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Mark Twain > Roughing It > Chapter XVI

Roughing It

Chapter XVI


All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the "elect" have
seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a
copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a
pretentious affair, and yet so "slow," so sleepy; such an insipid mess of
inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this
book, the act was a miracle--keeping awake while he did it was, at any
rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain
ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he
found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of
translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.

The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the
Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New
Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint,
old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the
Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel--half modern glibness, and half
ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained;
the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his
speech growing too modern--which was about every sentence or two--he
ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came
to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to
pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been
only a pamphlet.

The title-page reads as follows:

     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, who are a
     remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written
     by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy 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
     abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also; which is a record of
     the people of Jared; who were scattered at the time the Lord
     confounded the language of the people when they were building a
     tower to get to Heaven.

"Hid up" is good. And so is "wherefore"--though why "wherefore"? Any
other word would have answered as well--though--in truth it would not
have sounded so Scriptural.

Next comes:

     THE TESTIMONY OF THREE WITNESSES.
     Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto
     whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the
     Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which
     contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and
     also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of
     Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken; and we
     also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of
     God, for His voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a
     surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen
     the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown
     unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with
     words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and
     he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the
     plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the
     grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld
     and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvellous in
     our eyes; nevertheless the voice of the Lord commanded us that we
     should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the
     commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know
     that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the
     blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of
     Christ, and shall dwell with Him eternally in the heavens. And the
     honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which
     is one God. Amen.
                         OLIVER COWDERY,
                         DAVID WHITMER,
                         MARTIN HARRIS.

Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come
anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything; but for me, when a
man tells me that he has "seen the engravings which are upon the plates,"
and not only that, but an angel was there at the time, and saw him see
them, and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to
conviction, no matter whether I ever heard of that man before or not, and
even if I do not know the name of the angel, or his nationality either.

Next is this:

     AND ALSO THE TESTIMONY OF EIGHT WITNESSES.
     Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people unto
     whom this work shall come, that Joseph Smith, Jr., the translator of
     this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken,
     which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the
     said Smith has translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also
     saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of
     ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record
     with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for
     we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith
     has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names
     unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen;
     and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
                         CHRISTIAN WHITMER,
                         JACOB WHITMER,
                         PETER WHITMER, JR.,
                         JOHN WHITMER,
                         HIRAM PAGE,
                         JOSEPH SMITH, SR.,
                         HYRUM SMITH,
                         SAMUEL H. SMITH.

And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they
grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen
the plates too; and not only seen those plates but "hefted" them, I am
convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire
Whitmer family had testified.

The Mormon Bible consists of fifteen "books"--being the books of Jacob,
Enos, Jarom, Omni, Mosiah, Zeniff, Alma, Helaman, Ether, Moroni, two
"books" of Mormon, and three of Nephi.

In the first book of Nephi is a plagiarism of the Old Testament, which
gives an account of the exodus from Jerusalem of the "children of Lehi";
and it goes on to tell of their wanderings in the wilderness, during
eight years, and their supernatural protection by one of their number, a
party by the name of Nephi. They finally reached the land of
"Bountiful," and camped by the sea. After they had remained there "for
the space of many days"--which is more Scriptural than definite--Nephi
was commanded from on high to build a ship wherein to "carry the people
across the waters." He travestied Noah's ark--but he obeyed orders in
the matter of the plan. He finished the ship in a single day, while his
brethren stood by and made fun of it--and of him, too--"saying, our
brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship." They did
not wait for the timbers to dry, but the whole tribe or nation sailed the
next day. Then a bit of genuine nature cropped out, and is revealed by
outspoken Nephi with Scriptural frankness--they all got on a spree!
They, "and also their wives, began to make themselves merry, insomuch
that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness;
yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness."

Nephi tried to stop these scandalous proceedings; but they tied him neck
and heels, and went on with their lark. But observe how Nephi the
prophet circumvented them by the aid of the invisible powers:

     And it came to pass that after they had bound me, insomuch that I
     could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord,
     did cease to work; wherefore, they knew not whither they should
     steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a
     great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters
     for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened
     exceedingly, lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless
     they did not loose me. And on the fourth day, which we had been
     driven back, the tempest began to be exceeding sore. And it came to
     pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea.

