The Mormon Mokanna

By October 24, 2014

In the mid- and late-nineteenth century, critics of Mormonism sometimes compared Mormon leaders to the eighth-century Persian religious leader Hashim ibn Hakim, better known as Mokanna, Al-Muqanna (Arabic: ?The Veiled?), ?The Veiled Prophet,? or ?The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan.? In some instances commentators made more involved comparisons between the methods, character, and attributes of al-Muqanna?s followers and non-leader Mormons.

Although Mokanna was an actual historical figure, it was Thomas Moore?s, Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance (1817), that provided the notoriety, non-historical details, and spelling for most of the comparisons. ?Lalla Rookh? (Persian: ?tulip-cheeked?) is comprised of four narrative poems connected by a prose frame story involving the titular Lalla Rookh. The book was a publishing success, with multiple editions and adaptations through the nineteenth century (see 1899 frontispiece below). [1]

MooreThomas LallaRookh Philadelphia HenryAltemus 1899 frontispiece

The first poem/section, ?The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan,? tells the fictional story of the lovers Azim and Zelica and their sufferings in connection with the Veiled Prophet?s (ie, Mokanna?s) rule. (See 1828 image below.) [2]

FordeSamuel TheVeiledProphetOfKohrassan 1828 CrawfordArtGalleryCork

In Moore?s version of the story, Mokanna?s followers claim that the veil hides his great beauty. In (in-universe) reality, he is neither a beauty nor a prophet but is, instead, a hideous, violent impostor, posing as divinely inspired religious leader while ruling by fear, trickery, and deceit, as Zelica eventually discovers. (See 1856 and 1861 illustrations below and see footnote for plot summary.) [3]

CorbouldEdward LallaRookh ZelicaDiscoveringTheVeiledProphet London LongmanBrownEtAll 1856 p130 insert LallaRookh HeRaisedHisVeil p47

The earliest Mormon Veiled Prophet I know of is from an 1838 letter to Missouri Governor Lilburn W Boggs, as reprinted in John C Bennett?s 1842 exposé on Mormons. [4] Elsewhere in the book Bennett asserts:

Perhaps, however, the most striking parallel to the career of the Mormon, in this, and indeed in other particulars, is that of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, the famous Mokanna, whose defeat and downfall have been celebrated by Thomas Moore in his Lalla Rookh.

Bennett then quotes twenty-six lines of the poem as a ?brilliant description of this impostor?s harem? before ?proceed[ing] to describe the seraglio of the modern Mokanna, the Holy Joseph?.? [5] Such use of Mokanna as an exemplar of a deceitful tyrant supported by violent, irrational followers seems to be the most common type of Mokanna/Mormon comparison. [6] As summarized with more sympathy by poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1850, the Mormon move to the Rockies in 1850 was:

an old oriental drama acted over in the New World, by men and women of Yankee origin, united in devout belief in a prophet-martyr who could only be properly characterized as a cross between Sam Slick and the Mokanna of Khorassin. [7]

In 1843, a review of Henry Caswall?s The City of the Mormons took the Mokanna comparisons to another level, correlating Caswall?s descriptions with Moore?s point by point. [8] By my count, the reviewer quotes Moore eleven times in an eighteen-page article and reproduces forty lines of the poem. In the process he describes Joseph Smith as an arch-deceiver and his followers as gullible, violent, and numerous. [9] Other authors followed suit, albeit less thoroughly, emphasizing what they judged to be the deceptions and willingness to be deceived by Mormons in and out of leadership, with special attention to what Moore called ?Dark tangled doctrines.? [10] Others focused on the difficulty of dissidents escaping, bound either by their own oaths, the certainty of preventive violence, and/or the necessity of leaving children behind. [11]

Another tack was to use Mokanna?s veil as a metaphor for hiding information and using the resultant ignorance to manipulate people. [12] A related effort focused on the ?unveiling? or the revealing of the conscious deceit. For example:

Brigham Young, our informant says, keeps himself secluded, and lives in constant danger and fear of the vengeance of his own people, who it seems have at last opened their eyes to his outrageous impostures. ? The prophet has at last been stripped of his veil, and the foul Mokanna stands before his followers with his hideous features revealed. [13]

