DoubleThink: The Mopologist Paradigm

1984 Christensen LDSINC MORG

Contents

I. Introduction: That Big Brother Mentality
II. First Vision Vagaries
III. Paradigm Precedent?
IV. Back to Legitimacy
V. The Matthew Brown Comparison
VI. The Presbyterian Problem
VII. Apologist Blather
VIII. The Authentic Documents
IX. The William Smith Problem
X. More Apologetic Vagaries
XI. More Blathering
XII. The David Whitmer Problem
XIII. Book of Mormon Vagaries
XIV: Conclusion

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” …To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.― George Orwell, 1984

I. Introduction: That Big Brother Mentality

Mopology (or DoubleThink) is a fine art to those who practice it. Unlike the laissez-faire attitude of those who would never contemplate embracing it, those who clasp DoubleThink to their bosoms as a modus operandi do so with the best of intentions, because they simply cannot help themselves. Perhaps it is the ingrained Corporate mentality. Then again, it may be attributed to the feelings of brotherhood that arise through their apologia and Corporate Membership. They claim, then disclaim, then disclaim some more. They affirm authority, then deny it in subtle ways. They defend policy, then question it as they follow the whims of Corporate Leadership. They obfuscate, then explicate, full of certitudes but at the same time advocating uncertainty. They accuse others of what they practice as they exculpate themselves from all responsibility. They believe the lie, as all lies lead to “the truth”, which is itself a lie. This is Mopology, a vibrant part of the Mormon community: the defenders of the Corporate Priesthood.

The saga continues…

Earlier this year I posted two articles that deal with Kevin Christensen’s attacks on Jeremy Runnells and his CES letter. You may find them here, and here. Christensen has answered my first article with his typical distorted logic in a 50 page response published in The Apologetic Mormon Interpreter.

Christensen starts out with pointing out one of my mistakes, (my inadvertent miscount of his use of the word “brittle” in his essay).

But then Christensen astoundingly  tries to deflect this by claiming  that “in context [the word is] not always directed at Runnells in particular.” Really? The whole Essay is directed at Jeremy Runnells in particular. Here are the instances where Christensen employs the use of the word “brittle” and “brittleness”:

RUNNELLS presents his information as though making an equation:

RUNNELLS (or anyone) + Questions + Facts = Inevitable Final Negative Conclusion

Comparison with the different conclusions provided by people like Jeff Lindsay, Mike Ash, hundreds of volunteers at FairMormon, Interpreter, FARMS and the current Maxwell Institute, and for that matter, yours truly, well acquainted with the same issues should make it obvious that something other than simple addition of facts is involved.

Investigator [+ |-] Preconceptions/(Adaptive or BRITTLE interpretive framework) x (Questions generated + Available facts/Selectivity + Contextualization + Subjective weighting for significance/Breadth of relevant knowledge) * Time = Tentative Conclusion

Of course, as Jeremy does not follow Christensen’s formula, he is using (or stuck in) the “brittle” framework. He therefore has to reach a negative conclusion. And then this:

So why does my faith [Christensen’s] expand, when RUNNELLS’S faith shatters? BRITTLE things are far more prone to shattering than flexible things.

Yes, Christensen is “Mr. Fantastic,” so, so flexible. And then this:

RUNNELLS misrepresents both the hypotheses and the observations made in theMr. Fantastic essay, overlooking a clear description of real possibilities in favor of an inaccurate and BRITTLE declaration of unacceptable and unreasonable identity. He filters the flexibility and the reason out of the essay when making his own summary. The same mental inflexibility colors every phrase in the paragraph, every page of the letter, and, consequently, RUNNELLS tends to misrepresent every apologetic argument and supporting observation that he complains about. The end result is obvious BRITTLENESS.

^^^^COMPARE Alma 32:18, and Alma’s contrast between people who want to “know” with absolute finality, and those who settle for open-ended “cause to believe.” Closed BRITTLE thinking, contrasted with open-ended, tentative thinking. In describing how faith works, Alma describes how the planting and nurturing of a seed initiates a process in which change in the original seed is a sign of success  Swelling, sprouting, till, “your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” RUNNELLS appears to want an experience in which he plants a seed, comes back to wash off the mud and dirt to find that it remains the same as it ever was. No swelling, no unexpected sprouts, roots, leaves, branches, growth, and certainly no unexpected fruit. To him, nothing that looks or acts differently than the original seed can be good. Expansion, change, growth can only shatter him, like gentle grass bursting through asphalt.

