I stumbled on this little gem while looking for something else in the Internet Archive’s collection of Mormon publications  and was both charmed and intrigued by it. The pamphlet is a 16-page tract, titled “The Latter-day Saints’ Catechism: Or, Child’s Ladder,” by Elder David Moffat. Subtitle: “Being a Series of Questions Adapted for the Use of the Children of Latter-day Saints.” Although it is undated, the CHL has penciled 1860? as a publication date; Peter Crawley’s A Descriptive Biography of the Mormon Church, V. 2 1848-1852 (BYU, 2005) tentatively puts it at 1851 instead (item 618). 
The catechism was printed by Brother J[ohn] B[enjamin] Franklin, at 5 Northampton Street, King’s Cross, London. Today the City Dance Academy is located along that stretch of street. The little volume was sold at the Latter-day Saints Book and Millennial Star Depot at 35 Jewin Street, an address which no longer exists, as Jewin Street was demolished in the 1960s to make way for Barbican Estate (which is, apparently, a prime example of British “brutalist” architecture, hmm). The price was one penny.
The notion of a memorized catechism for children and the less literate has a long tradition in Christianity, both in Catholic and Protestant traditions, but not (at least not these days) in Mormonism. So a Mormon catechism, especially for children, might seem surprising. This little tract leaves me with many questions. For starters, was Moffat making a cultural adaptation to the religious world of the British Isles at mid-19th century? Or was the notion of a children’s catechism present in Utah Mormonism as well in this era? To the latter at least, yes. John Jacques, an English convert, created a Children’s Catechism that was one of the earliest and most popular of the church’s publications for the fledging international church, being translated into ten languages including Dutch, Hawaiian, and Scandinavian languages. Interestingly, Jacques’s version was also being purveyed at the Jewin Street bookstore in the mid-1850s. The format endured nearly to the twentieth century; George Q. Cannon published a 58-page (!) Sunday School Catechism No. 1 for the Deseret Sunday School Union in 1891. Davis Bitton has written about Mormon catechisms, including the Lectures on Faith which is also structured in the question-answer format, and in his essay he notes that as early as 1848 British saints desired something they could give their children or from which they could teach them. Catechisms were widely used in both Mormon Sunday Schools and Primaries throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and although not called as such, the practice of memorizing as part of religious instruction persists in the missionary lessons, Seminary “Scripture Mastery” verses and children learning the Articles of Faith by rote.
Moffat’s effort preceded Jacques and to a large extent was replaced by it; Jacques’s work was not only vigorously self-promoted but also widely disseminated by the Church and mentioned in the memoirs of at least two subsequent prophets, so it became the “official” catechism. Moffat, a Scottish-born working man, seems to have offered his in the spirit of sharing, envisioning that it might be useful to parents like himself:
Being a father of four children and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am desirous that my children should be taught in their youth the rudiments of those principles that I now entertain. But whether I should be able to abide by the principles of the above church or not, I am willing that my children should, and continue therein. Having asked counsel from the council of the branch, I was permitted to form a Child’s Ladder, whereby they may ascend to a greater height than their progenitors, in the scale of intelligence and truth. I have, therefore, furnished you with about 100 questions and answers, if you deem them worthy let them form a little book, so as a mother can teach her children when she sitteth down, and when she walketh by the way. I have endeavoured to render them as short as possible, in order that they may be attained by the weakest mind; and where a proof was long and tedious, I have shortened it without removing its sense.
Moffat’s catechism is structured into three “Series.” The first series begins with naming, starting with the child’s own name and moving immediately to the “new name,” (do we EVER tell children about that now?) to Jesus Christ and the name of the Lord, to names for fallen angels and unclean spirits, then to names for the “fowls” and “cattle,” and finally to the named stars of heaven. The second series discusses the nature of God as an embodied personage with body, parts and passions, along with Christ as a resurrected being, and the physical nature of angels. Lastly, the third series takes up the destiny of man, revelation, restoration, dispensations, the calling of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon’s coming forth, and how to pray (including an example of a bedtime supplication).
When I first read Moffat’s catechism, I thought that its nearest descendant for today’s LDS children might be “My Gospel Standards,” and if so, the differences are striking indeed. Whereas the Child’s Ladder takes the catechumen through a logical progression of stating his or her inner beliefs—each backed with a Bible reference—MGS enumerates specifically external behaviors or attributes, each of which the child commits to with a rousing “I will” or “I will not” statement (“I will choose the right,” “I will not swear or use crude words,” “I will only listen to music that is pleasing to Heavenly Father,” and so on). This focus on external performances rather than doctrine as such certainly characterizes how we teach young Mormons today. And for some reason I also fixated on the frequent mentions of angels in Moffat’s Child’s Ladder – they show up repeatedly as mediators, messengers, and essential role-players in the restoration. Consider this exchange on p. 14:
83. How did Joseph Smith get in possession of so high and so holy a calling?
Through the ministration of holy angels.
84. What more did angels make known to Joseph?
The Book of Mormon, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.
85. Have you any account of an angel coming with the everlasting gospel?
Yes. Revelations xiv. 6. And I saw an angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth.
In today’s mainstream accounts of the first vision, angels are certainly present, but it seems that Joseph Smith’s relationship to God is constructed nowadays as direct and unmediated (i.e. WITH angels but not THROUGH them). It’s almost as if Moffat is having his readers build from an assumed belief in angels to a testimony of the prophet rather than the other way around. I was recently in a Primary calling, and I notice that in the current Primary curriculum, angels just don’t come up very often. A lesson certainly wouldn’t, er, harp on them in this way.
Let me share the prayer at the end – I’d be interested to get your take on what you’d think if a little kid lisped this one out in a church meeting today.
O God, my heavenly Father, I thank thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, for all the benefits of thy mercy this day; and I ask thee to give me thy fatherly care this night; give thy spirit to them that are weary in thy church, and ready to faint, lest they fall from thy ways and die. Expand my young and tender mind, to behold thy law, that I may know thee in my youth, so that I may be able to withstand the evils of the world in my riper years; strengthen and sustain my father and my mother to provide for my many wants, and may I live to render back to thee the gratitude which I owe, even so, Amen.
 See also http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/11/09/lds-church-history-library-internet-archive/ and http://archive.org/search.php?query=church%20of%20jesus%20christ%20of%20latter-day%20saints%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts
 Davis Bitton, “Mormon Catechisms” (Maxwell Institute)