I think it important to note that, like almost all the polemic imagery I?ve studied, Mokanna comparisons were not unique to Mormonism. For example, in 1871 Punch commented on the Paris Commune with Joseph Swain?s ?The Red ?Mokanna?,? shown below. [14]

SwainJoseph TheRedMokanna Punch 1871Jun03 v60p225

Although every instance I?ve encountered of someone relating Mormons to Mokanna has been pejorative, some people in the late 1800s did not find the story of the veiled prophet too distasteful. The Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan is a charitable organization and a ?Veiled Prophet Organization? in Missouri holds a ?Veiled Prophet Ball? every year; both organizations date to the nineteenth century. [15]

I found one example where the comparison is reversed and, in an analysis of Moore?s poetry, Mormons were used to explain Mokanna, rather than the other way around. [16] I found only one example of a Mormon using Mokanna: Orson F Whitney referred to ?Some Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, / Son of Moses or Mokanna? in a 1918 poem. Whitney included an explanatory note, possibly suggesting that familiarity with the story had waned. [17]

Perhaps the reference to the veiled prophet most familiar to present-day observers of Mormonism is ?The Veiled Prophet of Polygamutah? cartoon published in Vanity Fair in 1860. [18]

VeiledProphetOfPolygamutah VanityFair 1860Feb11 v1p100

Most of the comment of which I am aware focuses on the goat features, particularly the horns. If there is anything in the image or the few hundred accompanying words that suggest a connection to Mokanna, other than the title, I do not recognize it. Perhaps the creators thought the reference sufficient by itself.

Note that Mokanna was regarded by most contemporaries as a Muslim heretic or not Muslim at all. In Lalla Rookh Azim eventually allies himself with a Muslim army that fights Mokanna; the ?mainstream? Muslims are, in a sense—and exceptionally for nineteenth-century European literature—the ?good guys.? Mormon Mokannas thus illustrate the ?Orientalization? of Mormonism but not necessarily a careful ?Islamification.?

Note also the centrality of ?imposture? in anti-Mormon rhetoric in the mid-1800s, as J Spencer Fluhman points out in A Peculiar People. [19]

Finally, I acknowledge a vague similarity among the sounds of Master Mahan, Mahana from Johnny Lingo, the Hindu name Mohana, and Mokanna. I am not aware of any deeper connections.


[1] Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1899 [1817]), frontispiece. Casual perusal of Google Books yields many editions as well as musical and theatrical adaptations. See also comment from 1854: ?a more complete success has rarely attended an author. ?Lalla Rookh? was universally read, admired, and praised.? And so on for a few paragraphs.  No author listed, Article IV, ?Memoirs of Moore,? review of Memoires, Journal, and Correspondence of Thomas Moore, 8 volumes, edited by John Russell (London: 1853), The Edinburgh Review 99.202 (1854 Apr): 503 (494-526).

[2] Samuel Forde, The Veiled Prophet of Kohrassan, sepia ink study, c 1828, held by Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. Photo credit: Dara McGrath.

[3] Very brief summary: Azim goes to war and Zelica, believing him killed, joins Mokanna?s harem hoping that doing so will eventually reunite her with Azim in Paradise. Azim is not dead and, after learning of Zelica?s situation, allies himself with Muslim forces to destroy Mokanna. Zelica, however, is overcome with remorse and, after Mokanna suicides, takes the veil and impersonates him on the battlefield, whereupon Azim attacks and mortally wounds her. Her identity is revealed before she dies, though, and the lovers are reconciled. Azim remains in mourning by Zelica?s grave for the rest of his life, dying shortly after a vision of Zelica.

Left Image: Edward Corbould, ?Zelica Discovering the Veiled Prophet,? illustration in Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1856), non-paginated plate after 130. Right Image: John Tenniel, untitled illustration near ?He raised his veil,? in Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh: An Oriental Romance (London: Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1861), 47.

[4] ?I have taken much pains to be informed correctly about this Danite Band, and I am well satisfied that my information, as above stated, is correct. I have no doubt but that Joe Smith is as lawless and consummate a scoundrel, as ever was the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan. I believe the criminal law in Caldwell county cannot be enforced upon a Mormon.? Thomas C Burch, letter to ?the Governor of Missouri? [Lilburn W Boggs], Richmond, MO, 1838 Oct 23, as reprinted in John Cook Bennett, The History of the Saints: Or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 317 (317-318).

