Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Book of Pukei

The Book of Zelph is probably the most extensive parody of the Book of Mormon, however, it's not the first. That honor belongs to the Book of Pukei which was printed in 1830, just months after the Book of Mormon was published. Abner Cole printed the Book of Pukei in his Palmyra newpaper The Reflector using the pseudonym Obadiah Dogberry Esq.

Cole was a critic of the newly formed Mormon church, but he wasn't just repeating rumors. His newspaper was printed in the same office where the Book of Mormon was being printed. He not only had access to the Book of Mormon before it was published, he also printed extracts from it in The Reflector between January 2 and January 22, 1830. He was forced to stop when the Smith family threatened to sue him for copyright violation.

Cole appears to have gotten the title for the Book of Pukei from an article appearing in a Rochester newspaper called The Gem of Literature and Science, May 15, 1830: "The book comes before the public under the general title of the "Book of Mormon," arranged under different heads, something as follows. The book of Mormon -- containing the books of Nephi, Nimshi, Pukei, and Buckeye -- and contains some four or five hundred pages."

Chapter 1 of the Book of Pukei deals with Luman Walters, an early Mormon convert who used a seerstone to search for hidden treasure on Abner Cole's property. Joseph Smith Sr. and Joseph Smith Jr. also participated in the treasure hunt. It's no wonder Abner Cole disliked Mormons if they charged him money to look for treasure that wasn't there.

Luman Walters also tried unsuccessfully to find treasure on the Hill Cumorah, but said that Joseph Smith Jr. would be successful. That was the very hill where Joseph Smith Jr. said he found the Book of Mormon. This may be what Cole is referring to when he says that Walters passed his mantle to Smith.

Parts of the Book of Pukei may be confusing unless you know that treasure hunters during Joseph Smith's time thought that treasures had guardian spirits who would move the treasure to a different place if the person seeking it was unworthy.
THE BOOK OF PUKEI. -- Chap. 1.
1. And it came to pass in the latter days, that wickedness did much abound, and the "Idle and slothful said one to another, let us send for Walters the Magician, who has strange books, and deals with familiar spirits; peradventure he will inform us where the Nephites, hid their treasure, so be it, that we and our vagabond van, do not perish for lack of sustenance. 

2. Now Walters, the Magician, was a man unseemly to look upon, and to profound ignorance added the most consummate imprudence, -- the summons of the idle and slothful, and produced an old book in an unknown tongue, (Cicero's Orations in latin,) from whence he read in the presence of the Idle and Slothful strange stories of hidden treasures and of the spirit who had custody thereof. 

3. And the Idle and Slothful paid tribute unto the Magician, and besought him saying, Oh! thou who art wise above all men, and can interpret the book that no man understandeth, and can discover hidden things by the power of thy enchantments, lead us, we pray thee to the place where the Nephites buried their treasure, and give us power over "the spirit," and we will be thy servants forever. 

4. And the Magician led the rabble unto a dark grove, in a place called Manchester, where after drawing a Magic circle, with a rusty sword, and collecting his motley crew of latter-demallions, within the centre, he sacrificed a Cock (a bird sacred to Minerva) for the purpose of propiciating the prince of spirits. 

5. All things being ready, the Idle and Slothful fell to work with a zeal deserving a better cause, and many a live long night was spent in digging for "the root of all evil." 

[6.] Howbeit, owing to the wickedness and hardness of their hearts, these credulous and ignorant knaves, were always disappointed, till finally, their hopes, although frequently on the eve of consummation -- like that of the hypocrite perished, and their hearts became faint within them. 

7. And it came to pass, that when the Idle and Slothful became weary of their nightly labors, they said one to another, lo! this imp of the Devil, hath deceived us, let us no more of him, or peradventure, ourselves, our wives, and our little ones, will become chargeable on the town. 

8. Now when Walters the Magician heard these things, he was sorely grieved, and said unto himself, lo! mine occupation is gone, even these ignorant vagabonds, the idle and slothful detect mine impostures. I will away and hide myself, lest the strong arm of the law should bring me to justice. 

9. And he took his book, and his rusty sword, and his magic stone, and his stuffed Toad, and all his implements of witchcraft and retired to the mountains near Great Sodus Bay, where he holds communion with the Devil, even to this day. 

