Interview, 3 November 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction
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A. “You have the beginning of a great here, Mr. Smith.”
-[Here came in the more prominent objects of the . The expense of the , Mr. Smith thought, would be $200,000 or $300,000. The is 127 feet side, by 88 feet front; and by its plan, which was kindly shown us, will fall short of some of our public buildings. As yet, only the foundations are laid. Mr. Smith then spoke of the “false” reports current about himself, and “supposed we had heard enough of them.”
A. “You know, sir, persecution sometimes drives ‘the wise man mad.’”
Mr. S. (laughing.) “Ah, sir, you must not put me among the wise men; my place is not there. I make no pretensions to piety, either. If you give me credit for any thing, let it be for being a good manager. A good manager I do claim to be.”
A. “You have great influence here, Mr. Smith.”
Mr. S. “Yes; I have. I bought 900 acres here, a few years ago, and they all have their lands of me. My influence, however, is ecclesiastical only; in civil affairs, I am but a common citizen. To be sure, I am a member of the City Council, and Lieutenant General of the . I can command a thousand men to the field, at any moment, to support the laws. I had hard work to make them turn out and form the ‘Legion,’ until I shouldered my musket, and entered the ranks myself. Now, they have nearly all provided themselves with a good uniform, poor as they are. By the way, we had a regular ‘set to’ up here, a day or two since. The City Council ordered a liquor seller to leave the place, when his time was up; and, as he still remained, they directed that his house should be pulled down about his ears. They gave me a hand in the scrape; and I had occasion to knock a man down more than once. They mustered so strong an opposition, that it was either ‘knock down,’ or ‘be knocked down.’ We beat him off, at last; and are determined to have no grog shops in or about our grounds.”
-[The conversation flowed on pleasantly, until my friend, to fill a pause that occurred, referred to my calling as a preacher.]-
Mr. S. “Well I suppose (turning from me) he is one of the craft trained to his creed.”
A. “My creed, sir, is the New Testament.”
Mr. S. “Then, sir, we shall see truth just alike; for the scripture says, ‘They shall see, eye to eye.’ All who are true men, must read the bible alike, must they not?”
A. “True, Mr. Smith; and yet I doubt if they will see it precisely alike. If no two blades of grass are precisely alike, for a higher reason, it seems that no two intellects are.”
Mr. S. (getting warm.) “There—I told you so. You don’t come here to seek truth. You begin with taking the place of opposition. Now, say what I may, you have but to answer, ‘No two men can see alike.’”
A. “Mr. Smith, I said not that no two could see alike; but that no two could see, on the whole, precisely alike.”
Mr. S. “Does not the scripture say, ‘They shall see, eye to eye?’”
A. “Granted, sir; but be good enough to take a case; The words ‘all’ and ‘all things’ were brought up as meaning, at one time, universal creation. And again: ‘One believeth that he may eat all things,’ i.e. any thing, or, as we say, every thing.”
Mr. S. “You may explain away the bible, sir, as much as you please. I ask you, have you ever been ?”
A. “Yes, sir; I think I have.”
Mr. S. “Can you prophesy?”
A. “Well, sir, that depends on the meaning you give the word. I grant that it generally means to foretell; but I believe that it often means, to preach the gospel. In this sense, sir, I can prophesy.”
Mr. S. “You lie, sir; and you know it.”
A. “It is as easy for me to impugn your motives, Mr. Smith, as for you to impugn mine.”
Mr. S. “I tell you, you don’t seek to know the truth. You are a hypocrite: I saw it when you first began to speak.”
A. “It is plain, Mr. Smith, that we differ in opinion. Now, one man’s opinion is as good as another’s, until some third party comes in to strike a balance between them.”
Mr. S. “I want no third party, sir. You are a fool, sir, to talk as you do. Have I not seen twice the years that you have? -[Joseph Smith is 36 years old; the speaker, A., was 10 years younger.]- I say, sir, you are no gentleman. I would’nt trust you with my purse across the street.”
-[Here my friend interposed, saying: “I don’t believe, Mr. Smith, that this gentleman came to your house to insult you. He had heard all sorts of accounts of your people, and came simply to see with his own eyes.”]-
Mr. S. “I have no ill feelings towards the gentleman. He is welcome to my house; but what I see to be the truth, I must speak out; I flatter no man. I tell you, sir, that man is a hypocrite. You’ll find him out, if you’re long enough with him. I tell you, I would’nt trust him as far as I could see him. What right has he to speak so to me? Am I not the leader of a great people? He, himself, will not blame me for speaking the truth plainly.” [p. [2]]
A. “You have the beginning of a great here, Mr. Smith.”
-[Here came in the more prominent objects of the . The expense of the , Mr. Smith thought, would be $200,000 or $300,000. The is 127 feet side, by 88 feet front; and by its plan, which was kindly shown us, will fall short of some of our public buildings. As yet, only the foundations are laid. Mr. Smith then spoke of the “false” reports current about himself, and “supposed we had heard enough of them.”
