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NH Woman Meets Mormon Founder Joseph Smith

NH SKEPTIC AT NAUVOO 1843

 

The elder Mrs. Smith then displayed a rolled manuscript that she claimed was "the writing of Abraham and Isaac, written in Hebrew and Sanscrit." Whether this document was the source that Joseph Smith used to translate the controversial "Book of Abraham" is a topic of endless debate among historians today.

Haven also describes the building of the large Mormon temple at Nauvoo with its massive stone baptismal font and its railing supported on the backs of 12 carved oxen. On the Mormon practice of baptizing the souls of the dead, Charlotte is skeptical to the point of sarcasm. During a frigid day in April she and a friend came across an outdoor baptismal ceremony in the Mississippi. She writes:

"So these poor mortals in ice-cold water were releasing their ancestors and relatives from purgatory! ..and you can imagine our surprise when the name George Washington was called. So after these fifty years he is out of purgatory and on his way to the ‘celestial’ heaven!"

Mormon Temple at Nauvoo described by Charlotte Haven of Portsmou NH in 1843/ Library of Congress photoOn the topic of plural marriage, Charlotte was unforgiving. When Elder Brigham Young, the future "Mormon Moses," arrived from a missionary journey with another wife, Charlotte poured her feelings about polygamy into her letters home:

"I cannot believe that Joseph will ever sanction such a doctrine, and should the Mormons in any way engraft such an article on their religion, the sect would surely fall to pieces, for what community or State could harbor such outrageous immorality? I cannot think so meanly of my sex as that they could submit to any such degradation."

Charlotte was apparently unaware that Joseph Smith was privately practicing plural marriage and had taken at total of 33 (some historians go as high as 48) wives. She moved away from Nauvoo the year before Joseph Smith’s presidential run and assassination. Charlotte Haven later joined a socialist utopian community before settling in California. Her memories of early life in Portsmouth have recently been re-discovered and will be the subject of a future article in this newspaper.

No matter where she went, whether living in the West Coast or among the Mormons along the Mississippi, Charlotte Haven never forgot her Yankee upbringing or her days in Portsmouth. Responding to a holiday letter from her sister, Charlotte wrote from Nauvoo:

"O, what fine times you are having this season, with so many parties, balls and sleigh-rides! So much gayety for sedate old Portsmouth is quite a novelty!"

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Copyright © 2007 by J. Dennis Robinson, All rights reserved. Robinson is editor of the popular regional web site SeacoastNH.com and author of the new book Strawbery Banke: A Seaport Museum 400 Years in the Making.

Primary Source: Charlotte Haven, "A Girl’s Letters from Nauvoo, 1843," Overland Monthly 1890 & 1891

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