JS, Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to , [, Geauga Co., OH], 24 Sept. 1834. Featured version published in The Evening and the Morning Star, Sept. 1834, p. 192. For more complete source information on The Evening and the Morning Star, see the source note for Letter, 30 Oct. 1833.
The September 1834 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star includes a letter to editor from JS, who, for the first time in print, addressed disparaging writings of against JS and the church. Campbell, a Scottish-born restorationist who commanded a sizable following by 1834, first criticized JS soon after and many other Campbellites in northeastern converted to Mormonism in late 1830. Rigdon and Campbell had been close associates in Campbell’s reformed Baptist movement during the 1820s. According to Campbell, Rigdon fell “into the snare of the Devil in joining the Mormonites” and “led away a number of disciples with him.” Considering JS a charlatan prophet attempting to usurp the role of restoring primitive Christianity, Campbell published an article titled “Delusions” in the 7 February 1831 issue of his newspaper, the Millennial Harbinger. In the article, Campbell gave an extended synopsis of the Book of Mormon, attacked the book’s authenticity, and labeled JS an impostor. The following year, one of Campbell’s associates, Joshua Himes, reprinted “Delusions” as a sixteen-page tract. Campbell continued to use the Millennial Harbinger to disparage JS, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon. The Painesville Telegraph also reprinted some of Campbell’s anti-Mormon polemics.
Despite occasional barbs in these publications, was not saying much about JS or the church by September 1834. It is therefore unclear why JS suddenly broke his previous silence concerning Campbell. He wrote in the letter that he had “of late, been perusing Mr. A Campbell’s ‘Millennial Harbinger,’” perhaps a reference to the August 1834 issue, which does mention JS. However, the mention is brief and passing; “Joe Smith” is listed along with other religious reformers whom Campbell identified as impostors. Another possibility is that JS was reading some of Campbell’s earlier attacks in the Harbinger. Whatever the case, JS’s response expressed his opinions of Campbell and his publications.
For instance, Campbell’s “Delusions” was reprinted in the 8 and 15 March 1831 issues of the Telegraph. (“Delusions,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 8 Mar. 1831, –; “Mormonism,” Painesville Telegraph, 15 Mar. 1831, –.)
I have, of late, been perusing Mr. ’s “Millennial Harbinger.” I never have rejoiced to see men of corrupt hearts step forward and assume the authority and pretend to teach the ways of God—this is, and always has been a matter of grief; therefore I cannot but be thankful, that I have been instrumental in the providence of our heavenly Father in drawing forth, before the eyes of the world, the spirits by which certain ones, who profess to be “Reformers, and Restorers of ancient principles,” are actuated! I have always had the satisfaction of seeing the truth triumph over error, and darkness give way before light, when such men were provoked to expose the corruption of their own hearts, by crying delusion, deception, and false prophets, accusing the innocent, and condemning the guiltless, and exalting themselves to the stations of gods, to lead blind-fold, men to perdition!
I have never been blessed, (if it may be called such,) with a personal acquaintance with , neither a personal interview; but the great man, not unfrequently condescends to notice an individual of as obscure birth as myself, if I am at liberty to interpret the language of his “Harbinger,” where he says, “Joe Smith! Joe Smith! imposture! imposture!” I have noticed a strange thing! I will inform you of my meaning, though I presume you have seen the same ere this. was very lavish of his expositions of the falsity and incorrectness of the book of Mormon, some time since, but of late, since the publication of the Evening and the Morning Star, has said little or nothing, except some of his back-handed cants. He did, to be sure, about the time the was established in , come out with a lengthy article, in which he undertook to prove that it was incorrect and contrary to the former revelations of the Lord. Perhaps, he is of opinion that he so completely overthrew the foundation on which it was based, that all that is now wanting to effect an utter downfall of those who have embraced its principles is, to continue to bark and howl, and cry, Joe Smith! false prophet! and ridicule every man who may be disposed to examine the evidences which God has given to the world of its truth!
I have never written , nor received a communication from him but a public notice in his paper:— If you will give this short note a place in the Star you will do me a kindness, as I take this course to inform the gentleman, that while he is breathing out scurrility he is effectually showing the honest, the motives and principles by which he is governed, and often causes men to investigate and embrace the book of Mormon, who might otherwise never have perused it. I am satisfied, therefore he should continue his scurrility; indeed, I am more than gratified, because his cry of Joe Smith! Joe Smith! false prophet! false prophet! must manifest to all men the spirit he is of, and serves to open the eyes of the people.
I wish to inform him further, that as he has, for a length of time, smitten me upon one cheek, and I have offered no resistance, I have turned the other also, to obey the commandment of our Savior; and am content to sit awhile longer in silence and see the great work of God roll on, amid the opposition of this world in the face of every scandal and falsehood which may be invented and put in circulation.
I am your brother in the testamony of the book of Mormon,
While the phrase “Reformers, and Restorers of ancient principles” is not a direct claim appearing in Campbell’s writings, JS was surely targeting Campbell with the appellation. The phrase is probably a reference to a thirty-installment article written by Campbell between February 1825 and March 1829, titled “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things,” which was printed in The Christian Baptist, volumes 2–6.
This phrase does not appear to be a direct quotation, though Campbell repeatedly described JS as an impostor in the Millennial Harbinger. (See, for instance, “Delusions,” Millennial Harbinger, 7 Feb. 1831, 85, 92; and “Christendom in Its Dotage,” Millennial Harbinger, Aug. 1834, 374.)
JS seems to be attributing the decrease in Campbell’s attacks to The Evening and the Morning Star, which was first published from June 1832 through July 1833, at which point the printing office in Missouri was destroyed, and then resumed publication in Kirtland, Ohio, in December 1833. Perhaps JS believed that Campbell was reluctant to attack him if the church had a publication wherein charges and accusations could be refuted. Some of Campbell’s “back-handed cants” may have included his depiction of JS as “a religious Robinson Crusoe.” (“Christendom in Its Dotage,” Millennial Harbinger, Aug. 1834, 374.)
Oliver Cowdery described Campbell as one of the “worst of our enemies” and reported that Campbell “began to howl most prodigiously” against the Mormons in support of Eber D. Howe’s 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. (“A Summary,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, 1:76–77.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.