Proverbs 10:9; “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.”
Because nothing in Mormonism goes off without a hitch, so it is with this little soirée…
Joseph Smith, Jr., the first prophet of Mormonism, was a charismatic type of guy. He found extra time in his day to ensure others heard about the miraculous translations he produced from the stuff he kept digging out of the ground. Although he had no formal education, when it came to Mormonism’s foundation (Book of Mormon), he had enough wherewithal to know his main attraction might receive more attention with the endorsement from those who did.
Utilizing astute marketing skills, Smith surrounded himself with key players willing to help build his vision of an unconventional church. At some point, he talked his good friend Martin Harris into selling his farm to pay the $5,000 printing fee, and have the golden plates published. In turn, and to lend even more credibility to the cause, Mr. Harris tried to enlist the help of a well known and highly respected man, Columbia University Professor Mr. Charles Anthon.
Harris took a slip of paper filled with unknown characters to Mr. Anton in hopes he would publicly give his stamp of approval to Smith’s work. The Church claims the characters were copied by hand from the golden plates by Smith himself. From this point on, two different versions of what took place ensued.
The Church’s version of events listed below, can also be found in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith’s History 1:63-65 –
1:63 Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows:
64 “I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.
65 “He then said to me, ‘Let me see that certificate.’ I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.”
The other story (truth) can be found in a book written by E.D. Howe in 1834. Mr. Howe was one of the first, if not the very first, who spoke out against Smith and his shenanigans. In his book ‘Mormonism Unvailed’, pp. 268-272, we find an interesting account of what took place. Apparently Howe contacted Mr. Anthon to warn him that Smith and other Mormons were using his name as an endorsement to the Book of Mormon.
[Spelling as in original]
“It is asserted in the Mormon Bible, that the engravings upon the plates, were in the “Reformed Egyptian.” In conformity to this, the Mormonite preachers, and others of the sect, have frequently declared that the engravings upon the plates were, by some of our learned men, who had a specimen shown them, pronounced to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics,” or “ancient short hand Egyptian.”
Among others. Professor Anthon, of New York, was frequently mentioned as giving such an opinion. This act of deception and falsehood is only one among hundreds of others, equally gross, which are resorted to by those imposters, to gain proselytes. It being calculated to have considerable weight, when fully believed, we took the liberty to inform Mr. Anthon of the vile use that was made of his name, in this country; and to request of him a statement of the facts respecting it. The following is his reply:
New York, Feb. 17, 1834.
Dear Sir—I received this morning your favor of the 9th instant, and lose no time in making a reply. The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, and apparently simplehearted farmer, called upon me with a note from Dr. Mitchell of our city, now deceased, requesting me to decypher, if possible, a paper, which the farmer would hand me, and which Dr. M. confessed he had been unable to understand.
Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax. When I asked the person, who brought it, how he obtained the writing, he gave me, as far as I can now recollect, the following account:
A “gold book,” consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of gold spectacles. These spectacles were so large, that, if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned towards one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face. Whoever examined the plates through the spectacles, was enabled not only to read them, but fully to understand their meaning.
All this knowledge, however, was confined at that time to a young man, who had the trunk containing the book and spectacles in his sole possession. This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain, to those who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the plates having been decyphered “by the gift of God.”
Every thing, in this way, was effected by the large pair of spectacles. The farmer added, that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money towards the publication of the “golden book,” the contents of which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm and handing over the amount received to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to come to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which he brought with him, and which had been given him as a part of the contents of the book, although no translation had been furnished at the time by the young man with the spectacles.
On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving, and he then took his leave carrying the paper with him.
This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but ‘Egyptian Hieroglyphics.’
Some time after, the same farmer paid me a second visit. He brought with him the golden book in print, and offered it to me for sale. I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his manner was strangely urgent.
I adverted once more to the roguery which had been in my opinion practised upon him, and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the “curse of God” would come upon him should he do this. On my pressing him, however, to pursue the course which I had recommended, he told me that he would open the trunk, if I would take the “curse of God” upon myself. I replied that I would do so with the greatest willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature, provided I could only extricate him from the grasp of rogues. . He then left me.
I have thus given you a full statement of all that I know respecting the origin of Mormonism, and must beg you, a personal favor, to publish this letter immediately, should you find my name mentioned again by these wretched fanatics.
Yours respectfully, CHAS. ANTHON.”