[5] John Cook Bennett, The History of the Saints: Or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842), 219-220.

[6] Some other examples: ?Brigham Young waxing greater in crime, as he grew in years, was at last stricken with death, just five months, to a day, after his faithful tool, Lee, was executed. His seventy-six years of life show nothing worthy of admiration, save his genius as a ruler, and his determined will. The first obtained for him the control over a low, ignorant and lawless people; the latter made him fearless in the exercise of any means, however desperate, that served to perpetuate his power or augment his wealth and influence. ¶ As an individual, he was coarse and beastly; a sensualist, a hypocrite, and a tyrant. His rule was founded in theft and trickery, and perpetuated by fraud and violence. In the course of an unusually long life, he was never known to do a generous or unselfish action, and it is safe to say that he did not possess a single disinterested friend; being incapable of knowing, or inspiring such a feeling as true friendship. ¶ If we search history for his prototypes, we find him a mixture of Mokanna, the veiled prophet of Kohrassan, and that terrible chief of the assassins, the Old Man of the Mountain. No danger could bend him from his purpose; no crime appalled him, and no treachery dismayed. Without a single virtue, he died as he had lived the [536] victim of his appetites; his fatal illness being brought on by eating an enormous mess of green corn and half-ripe peaches. So perished this prophet of treachery and assassination; this apostle of fraud and lust.? Frank Triplett, Conquering the Wilderness (Minneapolis: The Northwestern Publishing Company, 1883), 535-536. (Triplett quoted a different part of Lalla Rookh (?The Fire Worshippers?) as a decorative quote in a discussion of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1885, Frank Triplett, History, Romance and Philosophy of Great American Crimes and Criminals (New York: ND Thompson Publishing Co, 1885), p 196.

[Of Brigham Young]: ?In 1850 President Filmore appointed Brigham Young governor; in 1854 another governor was sent out, but Brigham would not be replaced. ?I am, and shall be, Governor of Utah,? said he, ?and no power shall remove me till the Almighty says, ?Brigham, I don?t want you in this post any longer.?? He kept his word. To the time of his death, 1877, he broke every power sent to break him, and was, de facto, supreme ruler to the last. For thirty-three years this Mokanna may be said to have nominated every officer in Utah. He was president of the ?Saints,? and all legislative, executive and judicial offices were in his gift.? M.A.C., ?About the Utah Saints,? American Catholic Quarterly Review 20.79 (1895 Jul): 494 (486-500).

?It is but too manifest that Brigham Young deems Mr. Pierce to hold the attitude of one willing to wound and yet afraid to strike; and bold and insulting is in consequence the tone, and exulting and braggart the bearing of the Mokanna of Deseret.? No author listed, credited to San Francisco Herald, 1855 Sep 12, ?Brigham Young and the Utah Question,? The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 1855 Nov 23 Fri, p 3, col 2.

??Thank you,? said Amy, ?but I shouldn’t like to preside over a Mormon establishment. I don’t think I’ll come to the High Street, Gerald, except for visits. A flat in Pimlico would suit me better. I was thinking of that last year. I shall see these people through [311] their troubles, and then make other plans. I know Mokanna will one day meet with the reward of his deeds at the hands of some incorruptible keeper if I stay here through the spring, and bribery and corruption are expensive. But, Gerald, twenty wives would be superfluous, though I should be glad to think that some day you would have one good one.?? Christabel Rose Coleridge, The Tender Mercies of the Good (London: Isbister & Co, 1895), 310-311.

[7] ?A detailed history of this remarkable Exodus would exhibit in strange alliance the shifty enterprise, practical energy, and shrewd calculation of modern utilitarianism, and the undoubting faith of the middle ages, unshaken by manifest inconsistency or detected imposture; the enthusiasm of the old Crusaders and the fanaticism of Musselman propagandists; an old oriental drama acted over in the New World, by men and women of Yankee origin, united in devout belief in a prophet-martyr who could only be properly characterized as a cross between Sam Slick and the Mokanna of Khorassin. It would do more than this. It would contain the record of a persecution as cruel and remorseless as that which hunted the Huguenots from France, and the Jews from Spain, endured, for the most part, with a patient firmness and heroic persistence, under circumstances of suffering and danger, which go far to reconcile liberal and generous minds to those absurdities or novelties or worship and faith, which were made the excuse of a new Christian crusade on the part of the blackleg and nomadic rascality of the Mississippi valley.? John Greenleaf Whittier, ?The Mormons and Their City of Refuge,? The National Era, Washington, DC, 1850 Aug 15 Thu, vol 4, no 33 (whole no 189), p 130-131 (edition page 2-3), col 6.

