long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

From Darkness Unto Light and Mormonism Unvailed part 1

In this post and the next one, we'll discuss the way the book From Darkness Unto Light handles the book Mormonism Unvailed

The book quotes or cites Mormonism Unvailed 31 times. We'll look at those references in part 2, but today let's look at how Joseph and Oliver dealt with Mormonism Unvailed

[BTW, an editorial note: I fixed the formatting of the post about the Interpreter on TikTok: 



The 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed made a big impact on the Church. It set out the Spalding theory that dominated the national media in the 1800s. It also spelled out the "stone-in-the-hat" theory (SITH) which modern LDS intellectuals have embraced.

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery responded to Mormonism Unvailed in a series of eight essays about Church history, published as letters in the Messenger and Advocate in 1834-5. Joseph had his scribes copy these essays into his own history as part of his life story. An excerpt from Letter I is found in the Pearl of Great Price. Letter VII explains that it is a fact that the Hill Cumorah in western New York is the same Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6.

The essays were not Joseph's only response to Mormonism Unvailed and related anti-Mormon literature. He wrote a serialized letter to "To the Elders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints" that was published in the Messenger and Advocate in September, November and December 1835.  In the November issue, he explained that "I have been drawn into this course of proceeding, by persecution, that is brought upon us from false rumor, and misrepresentations concerning my sentiments." (Messenger and Advocate II.2:209 ¶2)

Before reading the excerpt from the December issue below, think compare Joseph's treatment of Mormonism Unvailed with the way our modern LDS apologists and historians have embraced that book. 

Joseph used phrases such as "the enemy of righteousness," "pitchfork of lies," "adversary of truth," and "cloud of darkness."

Behold, then, is not this the kingdom of heaven that is raising its head in the last days, in the majesty of its God; even the church of the Latter day saints,—like an impenetrable, immovable rock in the midst of the mighty deep, exposed storms and tempests of satan, but has, thus far, remained steadfast and is still braving the mountain waves of opposition, which are driven by the tempestuous winds of sinking crafts, have and are still dashing with tremendous foam, across its triumphing brow, urged onward with redoubled fury by the enemy of righteousness, with his pitchfork of lies, as you will see fairly represented in a cut, contained in Mr. Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled?”

And we hope that this adversary of truth will continue to stir up the sink of iniquity, that people may the more readily discern between the righteous and wicked. We also would notice one of the modern sons of Seeva, who would fain have made people believe that he could cast out devils by a certain pamphlet (viz. the “Millennial Harbinger,”) that went the rounds through our country, who felt so fully authorized to brand Jo Smith, with the appellation of Elymus the sorcerer, and to say with Paul, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord! We would reply to this gentleman—Paul we know, and Christ we know, but who are ye? And with the best of feelings, we would say to him, in the language of Paul to those who said they were John’s disciples, but had not so much as heard there was a Holy Ghost, to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins by those who have legal authority, and under their hands you shall receive the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures.

... We might invite the gentleman to a public investigation of these matters; yea, and we do challenge him to an investigation upon any or all principles wherein he feel opposed to us, in public or in private.

We might farther say that, we could introduce him to “Mormonism Unveiled.” Also to the right honorable Doct. P. Hurlburt, who is the legitimate author of the same, who is not so much a doctor of physic, as of falsehood, or by name. We could also give him an introduction to the reverend Mr. Howe, the illegitimate author of “Mormonism Unveiled,” in order to give currency to the publication, as Mr. Hurlburt, about this time, was bound over to court, for threatening life. He is also an associate of the celebrated Mr. Clapp, who has of late immortalised his name by swearing that he would not believe a Mormon under oath; and by his polite introduction to said Hurlburt’s wife, which cost him (as we have been informed) a round sum. Also his son Mathew testified that, the book of Mormon had been proved false an hundred times, by Howe’s book: and also, that he would not believe a Mormon under oath. And also we could mention the reverend Mr. Bentley, who, we believe, has been actively engaged in injuring the character of his brother-in-law, viz: Elder S. [Sidney] Rigdon.

Now, the above statements are according to our best information: and we believe them to be true; and this is as fair a sample of the doctrine of Campbellism, as we ask, taking the statements of these gentlemen, and judging them by their fruits. And we might and [add] many more to the black catalogue; even the ringleaders, not of the Nazarenes, for how can any good thing come out of Nazareth, but of the far-famed Mentor mob: all sons and legitimate heirs of the same spirit of Alexander Campbell, and “Mormonism Unveiled,” according to the representation in the cut spoken of above.

The above cloud of darkness has long been beating with mountain waves upon the immovable rock of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and notwithstanding all this, the mustard seed is still towering its lofty branches, higher and higher, and extending itself wider and wider, and the charriot wheels of the kingdom are still rolling on, impelled by the mighty arm of Jehovah; and in spite of all opposition will still roll on until his words are all fulfilled.

Our readers will excuse us for deviating from the subject, when they take into consideration the abuses, that have been heaped upon us heretofore, which we have tamely submitted to, until forbearance is no longer required at our hands, having frequently turned both hand the right and left cheek, we believe it our duty now to stand up in our own defence. 

[I reposted the entire letter here: 


A facsimile of the original issue of the Messenger and Advocate is here:


A copy of the letter is available in the Joseph Smith Papers here: 



the end

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