10. Now the rest of the acts of the magician, how his mantle fell upon the prophet Jo. Smith Jun. and how Jo. made a league with the spirit, who afterwards turned out to be an angel, and how he obtained the "Gold Bible." Spectacles, and breast plate -- will they not be faithfully recorded in the book of Pukei? 

THE BOOK OF PUKEI. -- Chap. 2.
Contents. -- 1. the idle and slothful reverence the prophet. -- 2 The prophet reveals to them the first appearance of the spirit. -- 3 Its adminition and promises. -- 4 Description of the spirit. -- 5 Mormon -- the ten tribes. -- 6 Their migration -- wars -- extinction. -- 7 Gold Bible and contents. -- 8 spectacles -- breastplate -- Oliver, &c. 

1. And it came to pass, that when the mantle of Walters the Magician had fallen upon Joseph, sirnamed the prophet, who was the son of Joseph; that the "idle and slothful" gathered themselves together, in the presence of Joseph, and said to him, "lo! we will be thy servants forever, do with us, our wives, and our little ones as it may seem good in thine eyes." 

2. And the prophet answered and said, -- "Behold! hath not the mantle of Walters the magician fallen upon me, and I am not able to do before you my people great wonders, and shew you, at a more proper season, where the Nephites hid their treasures? -- for lo! yesternight stood before me in the wilderness of Manchester, the spirit, who, from the begining, has had in keeping all the treasures, hidden in the bowels of the earth, 

3. And he said unto me, Joseph, thou son of Joseph, hold up thine head; do the crimes done in thy body fill thee with shame? -- hold up thine face and let the light of mine countenance shine upon thee -- thou, and all thy father's household, have served me faithfully, according to the best of their knowledge and abilities -- I am the spirit that walketh in darkness, and will shew thee great signs and wonders." 

4. And I looked, and behold a little old man stood before me, clad, as I supposed, in Egyptian raiment, except his Indian blanket, and moccasins -- his beard of silver white, hung far below his knees. On his head was an old fashioned military half cocked hat, such as was worn in the days of the patriarch Moses -- his speech was sweeter than molasses, and his words were the reformed Egyprian. 

5. And he again said unto me, "Joseph, thou who hast been surnamed the ignoramus, knowest thou not, that great signs and wonders are to be done by thine hands? knowest thou not, that I have been sent unto thee by MORMON, the great apostle to the Nephites -- Mormon who was chief among the [lost] ten tribes of Israel? 

6. Knowest thou not that this same apostle to the nephites conducted that pious people, who could not abide the wickedness of their brethren, to these happy shores in bark canoes, where after fighting with their brethren the Lamanites, a few hundred years, became wicked themselves, when God sent the small pox among them, which killed two thirds of them, and turned the rest into Indians? 

7. Knowest thou not, thou weak one of the earth, that this same Mormon wrote a book on plates of gold, in the language I now speak, of and concerning the aforesaid Nephites and their brethren the Lamanites, and their treasures, (including a box of gold watches on which thou shalt hereafter raise money,) and knowest thou not, that thou art greater than all the "money-digging rabble," and art chosen to interpret the book, which Mormon has written, to wit, the gold Bible? 

8. "And lo! I answered the spirit of the money diggers saying, how can these things be, as I can neither read nor write? And he said unto me[:] 'I will give thee a breast plate, to keep thee from evil, and I will send thee an assistant, even Oliver, the pedagogue.' 

Walters claims that Cicero's Orations in latin tells stories of hidden treasures (Pukei 1:2). He can't actually read Latin, but just pretends that he can. This may be a jab at Joseph Smith's claim that he could read Egyptian hieroglyphs before they had been deciphered. In 1835, Joseph Smith obtained an Egyptian papyrus and claimed it contained the Book of Abraham. In modern times, it has been discovered that the papyrus is actually from an ancient Egyptian funerary text called the Book of Breathings.

"The spirit, who afterwards turned out to be an angel" (Pukei 1:10) may be a sly reference to the fact that Joseph Smith's account of his vision kept changing over time. The "root of all evil" referred to in Pukei 1:5 is of course money.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Thanks for posting this material. It helps to make sense of the early days of Mormonism... The Masonic material is also very interesting.