[8] No author listed, Article III, ?The Mormon Imposture,? review of The City of the Mormons; or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842 by Henry Caswall (London: Rivingtons, 1842), The Church of England Quarterly Review 13.1 (1843 Jan): 45-63.

The only other example I have from the 1840s comes from one Edmund Flagg, who visited Nauvoo in 1840 and 1844 and reported in 1844 that Joseph Smith was the ?very Mokan[n]a of Nauvoo.? When the account was published in Germany in the 1850s as part of a book by Henry Lewis, the description seems to have been expanded to ?the Mohammed of the nineteenth century, the ?veiled Prophet? (if all the tales are true), the prince of Nauvoo??

Edmund Flagg, as quoted in Henry Lewis, Das Illustrirte Mississippithal: Dargestellt in 80 nach der Natur Aufgenommenen Ansichten vom Wasserfalle zu St. Anthony an bis zum Gulf von Mexico (Düsseldorf: Arnz & Co, 1857), 232-233 [link is to; also available in high resolution at LOC; the text was originally published in parts in 1854-1855]. Henry Lewis, Das Illustrirte Mississippithal, or, The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated, translated by A Hermina Poatgieter and edited by Bertha Heilbron (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 1967), 249. For a discussion and reproduction of another of Flagg?s descriptions of Joseph Smith and Nauvoo that omits any mention of Mokanna (while expanding the comparison to Mohammed, p 221), see William G Hartley, ?Journalist Edmund Flagg?s ?Nauvoo Essay?: A Narrative Based on 1840 and 1844 Visits to Nauvoo and an Interview with Joseph Smith,? Mormon Historical Studies 6.2 (2005 Fall): 215-232.

The only account I have of Flagg?s original English report comes from Bertha L Heilbron, who edited A Hermina Poatgieter?s translation of Lewis?s 1857 German back into English. The German is: ?Der erste Eindruck, den der Prophet auf uns machte, war keineswegs zufriedenstellend für uns, und ebensowenig schmeichelhaft für, ?unseren Wirth.? ?Ist dies der Mormonen-heros? dachten wir, der weitberühmte Gründer einer neuen und merkwürdigen Glaubens-Secte, der Mahomed des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, der ?verschleierte Prophet,? (wenn alle Geschichtchen wahr [233] sind), der Fürst von Nauvoo? ?Wahrlich, dieser war der Mann nicht, den wir zu sehen erwartet hatten. Aber gewöhnlich täuscht man sich in solchen Fällen in seinen Vorstellungen.? Poatgieter?s translation is: ?The first impression the Prophet made on us was not at all satisfactory to me and certainly not flattering to our host. ?Is this the Mormon hero,? we thought, the far-famed founder of the new and strange sect, the Mohammed of the nineteenth century, the ?veiled Prophet? (if all the tales are true), the prince of Nauvoo? Truly this was not the man we had expected to see. But one is usually disappointed in such cases by one?s preconceptions.? Heilbron?s note (note 452, page 249) is: ?Editor’s Note: In describing Smith as a modern Mohammed, the translator took liberties with the English original, which branded the Mormon leader as the ?very Mokan[n]a of Nauvoo.? The reference is to an impostor known as the ?veiled Prophet of Khorassan,? in Thomas Moore?s Lalla Rookh. E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 585 (London, 1870).? Flagg is identified by last name in the text, but Heilbron gives the earlier source (note 444, page 247): ?Editor’s Note: The description of Nauvoo in the two paragraphs below has not been located, but the rest of the narrative from this point to p. 258 is from Flagg?s paper, the Evening Gazette of St. Louis, where it appeared on May 11, 16, 18, and 23, 1844, as a series of letters to the editor. Lewis replaced with a more up-to-date account the description of Nauvoo published in the same paper for May 9, 1844, when the Temple was in process of construction. Flagg saw Nauvoo in 1840 and in June, 1844, according to his description of the community in Dana, ed. The United States Illustrated: The West, 41, 42, 43.?