A. “You know, sir, persecution sometimes drives ‘the wise man mad.’”
Mr. S. (laughing.) “Ah, sir, you must not put me among the wise men; my place is not there. I make no pretensions to piety, either. If you give me credit for any thing, let it be for being a good manager. A good manager I do claim to be.”
A. “You have great influence here, Mr. Smith.”
Mr. S. “Yes; I have. I bought 900 acres here, a few years ago, and they all have their lands of me. My influence, however, is ecclesiastical only; in civil affairs, I am but a common citizen. To be sure, I am a member of the City Council, and Lieutenant General of the . I can command a thousand men to the field, at any moment, to support the laws. I had hard work to make them turn out and form the ‘Legion,’ until I shouldered my musket, and entered the ranks myself. Now, they have nearly all provided themselves with a good uniform, poor as they are. By the way, we had a regular ‘set to’ up here, a day or two since. The City Council ordered a liquor seller to leave the place, when his time was up; and, as he still remained, they directed that his house should be pulled down about his ears. They gave me a hand in the scrape; and I had occasion to knock a man down more than once. They mustered so strong an opposition, that it was either ‘knock down,’ or ‘be knocked down.’ We beat him off, at last; and are determined to have no grog shops in or about our grounds.”
-[The conversation flowed on pleasantly, until my friend, to fill a pause that occurred, referred to my calling as a preacher.]-
Mr. S. “Well I suppose (turning from me) he is one of the craft trained to his creed.”
A. “My creed, sir, is the New Testament.”
Mr. S. “Then, sir, we shall see truth just alike; for the scripture says, ‘They shall see, eye to eye.’ All who are true men, must read the bible alike, must they not?”
A. “True, Mr. Smith; and yet I doubt if they will see it precisely alike. If no two blades of grass are precisely alike, for a higher reason, it seems that no two intellects are.”
Mr. S. (getting warm.) “There—I told you so. You don’t come here to seek truth. You begin with taking the place of opposition. Now, say what I may, you have but to answer, ‘No two men can see alike.’”
A. “Mr. Smith, I said not that no two could see alike; but that no two could see, on the whole, precisely alike.”
Mr. S. “Does not the scripture say, ‘They shall see, eye to eye?’”
A. “Granted, sir; but be good enough to take a case; The words ‘all’ and ‘all things’ were brought up as meaning, at one time, universal creation. And again: ‘One believeth that he may eat all things,’ i.e. any thing, or, as we say, every thing.”
Mr. S. “You may explain away the bible, sir, as much as you please. I ask you, have you ever been ?”
A. “Yes, sir; I think I have.”
Mr. S. “Can you prophesy?”
A. “Well, sir, that depends on the meaning you give the word. I grant that it generally means to foretell; but I believe that it often means, to preach the gospel. In this sense, sir, I can prophesy.”
Mr. S. “You lie, sir; and you know it.”
A. “It is as easy for me to impugn your motives, Mr. Smith, as for you to impugn mine.”
Mr. S. “I tell you, you don’t seek to know the truth. You are a hypocrite: I saw it when you first began to speak.”
A. “It is plain, Mr. Smith, that we differ in opinion. Now, one man’s opinion is as good as another’s, until some third party comes in to strike a balance between them.”
Mr. S. “I want no third party, sir. You are a fool, sir, to talk as you do. Have I not seen twice the years that you have? -[Joseph Smith is 36 years old; the speaker, A., was 10 years younger.]- I say, sir, you are no gentleman. I would’nt trust you with my purse across the street.”
-[Here my friend interposed, saying: “I don’t believe, Mr. Smith, that this gentleman came to your house to insult you. He had heard all sorts of accounts of your people, and came simply to see with his own eyes.”]-
Mr. S. “I have no ill feelings towards the gentleman. He is welcome to my house; but what I see to be the truth, I must speak out; I flatter no man. I tell you, sir, that man is a hypocrite. You’ll find him out, if you’re long enough with him. I tell you, I would’nt trust him as far as I could see him. What right has he to speak so to me? Am I not the leader of a great people? He, himself, will not blame me for speaking the truth plainly.” [p. [2]]
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