Page images
[blocks in formation]

By the probability of Joseph Smith's story, I mean, of course, the probability of the truth of his story concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon-of Moroni revealing its existence to him of Moroni delivering to him the plates and Urim and Thummim of his translating the record by the gift and power of God, by means of the Urim and Thummim-of his returning the plates to Moroni, who to this day, doubtless, has them in charge.

I am aware of the fact that the miraculous is usually regarded with suspicion; that such a thing as the ministration of angels in what are called these "hard and scientific times" is generally scouted by most of those who make any pretensions to science; that a school of scholars has arisen whose main principle in the search of truth is that the miraculous is the impossible, and that all narratives which include the miraculous are to be rigidly rejected, as implying credulity or imposture; that even professed believers in the Bible, who accept as historically true the Bible account of the ministration of angels, insist that the age in which such things occurred has long since passed away and that such ministra


tions are not to be expected now. But on this subject the word of God stands sure. According to that word there have been ministrations of angels in times past; and there will be such ministrations to the last day of recorded time. As to the ministration of angels in the past, according to holy scripture, the reader will call to mind the circumstance of angels together with the Lord, visiting Abraham at his tent-home in the plains of Mamre, and partaking of his hospitality; of the appearance of angels to direct the flight of Lot from one of the doomed cities of the plain; of Jacob's physical contact with the angel with whom he wrestled until the breaking of the day; of the angel who went before the camp of Israel in its march from bondage, and scores of other instances recorded in the Old Testament where heavenly personages co-operated with men on earth to bring to pass the holy purposes of God.

Of instances in the New Testament, the reader will recall the ministration of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, announcing the future birth of John the Baptist; of the angel who appeared to Mary to make known the high honor bestowed upon her in becoming the mother of our Lord Jesus; of the appearance of Moses and Elias to the Savior and three of his disciples, to whom they ministered; of the angel who rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, and announced the resurrection of the Savior; of the men in white (angels) who were present at the ascension of Jesus from the midst of his disciples, and announced the fact that the time would come when that same Jesus should come again to the earth in like manner as they had seen him go into heaven; of the angel who delivered Peter from prison, and a dozen other instances where angels co-operated with men in bringing to pass the purposes of God in the dispensation of the meridian of time.

With reference to the angels who in ages future from that in which the apostles lived ministering to men and co-operating to bring to pass future purposes of God, the reader will recall the saying of the Savior concerning the gathering together of the elect in the hour of God's judgment: "and he shall send his angels with

*See "Life of Jesus," Renan, (E. T.) Introduction; also "New Witnesses," vol. I, chapter 1.

[ocr errors]

a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other;" he will recall, also, the promise in Malachi concerning the same times: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse;" he will recollect the promised coming of the angel to restore the gospel in the hour of God's judgment: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters," also the angel who will declare the fall of Babylon, "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God."§ "And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lighted with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit." The reader of the scriptures, I say, will readily recall all these ministrations of angels; as also the promise of the ministrations of many other angels, in bringing to pass the great things of God in the last days, even to the gathering together in one all things in Christ.**

It cannot be held as unscriptural, then, when Joseph Smith claimed that by the ministration of angels he received a revelation from God-a dispensation of the Gospel.

Then, again, whatever the position of unbelievers in the Bible may be with reference to Joseph Smith translating the Book of

[blocks in formation]

Mormon by means of Urim and Thummim, or "Interpreters," as they were called by the Nephites, surely believers in the Bible cannot regard such a claim as impossible or improbable, since it is matter of common knowledge that the High Priest in ancient Israel possessed Urim and Thummim, and by means of them received divine communications. I am not unmindful of the fact that a diversity of opinion obtains respecting Urim and Thummim of the scriptures, of what they consisted, and the exact use of them, but this I think may be set down as ascertained fact; they were placed in the breast-plate of the High Priest, and were a means through which God communicated to him divine knowledge-the divine will.*

*The reader will find the above data concerning Urim and Thummim in the following passages: Exodus xxviii: 29, 30; Leviticus viii: 8; Numbers xxvii: 21; Deuteronomy xxxiii: 8; I Samuel xxviii: 6; Ezra ii: 63; Nehemiah vii: 65. He will also find an excellent article on the subject in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, (Hackett edition) vol. 4, pp. 3356-3363; also in Kitto's Encyclopedia of Biblical Literature, vol. 2, pp. 900-903. Josephus' description of Urim and Thummim is as follows: "I will now treat of what I before omitted, the garment of the high priest: for he (Moses) left no room for the evil practices of (false) prophets; but if some of that sort should attempt to abuse the divine authority, he left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased, and when he pleased to be absent. And he was willing this should be known, not to the Hebrews only, but to those foreigners also who were there. But as to these stones, which we told you before the high priest bore on his shoulders, which were sardonyxs, (and I think it needless to describe their nature, they being known to everybody): the one of them shined out when God was present at their sacrifices; I mean that which was in the nature of a button on his right shoulder, bright rays darting out thence; and being seen even by those that were most remote; which splendor yet was not before natural to the stone. This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy, as to despise divine revelation. Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones which the high priest bore on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God's being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks

Since this kind of means, then, was used by prophets in ancient Israel, it should not be matter of astonishment, much less of ridicule, or a thing to be regarded as improbable that when a colony of Israelites were lead away from the main body of the people, a similar media for obtaining the will of the Lord, and for translating records not otherwise translatable, should be found with them. So also respecting Joseph Smith's claim to having found what he called a "Seer Stone," by means of which he could translate. That cannot be regarded as an impossibility or even an improbability by those who believe the Bible; for, in addition to the Hebrew literature giving an account of Urim and Thummim in the breastplate of the high priest, it is well known that other means were used by inspired men of Israel for obtaining the word of the Lord. That most excellent of Bible characters, Joseph, the son of Jacob, blessed in his boyhood with prophetic dreams, and possessed of the divine gift of interpreting dreams, the savior of Israel in times of famine, and a wise ruler for a time of Egypt's destiny, used such media. When the cup was found in the mouth of Benjamin's sack, Joseph's steward said to him: "Is not this it in which my Lord drinketh, and whereby, indeed, he divineth?" Joseph himself said, when his perplexed brethren stood before him, "What deed is this that ye have done? Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?"* The fact of ascertaining the word of the Lord by means of this "divining cup" cannot be explained away by suggesting that Joseph merely referred to an Egyptian custom of divining; or that the steward repeated the words which Joseph had spoken to him merely in jest. As remarked by a learned writer on this subject-"We need not think of Joseph, the pure, the heaven-taught, the blameless one, as adopting, still less as basely pretending to adopt, the dark arts of a system of imposture." I who had veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this, called that breastplate The Oracle. Now this breastplate and this sardonyx left off shining two hundred years before I composed this book, God having been displeased at the transgression of his laws (Antiquities of the Jews, bk. III, ch. viii.)

* Genesis xliv: 5-15.

Such is the Roman Catholic explanation of the matter, see note on the passage, Gen. xliv: 5-15, in Douay Bible. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Art. Urim and Thummim.

« PreviousContinue »