Then they untied him.

     And it came to pass after they had loosed me, behold, I took the
     compass, and it did work whither I desired it. And it came to pass
     that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed, the winds did
     cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.

Equipped with their compass, these ancients appear to have had the
advantage of Noah.

Their voyage was toward a "promised land"--the only name they give it.
They reached it in safety.

Polygamy is a recent feature in the Mormon religion, and was added by
Brigham Young after Joseph Smith's death. Before that, it was regarded
as an "abomination." This verse from the Mormon Bible occurs in Chapter
II. of the book of Jacob:

     For behold, thus saith the Lord, this people begin to wax in
     iniquity; they understand not the Scriptures; for they seek to
     excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things
     which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold,
     David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing
     was abominable before me, saith the Lord; wherefore, thus saith the
     Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by
     the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous
     branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. Wherefore, I the Lord
     God, will no suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

However, the project failed--or at least the modern Mormon end of it--for
Brigham "suffers" it. This verse is from the same chapter:

     Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate, because of their
     filthiness and the cursings which hath come upon their skins, are
     more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment
     of the Lord, which was given unto our fathers, that they should
     have, save it were one wife; and concubines they should have none.

The following verse (from Chapter IX. of the Book of Nephi) appears to
contain information not familiar to everybody:

     And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ascended into heaven,
     the multitude did disperse, and every man did take his wife and his
     children, and did return to his own home.

     And it came to pass that on the morrow, when the multitude was
     gathered together, behold, Nephi and his brother whom he had raised
     from the dead, whose name was Timothy, and also his son, whose name
     was Jonas, and also Mathoni, and Mathonihah, his brother, and Kumen,
     and Kumenenhi, and Jeremiah, and Shemnon, and Jonas, and Zedekiah,
     and Isaiah; now these were the names of the disciples whom Jesus had
     chosen.

In order that the reader may observe how much more grandeur and
picturesqueness (as seen by these Mormon twelve) accompanied on of the
tenderest episodes in the life of our Saviour than other eyes seem to
have been aware of, I quote the following from the same "book"--Nephi:

     And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
     And they arose from the earth, and He said unto them, Blessed are ye
     because of your faith. And now behold, My joy is full. And when He
     had said these words, He wept, and the multitude bear record of it,
     and He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and
     prayed unto the Father for them. And when He had done this He wept
     again, and He spake unto the multitude, and saith unto them, Behold
     your little ones. And as they looked to behold, they cast their
     eyes toward heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw
     angels descending out of heaven as it were, in the midst of fire;
     and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they
     were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto
     them, and the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they
     know that their record is true, for they all of them did see and
     hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two
     thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women,
     and children.

And what else would they be likely to consist of?

The Book of Ether is an incomprehensible medley of if "history," much of
it relating to battles and sieges among peoples whom the reader has
possibly never heard of; and who inhabited a country which is not set
down in the geography. These was a King with the remarkable name of
Coriantumr,^^ and he warred with Shared, and Lib, and Shiz, and others,
in the "plains of Heshlon"; and the "valley of Gilgal"; and the
"wilderness of Akish"; and the "land of Moran"; and the "plains of
Agosh"; and "Ogath," and "Ramah," and the "land of Corihor," and the
"hill Comnor," by "the waters of Ripliancum," etc., etc., etc. "And it
came to pass," after a deal of fighting, that Coriantumr, upon making
calculation of his losses, found that "there had been slain two millions
of mighty men, and also their wives and their children"--say 5,000,000 or
6,000,000 in all--"and he began to sorrow in his heart." Unquestionably
it was time. So he wrote to Shiz, asking a cessation of hostilities, and
offering to give up his kingdom to save his people. Shiz declined,
except upon condition that Coriantumr would come and let him cut his head
off first--a thing which Coriantumr would not do. Then there was more
fighting for a season; then four years were devoted to gathering the
forces for a final struggle--after which ensued a battle, which, I take
it, is the most remarkable set forth in history,--except, perhaps, that
of the Kilkenny cats, which it resembles in some respects. This is the
account of the gathering and the battle:

