When Mormon Times, reported on the 2009 BYU Campus Education Week some months ago, it told of a soon-to-be-available collection of online documents titled “19th Century Publications on the Book of Mormon.” When it becomes available, this set of documents will be part of BYU’s digital collections, a really helpful resource of original source documents related to Mormonism and other historical topics.
The Mormon Times quoted from one document that will be part of the “19th Century Publications on the Book of Mormon” collection: a semi-monthly literary journal published in Rochester New York called The Gem. The specific article referenced in Mormon Times is titled “Imposition and Blasphemy!! Money-Diggers, &c.” from the May 15, 1830 issue (already available online from various sources such as Uncle Dale’s Old Mormon Articles or the Monroe County Library System). According to Mormon Times, this newspaper article “was one of the first to unknowingly fulfill Moroni’s prophecy that Joseph’s ‘name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues’ (Joseph Smith — History 1:33).”
Interesting to read, you’ll find the article provided below in its entirety.
IMPOSITION AND BLASPHEMY!!–MONEY-DIGGERS, &c.
Some months ago a noise was made among the credulous of the earth, respecting a wonderful production said to have been found as follows. An ignoramous near Palmyra, Wayne county, pretended he had found some “Gold Plates,” as he is pleased to call them, upon which is said to be engraved characters of marvellous and misunderstandable import, which he, nor no other mortal could divine. These characters he has translated into the English language, and lo! they appear to be no other than the mysticisms of an unrevealed Bible! A person more credulous or more cunning, than him who found the plates, ordered the translation thereof, mortgaged his farm, sold all he had, and appropriated it to the printing and binding of several thousand copies of this pearl, which is emphatically of great price! The book comes before the public under the general title of the “Book of Mormon,” arranged under different heads, something as follows. The book of Mormon — containing the books of Nephi, Nimshi, Pukei, and Buckeye — and contains some four or five hundred pages. It comes out under the “testimony of three witnesses,” and of “six witnesses,” who say they “have seen and hefted the plates,” that “they have the appearance of gold,” and that divers and strange characters are “imprinted on them.” — The author, who has the “copy-right secured according to law,” says, “that he was commanded of the Lord in a dream,” to go and find, and that he went and found. At one time it was said that he was commanded of the Lord not to show the plates, on pain of instant death — but it seems he has shown them to the said witnesses, and yet is alive! At another time it is said that none could see them but he who was commanded; — that though they should lie in the middle of the street beneath the broad glare of a meridian sun, in the presence of hundreds, yet no eye but his could see them! The translator, if we take his word for it, has been directed by an angel in this business, for the salvation and the edification of the world! It partakes largely of Salem Witchcraft-ism, and Jemima Wilkinson-ism, and is in point of blasphemy and imposition, the very summit. But it is before the public, and can be had for money, at various places.
This story brings to our mind one of similar nature once played off upon the inhabitants of Rochester and its vicinity, near the close of the last war. During the war, we were subject to many inconveniences at this place, and were in constant danger of attack from the enemy, those who lived here at that time, can well remember the frequent attempts made by the enemy to land at the mouth of the Genesee, at which point our army had deposited heavy stores. Our village was then young, and the abodes of men were ‘few, and far between.’ If we remember aright, it was in the year 1815, that a family of Smiths moved into these parts, and took up their abode in a miserable hut on the east bank of the river, now near the late David K. Carter’s tavern. They had a wonderful son, of about 18 years of age, who, on a certain day, as they said, while in the road, discovered a round stone of the size of a man’s fist, the which when he first saw it, presented to him on the one side, all the dazzling splendor of the sun in full blaze — and on the other, the clearness of the moon. He fell down insensible at the sight, and while in the trance produced by the sudden and awful discovery, it was communicated to him that he was to become an oracle — and the keys of mystery were put into his hands, and he saw the unsealing of the book of fate. He told his tale for money. Numbers flocked to him to test his skill, and the first question among a certain class was, if there was any of Kidd’s money hid in these parts in the earth. The oracle, after adjusting the stone in his hat, and looking in upon it sometime, pronounced that there was. The question of where, being decided upon, there forthwith emerged a set, armed with “pick-axe, hoe and spade,” out into the mountains, to dislodge the treasure. We shall mention but one man of the money-diggers. His name was Northrop. He was a man so unlike anything of refined human kind, that he might well be called a demi-devil [sent] forth upon the world to baffle the elements of despair, and wrestle with fate. As you will suppose, he was an enemy to all fear. Northrop and his men sallied out upon the hills east of the river, and commenced digging — the night was chosen for operation — already had two nights been spent in digging, and the third commenced upon, when Northrop with his pick-axe struck the chest! The effect was powerful, and contrary to an explicit rule laid down by himself he exclaimed, “d—-n me, I’ve found it!”
The charm was broken! — the scream of demons, — the chattering of spirits — and hissing of serpents rent the air, and the treasure moved! The oracle was again consulted, who said that it had removed to the Deep Hollow. There, a similar accident happened — and again it was removed to a hill near the village of Penfield, where, it was pretended the undertakers obtained the treasure.
About this time the enemy’s fleet appeared off the mouth of the Genesee, and an attack at that point, was expected — this produced a general alarm. — There are in all communities, a certain class, who do not take the trouble, or are not capable of thinking for themselves, and who, in cases of alarm, are ready to construe every thing mysterious or uncommon into omens of awful purport. This class flocked to the oracle. He predicted that the enemy would make an attack; and that blood must flow. — The story flew, and seemed to carry with it a desolating influence — some moved away into other parts, and others were trembling under a full belief of the prediction. At this time a justice of the peace of the place visited the oracle, and warned him to leave the country. He gravely told the magistrate that any one who opposed him would receive judgments upon his head, and that he who should take away the inspired stone from him, would suffer immediate death! The magistrate, indignant at the fellow’s impudence, demanded the stone, and ground it to powder on a rock near by — he then departed promising the family further notice.
The result was the Smiths were missing — the enemy did not land — the money-diggers joined in the general execration, and declared that they had their labor for their pains — and all turned out to be a hoax! Now in reference to the two stories, “put that to that, and they are a noble pair of brothers.” (From the text provided at Uncle Dale’s Old Mormon Articles)
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