Notice that Jeremy’s name comes up in every instance.  He is compared to the Book of Mormon people’s “closed brittle thinking”. He contrasts Jeremy with a “brittle interpretive framework”. He claims that Runnells is a “brittle thing”. That Jeremy favors “an inaccurate and brittle declaration”, etc. And of course he always reaches that “inevitable final negative conclusion.”

So how are these instances not directed at Jeremy Runnells?  What is far more important though is how disingenuous Christensen is; not my mistaken wordcount.  The rest of Christensen’s rant about Jeremy is the same tired old apologist line that their way, the “offer of more durable and appropriate new wine bottles” is better than anyone else’s, interspersed with his ramblin’ prose. (“Why you ramble, no one knows”). All of this manna from heaven is “provided by people like Jeff Lindsay, Mike Ash, hundreds of volunteers at FairMormon, Interpreter, FARMS and the current Maxwell Institute, and for that matter…” Kevin Christensen.

wine-serverHe claims that Jeremy wants to put new wine in old bottles; but Christensen wants to put bad wine in his shiny new apologist  bottles. This is just more hot air and ramblin’ prose by another Mormon Apologist.

Christensen then claims that I’m not being fair because I called FAIRMORMON unfair.  Here is how he puts it:

Stephenson complains again of my reference to Lindsay’s twenty-plus years of substance and original research, complaining that “For this to be a really accurate comparison, he needs to give Jeremy another 18 or so years to catch up. But since when has FairMormon and its apologists ever been fair?”

Lovely rhetorical question, don’t you think? Blanket insinuation and condemnation about FairMormon without any need to consider specific individuals or address specific arguments. Is the issue acquiring more truth (that is, gaining better knowledge of things as they are, were, and are to come) or fairness? Should we never have to deal with people who know more and have more experience in some area than we do? Should we outlaw parents or teachers or scholars or doctors or plumbers, for example, on the grounds that their experience, effort, training and tools provide an unfair competitive advantage over their children, pupils, readers, patients, or customers?

More lovely red herrings, don’t you think?  Of course their name is FAIRMORMON. It is obvious why they crafted that specific anagram for their name. And notice how Christensen favors his friend Lindsay,

Stephenson claims that I favor Lindsay’s approach because of the conclusions he reached. In truth, I favor Lindsay’s approach and example because I see his arguments and evidence as superior. I explicitly cite and mention Lindsay’s “LDS FAQ (for Frequently Asked Questions) which deals with all of the issues that Runnells raised and more. But Lindsay does so both at greater length, over a much broader span of time, consulting a wider range of sources, providing far more documentation, and including far more original research than Runnells.”

Of course Lindsay’s arguments are greater in length and over a much broader span of time! Lindsay has been at it for 18 years! Talk about totally missing my point. And then he misunderstands my comments:

Of my summary of what Lindsay has accomplished since 1994 as compared to what Runnells offered after one year (two at this writing), Stephenson says, “Yes, one would think that someone who has been a Mormon apologist since 1994 and has had a website for that long would have more documentation and research. This is common sense. Yet it doesn’t stop Christensen from using this against Jeremy.” Heaven forbid that anyone would ever use common sense and superior documentation against any arguments that Runnells offers!

Notice the condescension in “superior documentation in any arguments that Runnells offers.” Christensen is so dense here that he misconstrues my use of the phrase “common sense”. I was applying it to the fact that Lindsay’s arguments were longer and had more substance because he had almost TWO DECADES to produce and refine them. Notice he turns my words “more documentation” into “superior documentation”. Such wishful thinking. Perhaps DoubleThink has addled his brain?

Christensen then blunderingly applies that misrepresentation to the logic of Lindsay’s arguments which I did not ascribe the phrase to. (I ascribed it to the number of them, refined over time with more documentation).  Notice how Christensen deftly does not address the amount of time that Lindsay has had to prepare his apologetic arguments compared to Jeremy.  But is it good documentation and research? Not from what I have seen. And since Christensen’s arguments are cut from the same cloth as Lindsay’s; we will see how that turns out when I address his supposed evidentiary claims below.

FAIR WEBSITE 2004FAIRMORMON had described themselves this way:

FAIRMORMON is a non-profit corporation that is dedicated to helping people deal with issues related to anti-Mormonism

And I did address specific arguments. I’ve done it numerous times on this blog. Why didn’t Christensen notice this? Christensen claims that what they do is give “more truth”, but FAIRMORMON claims that:

…the members of FairMormon are all committed to defending the Church and helping people to maintain their testimonies.