[9] I find this reviewer?s use of Moore to so remarkably and poetically encapsulate many of the themes of 1840s anti-Mormonism that, even though it goes on a bit long, I?ve reproduced all the Mokanna/Moore references below. The page number in the review comes first, followed by the page number in an 1899 edition of Lalla Rookh (LR; Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1899).

47: ?And ne?er did Faith with her smooth bandage bind / Eyes more devoutly willing to be blind? (LR 37);

48: ?at the head of myriads, blind and fierce? (LR 52);

48-49: ?Like his prototype, the veiled prophet of Khorassan, [49] whose adventures formed one of the themes of Moore?s elegant Persian romance, Joe Smith finds himself surrounded by followers ?all bravery and belief.? [LR 36]

On either side, with ready hearts and hands,
His chosen guard of bold Believers stands;
Young fire-ey?d disputants, who deem their swords,
On points of faith, more eloquent than words. [LR 33]

? ?It seems, therefore, that the arch imposter, like the veiled prophet, may prophecy of his raving votaries that they shall build him—

—? altars in their zeal,
Where knaves shall minister, and fools shall kneel;
Where Faith may mutter o?er her mystic spell—
Written in blood—and bigotry may swell
The sail he spreads for Heaven with blasts from hell!? [LR 110]

?Joe Smith, it appears, does not fail to take full advantage of the miserable superstition of his followers:

And well the imposter knows all lures and arts
That Lucifer e?er taught to tangle hearts.? [LR 101]

?When any outrageous claim is to be made on the hardly-earned sovereigns of the deluded emigrants who join his followers, the wily ?prophet? forthwith has a ?revelation,? which he solemnly promulgates to his admiring dupes, and thus manages to make them

—?think ev?n damning falsehood sweet.? [LR 50]

54: ?This lady [ie, Joseph Smith?s mother] seems to be an important aid in Joseph Smith?s designs. She has revelations also, and—

?Instant the bold blasphemer will translate
Her ravings into oracles of fate.? [LR 103]

56: ?After this picture of Joe Smith, it may be said to his followers—

?There, ye wise Saints, behold your light, your star,
Ye would be dupes and victims, and ye are.
Is it enough?? [LR 108]

57: ?But our readers have had enough of this disgusting levity. From all this craving for miracle, it appears that the sarcastic bitterness of language, in which the poet makes the veiled prophet speak as follows, applies to the followers of Joe Smith:—

?Ye, too, believers of incredible creeds,
Whose faith enshrines the monsters which it breeds;
Who, bolder ev?n than Nimrod, think to rise,
By nonsense heap?d on nonsense, to the skies;
Ye shall have miracles, aye, sound ones too,
Seen, heard, attested, everything—but true
[58] Your preaching zealots, too, inspired to seek
One grace of meaning for the things they speak;
*              *              *              *
They shall have mysteries—aye, precious stuff
For knaves to thrive by—mysteries enough,
Dark, tangled doctrines, dark as fraud can weave,
Which simple votaries shall on trust receive,
While craftier feign belief, till they believe.?

?Of course his followers could not have supposed of Joseph Smith, that, however able he might be to condescend to ?speak as a mere man,? he could be guilty of the frailties of one, or that the ?servant of the Lord? was a servant also of the rosy god; and that, like Mokanna, in his retirement—

?Beside him, ?stead of beads and books of prayer,
Which the world fondly thought he mused on, there
Stood vases, filled with Kishmee?s golden wine,
And the red weepings of the Shiraz vine;
Of which his curtain?d lips full many a draught
Took zealously.?

?But hear Mr Caswall? [quote of Caswall reporting that Mormons, including J Smith, drank considerably].?

