Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

THE CONTRIBUTOR.

The Glory of God is Intelligence.

AUGUST, 1881.

VOL. II.

DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE BOOK OF MORMON.

V. HISTORICAL EVIDENCES CONSIDERED.

No. II.

"THE second division of the Popol Vuh contains the account of two attempts at the overthrow of the great Xibalban monarchy, founded by Votan. The first of these proved unsuccessful and fatal to the enemies of the great power; the second, undertaken by the descendants of the defeated chieftains, resulted in the downfall of the empire of the Serpents, or Votanites, and in the revenge of the death of the unsuccessful warriors. The account is provokingly figurative: different allies of each power being spoken of as owls, wild beasts, rabbits, deer, rats, lice, ants, etc., a custom which has always prevailed among savage and semicivilized nations. Savages of the forests are usually referred to as wild beasts in early tradition. Xibalba is so hated by its enemies that its usual title is the 'infernal regions.' Torquemada refers to it as hell, and its king as the king of the 'shades." The hatred was intense, and the worst invectives were mild in the estimation of the enemies of the, no doubt, oppressive power. We have already given the account of the creation, in which Gucumatz (the Plumed Serpent) figured conpicuously. He, however, is seen to have acted at the word of Hurakan (Heart of Heaven). The closing paragraphs of the first division of the Popol Vuh give some of the exploits of the young heroes Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who figure as the defendants of the worship of the Heart of Heaven. A certain Vucub Cakix, who assumed to be the sun and god of the people, and who,

in his pride, offended the Heart of Heaven, fell at their avenging hands. His sons, Zipacna and Cabrakan, whose pride was as offensive to Hurakan (God) as had been their father's, shared the same fate."-Short, pp. 221-2.

From the above, we learn that the first attempt to overthrow the empire was defeated, but that the second was successful. We further learn that the contentions and wars, which were waged between the two parties, were not only in order to extend and perpetuate the succession of power on the one hand, and to destroy, or transfer it by usurpation on the other, but the main object, on the part of the two brothers Hunahpu and Xbalanque, was the defense of the worship of the Heart of Heaven against the encroachments of its enemies, whose pride was offensive to the Creator.

By reference to the Book of Mormon, we find recorded in the Seventh Chapter of Ether how the words of the brother of Jared were fulfilled in relation to a kingly government leading to captivity. For, in the rebellion of Corihor was brought to pass the captivity of his father Kib, who was the legitimate and rightful king. This rebellion by the son of a king led to dissensions, secret societies, oath-bound combinations, murders, and, finally, the ruin and utter destruction of the entire people, God having declared that an unrighteous people should not inhabit this land; and that such, when ripened in iniquity, should be destroyed. The descendants of the first colonists of America were frequently warned by prophets of this decree of the Almighty.

[ocr errors]

322

DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE BOOK OF MORMON.

But they heeded not the warning and, | dividuals triumphantly pointed out, such

some fifteen hundred years after the arrival and settlement of their forefathers on this continent, they were wasted away by war until they utterly perished from the land. The history of these matters is plainly recorded in the Book of Ether, which is neither ambiguous nor figurative in its language, but tells the sorrowful tale of the sufferings and final extermination of a great, highly civilized but disobedient people.

animals were unknown in America, as evidenced very strikingly by the historical fact that the Aztecs of Mexico at the time of the conquest were greatly frightened and annoyed with the few horses which Cortez brought with him; believing them to possess supernatural powers against which it was useless for them to contend.

