From the Alexandria Gazette.
A GLANCE AT THE MORMONS.
Since the Mormons were expelled from the State of Missouri, they have purchased the town of Commerce, a situation of surpassing beauty, at the head of the lower rapids, on the Illinois shore of the Mississippi river. The name of the place they have recently changed to Nauvoo, the Hebrew term for Fair or Beautiful. Around this place, as their centre, they are daily gathering from al- most every quarter; and several hundred new houses, erected, within the last few months, attest to the passing traveller the energy, industry, and self-denial, with which the community is imbued. They have also obtained possession of extensive lands on the opposite side of the river, in that charming portion of Iowa Territory, known as the Half Breed Reservation;" and there, upon the rolling and fertile prairies, they are rapidly selecting their homes, and opening their farms. As the traveller now passes through those natural parks and fields of flowers, which the hand of the Creator seems to have originally planted there for the inspection of his own eye, he beholds their cabins, dotted down in most en-chanting perspective, either on the borders of the timber or beside the springs and streams of living water, which are interspersed on every hand.
Nor are they unmindful of their interests abroad, while they are thus accomplishing so much at home. No sect, with equal means, has probably ever suffered and achiev-ed more in so short a space of time. Their elders have not only been commissioned and sent forth to every part of our own country, but they have left their families and friends behind them, and gone to Europe, and even to the Holy Land, to reveal the wonders of the "new and everlasting covenant," and to preach "dispensation of the fulness of times." They doubt not but that they shall be endued, when necessary, with power from on high to proclaim to all the nations of the earth, in their own tongues, the wonderful works of God.
The signal success which every where attends their exertions, proves how well their religious system is adapted to give expression to the various forms of en-thusiasm that pervade the religious sentiment of the day. Retaining many truths which are held in common by different denominations of Christians, and covering their absurdities with imposing forms and lofty pretensions, their system opens a winning asylum for all the disaffect-ed or dissatisfied of other persuasions, and contains much that is congenial to every shade of erratic or radical re-ligious character. As an illustration of this, it is stated, in the last number of their own journal, called the "Times and Seasons," that, on a single occasion in England, one of their elders lately baptized, among others, no less than thirteen preachers of one denomination of Chris-tians.
The name of Mormon they disclaim; and affirm that it was given to them by their enemies. They call them-selves "The Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints;” and number among their chief ecclesiastical dignitaries, a prophet, patriarch, and a train of high priests, bishops and elders. They are understood to disallow the truth and validity of other churches, and to believe that their own ecclesiastical constitution entitles them to expect the full enjoyment of all the gifts and blessings of the church in ancient times. They teach that all who are baptized by immersion, under proper authority, are legally entitled to the remission of their sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Among other religious exercises, they meet to-gether to testify, to prophesy, to speak with tongues, to interpret, and to relate their visions and revelations, and in short, to exercise all the gifts of God, asset in order among the ancient churches. They believe that the restoration of Israel to Palestine, the rebuilding of Jeru-salem, and the second advent of the Messiah, are near at hand; and the dreadful calamities which have lately befallen some of the cities of our land, are set down upon their records as prophetic signs of the second coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of Heaven, to open the millenial era.
As to the "Book of Mormon," while they place im-plicit confidence in its truth, they deny that it is a new Bible, to exclude the old, but a historical and religious record, written in ancient times, by a branch of the house of Israel that peopled America, from whom the Indians are descended. The metallic plates, on which these records were engraved, lay deposited for many cen-turies in the earth, until they were at length discovered and translated by Joseph Smith, Jr.; and found, not only to corroborate and confirm the truth of holy writ, but also to open the events of ancient America, as far back at least as the flood. They believe that this book pours the light of noonday upon the history of a nation, whose mounds, cities and fortifications, still repose in grand but melancholy ruins, upon the bosom of the west-ern prairies; and the reason that it is not more gen-erally received is the same that operated to prevent the reception of the Gospel in the early ages of Christianity.
It was a beautiful morning, towards the close of April last, when the writer of the foregoing sketch, accom-panied by a friend, crossed the Mississippi river, from Montrose, to pay a visit to the prophet. As we approach-ed his house, we saw him ride up and alight from his beautiful horse; and handing the bridle to one of his followers in attendance, he waited in front of his gate to receive us. A number of the principal men of the place soon collected around, apparently anxious to hear the words which fell from his lips. His bearing towards them was like one who had authority; and the deference which they paid him convinced us that his dominion was deeply seated in the empire of their consciences. To our minds, a profound knowledge of human nature had evidently taught him that of all principles, the most om-nipotent is the religious principle; and to govern men of certain classes, it is necessary to control their religious sentiment.
