consecration of their neighbors' property unto themselves following God's terrible judgments. The early Mormons appear to have moved the date of the intended "consecration" up from the period following the civil war to a period barely antedating its commencement -- at least such an understanding of unwritten early Mormon doctrine would go far in explaining their reported covert appropriation of gentile property in Daviess co., Missouri and in Hancock co., Illinois.