It is evident that the translators of the Popol Vuh, or those who abridged the work of more ancient documents, succeeded in very much mixing important facts, and in obscuring and misplacing prominent events and personages in

the account which has been rendered and from which we have quoted. But sufficient is indicated by it to show a remarkable knowledge of many, as we have shown, of the leading events in the history of the primitive inhabitants to whom it refers. We would be glad to follow these matters more in detail as there is abundance of material, but it is impossible to do so satisfactorily and keep within the limits of a few articles in our young people's magazine. If, however, these brief sketches shall succeed in awakening in the minds of even a few, the desire for further research and more extended comparison, the writer will feel amply repaid for the efforts made in compiling them and can assure all such persons of one great fact, the knowledge of which is worth more than gold and silver, houses and lands, or earthly fame and perishable glory, it is: the more they search the historical records of the ancient inhabitants of America, the more clearly manifest to them will be the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. For the evidences are such that they cannot fail to carry conviction to every honest, unprejudiced mind.

When the Book of Mormon was first published, some fifty years ago, one of the strong arguments brought against it by its disbelieving opponents, was that it spoke of the primitive inhabitants possessing elephants, horses, asses, oxen and so on; when, as these knowing in

It does not appear that our elders at that time had any historical or scientific knowledge, with which to meet what was generally conceded to be the well established fact that horses and elephants had been from the remotest periods unknown in this country. Nor are they mentioned, so far as our knowledge extends, in any of the records of American antiquities. The Latter-day Saints knew the Book of Mormon to be true, and, therefore, willingly and faithfully bore testimony of its divine origin. But, in the estimation of the learned, who seldom make allowance for, or even admit the existence of what is known as the "illusions of history," their testimony on. such points were treated with derision, and they themselves as fanatics. The fact that the Book of Mormon spoke of the existence, on this continent of horses and elephants was thrown into the teeth of our elders as an unanswerable argument,proving the Book of Mormon to be a fraud. But the wisdom of God in this case, as in many others, has proven greater than the wisdom of boasting man. Had Joseph Smith been a close student of history-a learned man— instead of the unlearned boy that he was, and sought to palm upon the world in the Book of Mormon a fraud, as he was without stint, accused of doing, he would have guarded all such points and not have made it appear that horses and elephants were possessed by the inhabitants of this land nearly 4,000 years ago, when it was understood by the learned that no such animals were known here previous to the Spanish conquest. But, being unlearned, he did not guard such points; and, failing to do so, subjected his followers, the Book of Mormon, and himself to the scorn and ridicule of the wise.

DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE BOOK OF mormon.

Scarcely fifty years have passed, yet the developments of scientific research have already shown that the moundbuilders of North America had, at least, a knowledge of the elephant form, for they have left it represented almost perfectly in some of their immense monumental mounds; and one need only examine the fine collection of bones, which have been found in Mexico, and are now carefully preserved in the Mexican National Museum, at the capital of the republic, to convince him that such animals, though, perhaps, long since extinct, did once actually exist here.

On this subject, we extract the following from the reports of Désiré Charnay, published in the December (1880) number of the North American Review: "We collected a few ornaments, also some animal remains, viz.: some ribs (probably of the roebuck, though on this point I will not be positive, not being a Zoologist), some small scapulas, two teeth, and, stranger still, two enormous humeruses, much larger than the humerus of an ox; both of these bones are broken longitudinally, as though to take out the marrow. We found also the radius of an animal considerably larger than a horse. Whence these bones? It is generally agreed that, previous to the conquest, there were neither oxen nor horses in America. We found again to-day bones of large ruminants—a radius thirteen inches long and three and seven-tenths inches in diameter, and teeth from one and five-tenths to one and eight-tenths inches in length. Here are the remains of unknown animals, probably of mammoth bisons, domesticated by the Toltecs, at least used by them for food. This is in contradiction of history, which affirms that the Indians had no large domestic animals. Now, would a people, after once domesticating an animal,suffer the race to die out?

"On my return to the City of Mexico, Señor del Cartillo, Professor of Zoology in the School of Mines, on examining the bones of animals found at Tula, pronounced them to be the remains of Bos Americanus, horses, Andes sheep, llama, stag, etc., and fossil! If his judgment | glass."

