Kirtland, May 26, 1836.
Dear brother Cowdery:
Sir, having just returned from a short mission in Upper Canada, I take the liberty of addressing a few lines to you for insertion in the Messenger and Advocate praying that it may be edifying to the readers of that useful and interesting paper.
I left Kirtland April 5th, in company with elders, O. Pratt and F. Nickerson; and after a long and tedious journey, through mud and rain, we arrived in Upper Canada, where I took leave of the other two brethren, and pursued my course for Toronto, the capital of the Province, at which place I arrived on the 19th of April. I sought in vain for a chapel, court house or other public building, in which to preach, all being closed against me.—At length one or two private dwellings were opened freely, where I commenced, and continued preaching, until it was no longer practicable for want of sufficient room to accommodate the multitude, when I commenced preaching on the steps of a private dwelling: two rooms of the house were first filled, and then a large door-yard. This place was situated in the midst of the city so that many thousands could hear. I continued several sabbath days to hold forth the word of life to multitudes. I also continued preaching both in the city and country daily: In the country, we were under the necessity of opening large barns in order to accommodate the people. Many who were greatly rejoiced at first, soon began to search for truth with all diligence, by night and day, insomuch that sleep departed for a season from our eyes, and sometimes, daylight dawned in the East before we retired to rest. Our meetings were sometimes disturbed by Rev. gentlemen of the clergy; among them was the Rev. Mr. Evens, Editor of the Christian Guardian, and others who attended with a design to prove the Book of Mormon an imposition and myself an impostor, I refused to hear them at ten or eleven o’clock at night, in a crowded private dwelling, with out order or moderators; but I offered to meet any, or all of them on fair grounds, if they would open any public building, appoint moderators to keep order and give me half of the time, I pledged myself under these circumstances, to sustain the Book of Mormon with all the evidence they could the Bible, but they very prudently refused. One circumstance I will mention to show the weakness and falsehood, to which the clergy resort in their exertions against the truth.
The Rev. Mr. Milkins gave an appointment for preaching in the chapel in the country against Mormonism, on Friday evening, May 20th, I attended; the house was thronged with auditors, and after an introduction, with a lengthy preface on the subject of false christs, false prophets, barkers, jumpers &c. (as found in the preface of Mr. Campbell’s pamphlet, and other libelous publications) he, at length made a quotation from the 12th page of the Book of Mormon, concerning Laban’s sword of steel, stating that he was fully prepared to reject any book as a Revelation, which gave an account of steel, so early as six hundred years before Christ.
It being contrary to all history, he probably supposed we were ignorant of the Bible and had never read Job 20th chap. 24th verse and Jeremiah 15th: 12th verse, Psalm, 18 chap. 24 v. 2 Sam. 22 chap. 35 v. all these speak of steel earlier than Nephi. His next exertion was against Nephi for killing Laban and getting the brass plates by fraud and deception, saying, away with prophets of that description, as he never would acknowledge a prophet of that character, forgetting, that in so doing, he rejected Moses, who killed an Egyptian, hid him in the sand and run his country to escape the penalty of the law, and Samuel, who hewed down Agag a helpless, unarmed prisoner, in cool blood. He doubtless, forgot that Nephi’s life had been sought by Laban, and that Laban had robbed him of all his property which was exceeding great, and that he killed Laban in obedience to express commandment of the Lord.
His next objection was raised against page 46th where it is stated that Nephi’s brethren rebelled against him for attempting to build a ship. They sought to put him into the sea, but he commanded them not to touch him, saying if they did, they should wither as a dried reed. The Rev. gentleman represented them as taking him, and binding him and they did not wither as he prophesied. He probably supposed we should not read for ourselves, that they did not touch him at that time, but they repented of their wickedness, and assisted him to build a ship, and after they had built the ship, and been many days at sea, they took him and bound him, but not before. Even them, they were immediately chastised by judgments insomuch, that they soon loosed Nephi.
Another mighty effort was against page 189. Abinadi speaking of things to come as if they had already come, spake of the resurrection of Christ in the past tense, long before Christ was born. This was a great objection to the book, but equally so, the candid reader will discover against the book of Isaiah, who exclaimed (several hundred years before Christ’ birth) in the past tense. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, 53:7th, also in the 8th verse it is stated that he was taken from prison and from judgment &c. He must have supposed we would take for granted what the preacher said, and never read the Bible or the book of Mormon, either impartially for ourselves. Another objection was on page 232 where we find the account of Nehors, slaying Gideon and was taken before judge Alma, judged and hung for priestcraft instead of murder: nevertheless, these are the words of Alma on the same page, “thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, who has done much good among this people, and were we to spare thee, his blood would come upon us for vengeance, therefore, thou art condemned to die.” Another objection was three days darkness on this land, and only three hours darkness in Asia. But I remember a division more close than that, where the Lord severed between the land of Goshen and the rest of Egypt, so that the Egyptians saw not one another for three days, “but the Hebrews had light in their dwellings”. Another objection was that the book of Ether gave the genealogy from the Tower of Babel back to Adam, 29 generations: The other scriptures made but 10 generations. He also stated that Ether did not trace it through the flood, consequently, how could the people be saved, whose genealogy Ether gave.
Now who has ever looked at the book of Ether and does not know, that no genealogy is given from the Tower back to Adam, but from the tower down through after generations to Ether? (see book of Mormon page 539) Another objection was, the witnesses to the book of Mormon, were interested witnesses consequently not to be believed. Probably, not recollecting that in so saying, he was rejecting the New Testament, as they first chosen witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, were all interested witnesses: their time, their character, their property and their lives were at stake, and all would be lost if Christ were an impostor. After exerting all his powers of speech, until near eleven o’clock, he at length dismissed, when I entered the pulpit and pledged myself to prove, misrepresentation and falsehood, throughout his entire discourse upon this subject. Some of the assembly began to clamor so loud, I could not be heard, although many wished to hear. Therefore, I was obliged to defer my reply to his several objections till the next day at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, at which time I had an appointment to preach in a barn in the same vicinity. I had an interview with the Rev. gentlemen in the morning, which lasted some hours. I showed him wherein he had stated falsehoods, or misrepresented many things in his argument: this I did before many witnesses. I then requested him to go before the public and make a humble confession of the wrong he had done, and the falsehoods he had been guilty of stating, but he utterly refused. At 4 o’clock P.M. a multitude assembled a the barn, I then replied publicly to the Rev. gentlemen’s arguments of the preceding evening. After I closed my discourse, we went to the water and I baptized nine persons, who, apparently, came with contrite spirits, believing with all their hearts; expressing a full determination to serve the Lord to the end. The next day being Sunday, May 22d, the numbers of those who had been baptized having increased to twenty five, and brethren O. Pratt and F. Nickerson being present and assisting, we laid our hands upon them and confirmed them in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the gift of the Holy Ghost. In the ordinances of the day, we were blessed with joy and peace and with the powers of the Holy Ghost. Thus grew the word of God and prevailed mightily. May the Lord bless them and add to their numbers, daily, such as shall be saved.
Yours in the bonds of the everlasting covenant.
To the Editor of the Messenger & Advocate. P. P. Pratt.
[Messenger and Advocate, May 1836]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 26, 1836, 1-4]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, July 2006]