Conversations with Robert Matthews, 9–11 November 1835

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

while setting in my house between the hours of nine <​ten​> & 10 11 this morning a man came in, and introduced himself to me, calling <​himself​> self <​by the name of​> , his appearance was some what <​thing​> singular, having a beard about 3 inches in length which is quite grey, also his hair is long and considerably silvered with age [p. 22] I should think he is about 50 or 55 years old, tall and strait slender built of thin visage blue eyes, and fair complexion, he wears a sea green frock coat, & pantaloons of the same, black fur hat with narrow brim, and while speaking frequently shuts his eyes, with a scowl on his countinance; I made some enquiry after his name but received no definite answer; we soon commenced talking upon the subject of religion and after I had made some remarks concerning the bible I commenced giving him a relation of the circumstances connected with the coming forth of the book of Mormon, as follows— being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking upon <​at​> the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involved eternal consequences; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowd down before the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall recieve knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall find and again, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbra[i]deth not; information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination I to obtain it, I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my toung seemed to be swolen in my mouth, so that I could not utter, I heard a noise behind me like some person walking towards me, <​I​> strove again to pray, but could not, the noise of walking seemed to draw nearer, I sprung up on my feet, and [p. 23] and looked around, but saw no person or thing that was calculated to produce the noise of walking, I kneeled again my mouth was opened and my toung liberated, and I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my <​me​> head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God; <​and I saw many angels in this vision​> I was about 14. years old when I recieved this first communication; When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels, in the night season after I had retired to bed I had not been a sleep, when but was meditating upon my past life and experiance, I was verry concious that I had not kept the , and I repented hartily for all my sins and transgression, and humbled myself before Him; <​whose eyes are over all things​>, all at once the room was iluminated above the brightness of the sun an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed <​with​> in purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to [p. 24] me, one I will mention which is this in Malachi 4 behold the day of the Lord cometh &c; also that the , was hid up with the record, and that God would give me power to it, with the assistance of this instrument he then gradually vanished out of my sight, or the vision closed, while meditating on what I had seen, the Angel appeard to me again and related the same things and much more, also the third time bearing the same tidings, and departed; during the time I was in this vision I did not realize any thing else around me except what was shown me in this communication: after the vision had all passed, I found that it was nearly day-light, the family soon arose, I got up also:— on that day while in the field at work with my he asked me if I was sick I replyed, I had but little strenght, he told me to go to the house, I started and went part way and was finally deprived deprived of my strength and fell, but how long I remained I do not know; the Angel came to me again and commanded me to go and tell my , what I had seen and heard, I did so, he wept and told me that it was a vision from God to attend to it I went and found the place, where the plates were, according to the direction of the Angel, also saw them, and the angel as before; the powers of darkness strove hard against me, I called on God, the Angel told me that the reason why I could not obtain the plates at this time was because I was under transgression, but to come again in one year from that time, I did so, but did not obtain them [p. 25] also the third and the fourth year, at which time I obtained them, and them into the english language; by the gift and power of God and have been preaching it ever since.
While I was relating this brief history of the establishment of the in these last days, seemed to be highly entertained after I had got through I observed that, the hour of worship & time to dine had now arived and invited him to tarry, which he concented to,
After dinner the conversation was resumed and proceded to make some remarks on the prophesies, as follows:
He observed that he was aware that I could bear stronger meat than many others, therefore he should open his mind the more freely;— Daniel has told us that he is to stand in his proper lot, in the latter days according to his vision he had a right to shut it up and also to open it again after many days, or in the latter times; Daniels Image whose head was gold, and body, armes, legs and feet was composed of the different materials described in his vision represents different governments, the golden head was <​to represent​> Nebuchodnazer King of Babylon, the other parts other kings & forms of government, which I shall not now mention in detail, but confine my remarks, more particularly to the feet of the Image; The policy of the wicked spirit, is to separate what God has joined togather and unite what He has separated, which he has succeded in doing to admiration, in the present state of society, which is like unto Iron and clay, there is confusion in all things, both [p. 26] both Political and religious, and notwithstanding all the efforts that are made to bring about a union, society is remains disunited, and all attempts to <​unite her​> are as fruitless, as to attemp to unite Iron & Clay.
The feet of the Image, is the government of these , other Nations & kingdoms are looking up to her for an example, of union fredom and equal rights, and therefore worship her, like as Daniel saw in the vision, although they are begining to loose confidence in her, seeing the broils and discord that distract, her political & religious horizon this Image is characteristic of all governments and institutions or most of them; as they begin with a head of gold and terminate in the contemp[t]ible feet of Iron & clay: making a splendid appearance at first, proposing to do much more than the[y] can perform, and finally end in degradation and sink, in infamy; we should not only start to come out of Babylon but leav it entirely lest we are overthrown in her ruins, we should keep improving and reforming, twenty-fours hours for improvement now is worth as much as a year a hundred years ago; the spirit of the Fathers that was cut down, or those that were under the altar, are now rising this is the first resurection the Elder that fall’s first will rise last; we should not form any opinion only for the present, and leave the result of futurity with God: I have risen up out of obscurity, but was lookd. up to when but a youth, in temporal things: It is not necessary that God should give us all things at first or in his first commission to us, but in his second. John saw the angel deliver the gospel in the last days, which would not be necessary if [p. 27] it was already in the world this expression would be inconsistent, the small lights that God has given, is sufficient to lead us out of babylon, when we get out we shall have the greater light. I told that I did not understand him concerning the resurection and wishd him to be more explanitory on the subject; he replied that he did not feell impressed by the spirit to unfold it further at present, but perhaps he might at some other time.
I then withdrew to do some buisness with another gentleman that called to see me.
He [] informed my that he was born in Washington County Town of New York. he says that all the railroads canals and other improvements are performed by spirits of the resurection.
The silence spoken of by John the Revelator which is to be in heaven for the space of half an hour, is between 1830 & 1851, during which time the judgments of God will be poured out after that time there will be peace.
Curiosity to see a man that was reputed to be a jew caused many to call during the day and more particularly at evening suspicions were entertained that said was the noted of , spoken so much of in the public prints on account of the trials he underwent in that place before a court of justice, for murder manslaughter comtempt of court whip[p]ing his Daughter &c for the two last crimes he was imprisoned, and came out about 4, months [p. 28] since, after some, equivocating he confessed that he was realy : after supper I proposed that he should deliver a lecture to us, he did so sitting in his chair; he commenced by saying God said let there be light and there was light, which he dwelt upon through his discource, he made some verry exelent remarks but his mind was evidently filled with darkness, after he dismissed his meeting, and the congregation disperced, he conversed freely upon the circumstances that transpired in ,
His name is , he say[s] that Joshua, is his priestly name.
during all this time I did not contradict his sentiments, wishing to draw out all that I could concerning his faith; the next morning Tuesday 10th I resumed the conversation and desired him to enlighten my mind more on his views respecting the resurection, he says that he poss[ess]es the spirit of his fathers, that he is a litteral decendant of Mathias the Apostle that was chosen in the place of Judas that fell and that his spirit is resurected in him, and that this is the way or scheme of eternal life, this transmigration of soul or spirit from Father to Son: I told him that his doctrine was of the Devil that he was in reality in possession of wicked and depraved spirit, although he professed to be the spirit of truth, it self, also that he possesses the soul of Christ; he tarried until Wednesday, after breckfast I told him, that my God told me that his God is the Devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart, and so I for once cast out the Devil in bodily shape, & I believe a murderer [p. 29]