[ocr errors]

323

is confirmed by that of the savants of Paris and the Smithsonian Institution, a new horizon is opened for the history of man in America. My victory will then be complete, as I shall have brought to light a new people, and a city unique in its originality, and shall have opened to the learned a new branch of natural history. Surely, this were enough to satisfy the most ambitious investigator."

Let it be remembered that these bones, which Mr. Charnay considers so remarkable a find, one that will open to the learned a "new branch of natural history," were discovered by his workmen while exhuming the ruins of some extensive buildings at the ancient metropolis of the Toltecs, situated about sixty-five miles to the north of the City of Mexico, in the month of August, A. D. 1880, and fifty years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. In speaking of these ruins, the great antiquarian explorer says: "It seems evident that, tradition to the contrary notwithstanding, the buildings must have been overturned, for not a wall of the oratorio was standing." Elsewhere he speaks of the date at which this occurred, and consequently the time when the bones and fine specimens of porcelain beautifully enameled, and parts of a glass vase, iridized from being long in the ground, which he found there, to reach, at least, a thousand years into the mysterious past of a shadowy people, whose works partly remain as monuments of a remarkable race.

[ocr errors]

Alluding to the discovery of the piece of glass mentioned above, Mr. Charnay says: "On this subject, I made no comments, yet I will add that nations are like individuals: they always esteem themselves more highly civilized than their predecessors. The Chinese, the Hindoos, the Egyptians, have left to us evidences of their genius: they understood the making of glass and of porcelain, and many other arts before we did, and to me, it is no matter of surprise that an intelligent population such as the Toltecs, should have been able to erect monuments, to cut stone, to make porcelain, to invent enamel, and to make

[blocks in formation]

Thus, not only do we find strong historical evidences confirming the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, but we find also that scientific researches, through the efforts of learned and eminent men, backed by liberal contributions, while prosecuting their labors under the patronage and encouragement of two of the most highly civilized governments on earth, are, year after year, adding link upon link, which will eventually form a chain of evidence so perfect, confirming the truth and inspiration of the book, that it will prove irrefutable. So that none shall be left with a reasonable excuse for rejecting that divine record and the testimony which it bears. The disbelieving scorner, the vain, boasting skeptic may hereafter be forced, by the accumulation of strikingly remarkable historical proofs, like those which we have cited in favor of the Book of Mormon, to advance the weak plea, as some have recently done, that

the knowledge which Joseph Smith possessed of these same historical records, enabled him to write the book. But all such will find, that the wisdom of God is greater than the cunning of man, and that, in assuming a position so inconsistent and self-refuting, they have placed themselves in a worse dilemma, than that formerly occupied by them, and will still be unable to account for its truths, which have been more recently vindicated by the discovery of facts, the existence of which, neither Joseph Smith nor any other man, without the assistance of divine inspiration, could possibly have known anything of, even ten, much less fifty years ago.

And thus, while the wisdom of the wise perish, and the understanding of the prudent is hid-the weak things of the earth confounding the mighty-the great purposes of God fail not, neither do His words return to Him unfulfilled. Moses Thatcher.

COMETS.

IN the heavens we see the stars-the so-called fixed stars-the sun, the moon, and the planets, or wandering stars. But besides these, we sometimes see objects of an entirely different character, looking like hairy, long-tailed stars. These are called comets. Ten years seldom pass without one of these bodies being seen as a bright and conspicuous object in the heavens; while now-a-days not a year passes, without one or more of these bodies, but of smaller order, being detected with the telescope.

In old times men looked on a comet, or "blazing star," as a sign sent from heaven portending some dreadful mischance, as plague, pestilence, or famine, some great war, or (what strangely enough was looked upon then as much more distressing than the death of any one else) the death of some great king or emperor.

It was not, perhaps, very wonderful that men should have had such ideas. For they did not understand then the

laws according to which comets move; and whatever we do not understand is very apt to appear to us something supernatural.