     7. And it came to pass that they did gather together all the
     people, upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save
     it was Ether. And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the
     doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for
     Coriantumr, were gathered together to the army of Coriantumr; and
     the people who were for Shiz, were gathered together to the army of
     Shiz; wherefore they were for the space of four years gathering
     together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face
     of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it
     was possible that they could receive. And it came to pass that when
     they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he
     would, with their wives and their children; both men, women, and
     children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and
     breast-plates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner
     of war, they did march forth one against another, to battle; and
     they fought all that day, and conquered not. And it came to pass
     that when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps;
     and after they had retired to their camps, they took up a howling
     and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so
     great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that it did
     rend the air exceedingly. And it came to pass that on the morrow
     they did go again to battle, and great and terrible was that day;
     nevertheless they conquered not, and when the night came again, they
     did rend the air with their cries, and their howlings, and their
     mournings, for the loss of the slain of their people.

     8. And it came to pass that Coriantumr wrote again an epistle unto
     Shiz, desiring that he would not come again to battle, but that he
     would take the kingdom, and spare the lives of the people. But
     behold, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and
     Satan had full power over the hearts of the people, for they were
     given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of
     their minds that they might be destroyed; wherefore they went again
     to battle. And it came to pass that they fought all that day, and
     when the night came they slept upon their swords; and on the morrow
     they fought even until the night came; and when the night came they
     were drunken with anger, even as a man who is drunken with wine; and
     they slept again upon their swords; and on the morrow they fought
     again; and when the night came they had all fallen by the sword save
     it were fifty and two of the people of Coriantumr, and sixty and
     nine of the people of Shiz. And it came to pass that they slept
     upon their swords that night, and on the morrow they fought again,
     and they contended in their mights with their swords, and with their
     shields, all that day; and when the night came there were thirty and
     two of the people of Shiz, and twenty and seven of the people of
     Coriantumr.

     9. And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for
     death on the morrow. And they were large and mighty men, as to the
     strength of men. And it came to pass that they fought for the space
     of three hours, and they fainted with the loss of blood. And it
     came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient
     strength, that they could walk, they were about to flee for their
     lives, but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his
     wrath that he would slay Coriantumr, or he would perish by the
     sword: wherefore he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did
     overtake them; and they fought again with the sword. And it came to
     pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were
     Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with loss of blood.
     And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword,
     that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz. And it came
     to pass that after he had smote off the head of Shiz, that Shiz
     raised upon his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for
     breath, he died. And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the
     earth, and became as if he had no life. And the Lord spake unto
     Ether, and said unto him, go forth. And he went forth, and beheld
     that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished
     his record; and the hundredth part I have not written.

It seems a pity he did not finish, for after all his dreary former
chapters of commonplace, he stopped just as he was in danger of becoming
interesting.

The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is
nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable-
-it is "smouched" [Milton] from the New Testament and no credit given.


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Index Index

Prefactory
Contents
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII
Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XL
Chapter XLI
Chapter XLII
Chapter XLIII
Chapter XLIV
Chapter XLV
Chapter XLVI
Chapter XLVII
Chapter XLVIII
Chapter XLIX
Chapter L
Chapter LI
Chapter LII
Chapter LIII
Chapter LIV
Chapter LV
Chapter LVI
Chapter LVII
Chapter LVIII
Chapter LIX
Chapter LX
Chapter LXI
Chapter LXII
Chapter LXIII
Chapter LXIV
Chapter LXV
Chapter LXVI
Chapter LXVII
Chapter LXVIII
Chapter LXIX
Chapter LXX
Chapter LXXI
Chapter LXXII
Chapter LXXIII
Chapter LXXIV
Chapter LXXV
Chapter LXXVI
Chapter LXXVII
Chapter LXXVIII
Chapter LXXIX
Appendix

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