[10] Examples: ?Another question is often asked, ?Do Mormons really believe in this monstrous delusion? Are they honest and sincere in the profession of their so-called religion?? ¶ The answer must be in the affirmative, as to the generality of the Mormon people. As to the leading men, many of whom have more than ordinary intelligence, it is hard for a novice to believe that they are sincere. But, on the other hand, it must be borne in mind that many of these leaders have been born, or brought up from childhood in the Mormon faith, and all experience teaches us that men of ordinary good sense sometimes believe in the most absurd religious creeds in which they were born and brought up. Besides, a curious and not uncommon phase of self delusion is thus delineated in the ?Veiled Prophet of Khorassan:? ¶ ?Dark tangled doctrines, dark as fraud can weave, / Which simple votaries shall on trust receive, / And wiser fain belief till they believe.?? Ambrose Bolivar Carlton, The Wonderlands of the Wild West, With Sketches of the Mormons (no publication place or publisher given, 1891), 45.

?The after thought has been alluded to; the enlarging of original intentions; was at the suggestion of Sidney Rigdon, of Ohio, who made his appearance, and blended himself with the poorly devised scheme of impostures about the time the book was issued from the press. ? Designing, ambitious, and dishonest, under the semblance of sanctity and assumed spirituality, he was just the man for the uses of the Smith household and their half dupe and half designing abettors; and they were just the fit instruments he desired. He became at once the Hamlet, or more appropriately perhaps, the Mawworm of the play. Like the veiled Prophet Mokanna, he may be supposed to have solilioquized: ?[quotes 16 lines from Moore about ??believers of incredible creeds, / Whose faith enshrines the monsters which it breeds.?]? After the Moore quote the author switches to a comparison with Mohammed. Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham?s Purchase, and Morris? Reserve (Rochester, NY: William Alling, 1852), 216-217. Pre-publication extract printed in ?Origin of the Mormon Imposture,? Minnesota Pioneer, St Paul, MN, 1851 Aug 21, p 1. ?Mawworm? was a character in the play, The Hypocrite by Isaac Bickerstaffe, 1769, adapted from Moliere?s Tartuffe.

[11] Examples: ?Baron de Hübner states that the community not only live in utter subjection to this man, but are in fact his prisoners; that his rule recalls that of the Caesars, when (in the words of Gibbon) ?to resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly;? that any fair victim of polygamy who should dream of a separation or divorce, would find herself in the condition of Zelica in the ?Veiled Prophet,? when she consents to fly with Selim: ¶ ?Scarce had she said / These breathless words, when a voice deep and dread, / Rang through the casement near, ?Thy Oath! Thy Oath!? ¶ Any recalcitrant or troublesome member is put out of the pale of the law, and his goods are confiscated.? No author listed, Article VIII, Review of Promenade autour du Monde [French], 5th edition, by Le Baron de Hübner (Paris: 1877) and its translation into English as A Ramble Round the World, &c, translated by Lady Herbert of Lea (London: 1874), The London Quarterly Review, American Edition, 143 (1877): 135 (124-144). Reprinted as No author listed, ?A Ramble Round the World,? Littell?s Living Age, 5th series, 17.1711 (from beginning, vol 132, 1877 Mar 31): 781 (771-791).

?Verily, the most wretched women on earth were in this happy valley by Jordan?s stream. To see them pour out of the huge, ugly tabernacle of a bright Sunday afternoon was to look upon a sea of faces from which all love and graciousness seemed banished and on which sin and sorrow and unsanctified suffering had left [318] indelible traces. They were of every age and of almost every country. It is true that they were to a great extent of the lowest and most degraded classes. But there were among them, too, women of education and so-called refinement, who had been lured into this seething vortex by the deceitful tongues of Mormon missionaries. Why did not these leave? Because they could not. There was neither ingress nor egress save through the terrible Mokanna; if they did leave, they would lose their way of living, such as it was; and worst of all to a woman?s heart, they would never again see their unfortunate children. Poor creatures, they regarded their fate as the inevitable to which they must, per force, reconcile themselves. And, in the midst of the tortures of their hideous condition, they would say, with a sort of blasphemous resignation: We are made to suffer; we must go on suffering; we must bear our awful cross; we must live our religion. God wills it.? MAC, ?A Glance at the Latter-day Saints (?),? The Irish Monthly 18.204 (1890 Jun): 317-318 (309-319).