After he had shown us the fine grounds around his dwelling, he conducted us, at our request, to an upper room, where he drew aside the curtains of a case, and showed us several Egyptian mummies, which we were told that the church had purchased, at his suggestion, some time before, for a large sum of money.
The embalmed body that stands near the centre of the case, said he, is one of the Pharaohs, who sat upon the throne of Egypt; and the female figure by its side, was probably one of his daughters.
It may have been the princess Thermutis, I replied, the same that rescued Moses from the waters of the Nile.
It is not improbable, answered the prophet; but my time has not yet allowed me fully to examine and decide that point. Do you understand the Hebrew language, said he, raising his hand to the top of the case, and taking down a small Hebrew Grammar of Rabbi Sexias.
That language has not altogether escaped my attention, was the reply.
He then walked to a secretary, on the opposite side of the room, and drew out several frames covered with glass, under which were numerous fragments of Egyp-tian papyrus, on which, as usual, a great variety of hieroglyphical characters had been imprinted.
These ancient records, said he, throw great light upon the subject of Christianity. They have been unrolled and preserved with great labor and care. My time has hitherto been too much taken up to translate the whole of them, but I will show you how I interpret certain parts. There, said he, pointing to a particular character, that is the signature of the patriarch Abraham.
It is indeed a most interesting autograph, I replied, and doubtless the only one extant. What an ornament it would be to have these ancient manuscripts hand-somely set, in appropriate frames, and hung up around the walls of the temple which you are about to erect in this place.
Yes, replied the prophet, and the translation hung up with them.
Thinking this a proper time to propose a few inquiries relative to some of his peculiar tenets, I observed that it was commonly reported of him, that he believed in the personal reign of the Messiah upon earth, during the millennial era.
I believe in no such thing, was his reply. At the opening of that period, I believe that Christ will descend; but will immediately return again to heaven. Some of our elders, he continued, before I have found time to instruct them better, have unadvisedly propagated some such opinions; but I tell my people that it is absurd to suppose that Christ "will jump out of the frying-pan into the fire." He is in a good place now, and it is not to be supposed that he will exchange it for a worse one.
Not a little shocked at the emblem employed by the Prophet, we descended from his chamber, and the con-versation turned upon his recent visit to Washington, and his interview with the President of the United States. He gave us distinctly to understand, that his political views had undergone an entire change; and his descrip-tion of the reception given him, at the executive mansion, was any thing but flattering to the distinguished indiviual who presides over its hospitalities.
Before he had heard the story of our wrongs, said the indignant Prophet, Mr. Van Buren gave us to under-stand that he could do nothing for the redress of our grievances, lest it should interfere with his political pros-pects in Missouri. He is not as fit, said he, as my dog, for the chair of state; for my dog will make an effort to pro-tect his abused and insulted master, while the present chief magistrate will not so much as lift his finger to relieve an oppressed and persecuted community of free-men, whose glory it has been that they were citizens of the United States.
You hold in your hands, I observed, a large amount of political power, and your society must exert a tremen-dous influence, for weal or woe, in the coming elections.
Yes, said he, I know it; and our influence, as far as it goes, we intend to use. There are probably not far short of a hundred thousand souls in our society, and the votes to which we are entitled throughout the Union must doubtless be extensively lost to Mr. Van Buren.
Not being myself disposed in any way to intermeddle in party politics, I made no definite reply; but, immedi-ately taking leave, we returned to Montrose, abundantly satisfied that the society over which he presides has assumed a moral and political importance which is but very imperfectly understood. Associated on the reli-gious principle, under a prophet and leader whose mys-terious and awful claims to divine inspiration make his voice to believers like the voice of God; trained to sacri-fice their individuality; to utter one cry; to think and act in crowds; with minds that seem to have struck from the sphere of reason on one subject, and left to wander, like lost stars, amid the dark mazes and winding ways of religious error; these remarkable sectaries must neces-sarily hold in their hands a fearful balance of political power. In the midst of contending parties a single hand might turn their influences, with tremendous effect, to whichever side presented the most potent attractions; and should they ever become disposed to exert their influence for evil, which may Heaven prevent, they would surround our institutions with an element of danger, more to be dreaded than an armed and hundred-eyed police.
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