  1. 1

    Monday, 9 November 1835.  

  2. 2

    Matthews was closer to 47 years old. (Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 50.)  

    Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

  3. 3

    For more on Matthews’s appearance, see “Matthias,” Western Reserve Chronicle (Warren, OH), 5 Nov. 1835, [2]; and Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 106–108.  

    Western Reserve Chronicle. Warren, OH. 1816–1854.

    Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

  4. 4

    See Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; and James 1:5; compare the account of JS’s early religious experience with JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 1–2; and JS, History, vol. A-1, 2.  

  5. 5

    JS later explained, “I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 3.)  

  6. 6

    In his circa summer 1832 history, JS stated, “I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. . . . I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world . . . I come quickly . . . in the glory of my Father.” In the circa summer 1832 history, JS noted seeing Jesus Christ only. All of JS’s subsequent accounts, including this conversation with Matthews, record that he saw two personages. (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 3; JS History, vol. A-1, 3; JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:706–707; Neibaur, Journal, 24 May 1844.)  

  7. 7

    Compare JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 2–3.  

  8. 8

    In a February 1835 letter, Oliver Cowdery described the angel as wearing a “garment” that was “perfectly white.” JS later clarified that the angel had appeared wearing a “robe of most exquisite whiteness.” (Oliver Cowdery, “Letter IV,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, 1:79; JS History, vol. A-1, 5.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  9. 9

    JS earlier used the term “spectacles” to describe this instrument in his circa summer 1832 history. A January 1833 article in The Evening and the Morning Star explained that JS translated the Book of Mormon “through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles . . . known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim.” (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 5; “Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, 58.)  

    Evening and Morning Star. Edited reprint of The Evening and the Morning Star. Kirtland, OH. Jan. 1835–Oct. 1836.

  10. 10

    JS’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, later recounted that the angel asked JS why he had not told his father, to which JS replied that “he was affraid his father would not believe him.” The angel responded that his father would “believe every word you say to him.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 3, [11].)  

  11. 11

    In 1832, JS explained that he attempted to remove the ancient record but was prohibited because he “saught the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandme[n]t that I should have an eye single to the Glory of God.” (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4–5; compare JS History, vol. A-1, 7; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 4, [2]; and Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection,” 31.)  

    Jessee, Dean C. “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History.” BYU Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 29–39.

  12. 12

    See Daniel 12:4.  

  13. 13

    See Daniel 2.  

  14. 14

    Matthews taught his followers that “President Jackson and his government were the toes of this image,” that “this was the last of the republican governments,” and that the United States federal government was “at an end.” (Stone, Matthias and His Impostures, 167.)  

    Stone, William L. Matthias and His Impostures: Or, The Progress of Fanaticism. Illustrated in the Extraordinary Case of Robert Matthews, and Some of His Forerunners and Disciples. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835.

  15. 15

    See Revelation 6:9.  

  16. 16

    See Matthew 20:16.  

  17. 17

    Matthews was orphaned in his childhood and later became a farm laborer. However, during his mid- to late twenties he enjoyed a profitable enterprise as a storekeeper. (Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 57–62.)  

    Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

  18. 18

    See Revelation 14:6.  

  19. 19

    See Revelation 8:1.  

  20. 20

    In 1830, Matthews marked the beginning of his “Kingdom,” then only an idea, by issuing a “Declaration of Judgement.” He intended to preach until 1836, after which would follow fifteen years of turmoil before the world burned. (Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 79–81, 92, 96.)  

    Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

  21. 21

    See Genesis 1:3.  

  22. 22

    Matthews declared himself “chief high Priest of the Jews.” (Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 145.)  

    Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

  23. 23

    See Acts 1:15–26.  

  24. 24

    Matthews claimed to have the same “spirit of Truth” that was once within the New Testament apostle Matthias, whom the eleven apostles chose to replace Judas after Judas’s betrayal. (Johnson and Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias, 94–95; Acts 1:23–26.)  

    Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.