[12] Examples: ?Mr. Murphy visited Salt Lake City, had an interview with Brigham Young, and gives a description of the Mormon Church. His habits of careful observation make anything he says valuable, but we are beginning to get a little tired of visits to Salt Lake City and interviews with Brigham Young. We are more interested in his trip through Southern Utah where Mormonism is undisturbed by Gentile influences, and it is firmly believed that President Young is enveloped by a continual halo of yellow-rayed glory, and that his face beams [205] with the radiance of God. In Utah, a distance of some 200 miles seems to answer the purpose of Mokanna?s veil.? No author listed, ?Notices,? review of Rambles in North-Western America from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains by John Mortimer Murphy (London: Chapman and Hall, 1879), The Foreign Church Chronicle and Review 4.15 (1880 Sep 01): 204-205 (202-205).

?Perhaps some readers are disposed to inquire, What are the religious tenets of the Mormons? That is a question much more easily asked than satisfactorily answered. Neither Smith, the founder of the church, if it is not sacrilege to call this community a church, nor any one of the five who composed, with him, its members at the original gathering at Fayette, had an idea of any definite religious faith, or a capacity to explain it, if any had been formed, with the exception probably of Rigdon. It was not by any means a leading object with them to hold any faith or make any profession. Smith was a veiled prophet. He was careful to conceal the sight of his Golden Bible, under penalty of immediate death to those who should look upon it. It may be supposed that the peculiar doctrines and articles of faith held by the prophet were affected with the same fatal effulgence as the Golden Bible; for we believe it is a fact, that to the present time both are nearly alike unknown to mortal sight and sense. What few propositions are stated for the belief and guidance of the church, are contained in the revelations delivered from time to time by Smith, as suited his purposes for the moment. He had no fixed design or established platform of faith.? W. J. A. B., Article III, ?The Origin and Fate of Mormonism,? The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany 53.2 (4th series, 18.2; 1852 Sep): 218-219 (201-228). Reprinted, without attribution, in No author listed, Article IV, ?The Origin and Progress of Mormonism,? review of The Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints: with Memoirs of the Life and Death of Joseph Smith, the ?American Mahomet? (London: Office of the National Illustrated Library, 1852), The British and Foreign Evangelical Review and Quarterly Record of Christian Literature 1.3 (1852 Nov): 571 (556-578).

[13] No author listed, credited to the St. Joseph Gazette, ?Gold! Gold!! From Our Exchanges,? Nebraska City News, Nebraska City, NE, 1858 Sep 18, vol 4, no 37, p 2, col 5. Example from fiction: ?Miss Blandford, you are now a sincere devotee—you believe in the Mormon creed—you place implicit confidence in Mormon professions of virtue. But Mokanna must soon raise his veil; and then you will see the sensuality, hypocrisy, and murder, which form the base of the Mormon faith. Your pure heart will be shocked with the practices at Salt Lake—your sensibilities wounded by the miseries resulting from polygamy. It will be too late then to escape the evils around you.? Thomas Dunn English, The Mormons: Or, Life at Salt Lake City. A Drama in Three Acts, play, Act 1, scene 1, Eagle Eye [Walter Markham in disguise] to Mary Blandford, (New York: Samuel French, 1858), 6.

[14] Joseph Swain, ?The Red ?Mokanna?,? Punch, Or the London Charivari 60 (1871 Jun 03): 225. Amid smoking rubble and debris, a young woman, possibly Marianne, barefoot, with a torn dress, and with ?France? written on her sleeve hides her face from Mokanna, who is raising his veil. The back of the veil says ?Commune.? A smoldering torch and some sort of crown (with what looks like four fleur-de-lis on it) are on the ground near the woman. Mokanna?s headband has something written on it, possibly ?Liberté.? The caption says: ?The Red ?Mokanna.?? On the second and third line in smaller print: ??Here—judge if Hell, with all its power to damn, / can add one curse to the foul thing I am!? —Lalla Rookh.?