Moreover, to anyone who does not understand what has been discovered of late years respecting "comets," there is something dreadful and threatening in their aspect. Some look like mighty swords flaming in the heavens. Others have been compared to the "besom of the destroying angel," and certainly some comets have looked singularly like swish-tailed brooms. Others have suggested the idea of scimitars, lance-heads, great flames, or the heads of uncouth

monsters.

In modern times these fears have been removed. At least they affect, now, only very ignorant or very foolish persons. | Astronomers have learned to understand the movements of comets. Every comet, as soon as it is detected, is carefully watched until its motions are understood. Years before the time of its return in

COMETS.

1759, Halley's comet was in the toils of the mathematicians. It was far beyond the piercing vision of the telescope; it was wandering in depths where only the sun and planets had power over it. But Clairault and other mathematicians were calculating its every movement; and when in 1759 it returned to the neighborhood of the sun, it followed the very track which mathematics had assigned to it.

In former times, comets were usually noticed first when already presenting a very striking appearance-with a blazing head and a long tail. But in our own time nearly all comets are discovered long before they have become thus conspicuous. When first discovered, a comet appears generally as a small, rounded patch of diffused light, or like a woolly ball. As time passes, and the comet draws nearer to the sun, this ball changes into an oval, and later into a long streak of misty light. The length of this streak of light extends always directly from the sun, and the end towards the sun is brighter than the other.

Soon after, the difference between the head and the tail of the comet becomes still more marked. It is seen that the head or brighter part near the sun is formed of a bright spot (called the nucleus), surrounded by a sort of halo, or glory, of soft light, which, on the side farthest from the sun, seems swept off, as if the hair of the comet's head were combed out in that direction. Or one may aptly describe the appearance of the comet at this stage and afterwards, by saying that the comet looks as though the sun had raised a sort of cloud all round the side of the head towards him, and that then a mighty wind blowing from the sun had swept away this cloudlike matter in a long tail streaming out in the opposite direction.

Still this description is not perfect, for the tail is not always straight, but sometimes slightly curved, as if after the matter had been swept into the tail by a sort of out-breathing from the sun, it had been carried off by a side wind acting more and more strongly upon it the farther it had traveled from the head. But

325

I am here speaking of the appearance of comets' tails, not of the way in which they are actually formed, a matter about which we know little or nothing.

About the head of Donati's comet, discovered in 1858 by the Italian astronomer of that name, as seen with the fine telescope of the Harvard Observatory, you can see the envelopes of light cloudlike matter around the bright nucleus. Only the part of the tail near the head is thus shown, and indeed the telescope shows nothing in the farther parts of the tail of a comet, which cannot be equally well seen with the naked eye.

Usually a comet's tail grows longer and brighter as the comet draws nearer to the sun; and after the comet has passed its point of nearest approach to him the tail gradually diminishes in length, until, when the comet is about to pass out of view, it presents nearly the same rounded, cloud-like form which it had when first discovered.

This, however, is not always the case. Some comets have been far more splendid after, than before the time of heir nearest approach to the sun. In one case the return of Halley's comet in 1835-the comet, which had presented a brilliant appearance as it approached the sun, was found to have entirely changed in character soon afterwards; it no longer had a tail, or even the cloud-like envelope round the head called the coma. In fact, for the time, it looked just like a star. But as its retreat continued, a new tail was thrown out, though not nearly so bright or so long as the one it had lost. The last of the great comets was that called Coggia's, seen in the year 1874. It had a long and conspicuous tail.

Besides the great comets, which travel for the most part in orbits of enormous size, passing far away into space beyond the track even of the remotest planets, there are others, usually much smaller, which travel in orbits lying within the sun's planetary domain.

The first discovered of these was one called Lexell's, after the name of the astronomer who calculated its path, in 1778. Astronomers were much surprised to find a comet traveling in an oval path of

« PoprzedniaDalej »