[15] I don?t know if the two groups are related. I haven?t looked into either group?s activities in detail, but a casual search turned up a parade in Ogden in 1916. ?El Sabakah Temple of the Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan will convene for the fall ceremonial in K. of P. hall at Ogden Saturday, Nov. 25. H. H. McCartney, the royal vizier, commander of the faithful, has sent word to all the sons of Allah that the caravan is now forming for the first great pilgrimage across the hot sands of the desert. ¶ The delegates will convene at 7:30 p. m, sharp. A business meeting will be held at Salt Lake City immediately before the departure of a special car for Ogden over the Bamberger line. ¶ The caravan will arrive at Ogden at 6:15. The grand parade will form at 6:30, including votaries, tyros and animals, real camels and a royal Bengal tiger. ¶ The divan will convene at 7:30; obligation of tyros at 7:45; the test in the cloister, 8 p. m.; ?Lift Up the Fallen,? 8:15; motto of the order, 8:20; Mokanna, for tyros with tender feet, 8:30; leave for Hermitage, 10:30 p. m.; banquet at Hermitage, 11 p. m. ¶ The animals will be turned back into their cages at 8 a m. Maud will be fastened in her stall and the camels will lie down to sleep. The tigers will lick their chops and .smile over thoughts of the great feast of the evening, and the inhabitants of Ogden will retire for a well-earned rest.? No author listed, ?Parade Saturday Is to Be a Novel Affair,? The Ogden Standard, Ogden, UT, 1916 Nov 24 Fri, p 6, col 3.

[16] ?The Veiled Prophet had his emissaries on her track, and like the Mormon missionaries they led her to their chief, with promises of her finding happiness and heaven, and a reunion with her Azim in the land of light And Zelica is thus induced to become an inmate and a priestess in the harem of Mokanna the Veiled Prophet.? William Clarke Robinson, ?Thomas Moore,? in British Poets of the Revolution Age (Burns, Byron, Moore, Scott, Shelley, Wordsworth), 1776?1848 (Belfast: Olley & Co, 1900), 23. Along the same lines, in a piece about taxes, Joseph Smith and the veiled prophet are included as examples of unreliable leaders: ?From every point of view the single tax vagary is wholly beneath logical analysis. It is the foot-ball of political economists, valuable only to develop those muscles of the nether limbs in the use of which the most intellectual philosopher is compelled to descend to a certain rivalry with animals of the baser and more stupid sort in order to give the ball a sounder kick. Such vagaries as these, however, have a peculiar fascination for minds which feel the need of a recrudescence of barbarism. The man who propounds them becomes a sort of Peter the Hermit, or Ponce de Leon, or veiled prophet of Khorassan, or William Miller who induces a great many simpler souls to expect they are going to restore Jerusalem, find the Fountain of Youth, abolish poverty or go up from the house-tops in their night gowns. ¶ So long as the race demands superstitions they will be supplied. The promise of an economic millenium [sic], on this side the grave, through a tax which everybody receives and nobody pays, is as good a superstition as has been foisted on the world since Joe Smith found the Book of Mormon at Palmyra.? No author listed, presumably George Gunton, ?The Single Tax Superstition,? Social Economist 8 (1895 Mar): 149 (139-149). Quoted, with attribution to George Gunton, in No author listed, ?The Single Tax,? The Review of Reviews 11.4 (1895 Apr): 451 (450-452).

[17] Orson Ferguson Whitney, Love and the Light: An Idyl of the Westland (Salt Lake City: Joseph F Smith, 1918), 14-15. The note (Note 14, p 123) said: ?14. Veiled Prophet of Khorassan (p. 14). Al Mokanna, an imposter of the eighth century, in Khorasan, a Persian province. Moore?s poem ?Lallah Rookh? represents him as wearing a veil to conceal a hideous facial deformity.?

[18] The article is ?Latest from Polygamutah? and the image is ?The Veiled Prophet of Polygamutah?; both are on the same page of Vanity Fair 1 (1860 Feb 11): 100.

[19] J Spencer Fluhman. ?A Peculiar People?: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Evidently we’re all speechless.

    This is a great write-up and resource, Edje.

    Comment by Amy T — October 24, 2014 @ 9:57 am

  2. Awesome, Edje. I’m still making my way through your expectedly-lengthy footnotes – this is really fascinating, though.

    Comment by Christopher — October 24, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  3. Thanks for this carefully researched (as always) post. Good point on the distinction between Orientalization and Islamification, too.

    Comment by Saskia — October 24, 2014 @ 11:55 am


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