Their default position is “faithful” history. They admit it.  As with the Reflector Article that Christensen whines about, (addressed at length below) we see that FAIRMORMON doesn’t give “more truth” but less. They quote only the parts that seemingly support their own interpretations that promote “defending the Church” and “maintaining testimonies”.

Christensen also turns my comment into something it is not. He Erroneously claims that I must be advocating outlawing parents, teachers, scholars, doctors, plumbers, ad nauseum, on the grounds that they would “provide an unfair competitive advantage”. Frankly, I don’t know on what basis he gets this rant from, (other than to produce a slur) but I implied nothing of the kind. Christensen is just throwing down more red herrings with these kinds of wacky comments.

I only commented (rather tongue in cheek) that what FAIRMORMON publishes is not FAIR, because they only want to publish “faith promoting” material and manipulate the evidence to get that outcome. I have lots of examples right here on my blog.   Here is one example, called…  “Playing Fair”.

Perhaps they should then change their name to TRUTHMORMON. (As if that would help). I also find it kind of ironic that Christensen acts so vexed about this. After all, he is the one who claimed that point of view determines what the truth really is. He has the truth because he has the Mormon Apologist point of view (as does FAIRMORMON). Simply change your point of view and everything is all right. Facts will magically disappear because you won’t be able to really see them anymore. In other words, DoubleThink it. For example, in his original Essay Christensen claims that,

Runnells claims that “many verses still in the Book of Mormon … hold a Trinitarian view of the Godhead.” Please keep in mind that for Runnells’s complaints to make sense, we have to assume that he is talking about a conventional creedal metaphysical Trinity which postdates the New Testament. But it helps to remember that a social Trinity is still a Trinity, since the word merely means three. The issue is whether a close contextual reading of the Book of Mormon leads to a metaphysical Trinity, or to a social Trinity. I have found that contextualizing is a much better approach than reading passages of ancient scripture in isolation, and interpreting them against what usually turns out to be anachronistic assumptions.

All well and good, except the God that Joseph Smith was teaching to his followers (found in the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible and Church publications) was referred to in an early article by W. W. Phelps. He wrote,

“Through Christ we understand the terms on which God will show favour and grace to the world, and by him we have ground of a PARRESIA access with freedom and boldness unto God. On his account we may hope not only for grace to subdue our sins, resist temptations, conquer the devil and the world; but having ’fought this good fight, and finished our course by patient continuance in well doing, we may justly look for glory, honor, and immortality,’ and that ‘crown of righteousness which is laid up for those who wait in faith,’ holiness, and humility, for the appearance of Christ from heaven. Now what things can there be of greater moment and importance for men to know, or God to reveal, than the nature of God and ourselves the state and condition of our souls, the only way to avoid eternal misery and enjoy everlasting bliss!

“The Scriptures discover not only matters of importance, but of the greatest depth and mysteriousness. There are many wonderful things in the law of God, things we may admire, but are never able to comprehend. Such are the eternal purposes and decrees of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the manner of the operation of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men, which are all things of great weight and moment for us to understand and believe that they are, and yet may be unsearchable to our reason, as to the particular manner of them.” (The Evening And Morning Star, Vol. I, Independence, Mo. July, 1832. No. 2, 12).

What Phelps was speaking of here, was a widely held belief at the time of the nature of God. (One God, three personages, one substance) This, Phelps claims, was incomprehensible, but was a “wonderful thing.” This was not some “social trinity”, but an incomprehensible “metaphysical” Trinity. Joseph Smith much later in his career disparaged the Trinity Doctrine thusly:

Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow — three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization… All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God — he would be a giant or a monster. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372)

Jeremy did not make an anachronistic assumption, but based his observations on contemporary evidence. Christensen’s “point of view” doesn’t change what they were referring to in 1832, (found in the Book of Mormon and Church publications) which was definitely not a “social trinity”. (See also The Lectures on Faith, Lecture V). And yes, Joseph authorized Phelps to set forth doctrine in Church publications:

…we wish you to render the [Evening and Morning] Star as interesting as possable by setting forth the rise progress and faith of the church, as well as the doctrine for if you do not render it more interesting than at present it will fall, and the church suffer a great Loss thereby (Joseph Smith, letter to W. W. Phelps, January 11, 1833).

Christensen, in his typical narcissistic fashion, claims that because he and his cohorts (Jeff Lindsay, Mike Ash, Neal Rappleye, Daniel Peterson, and many others, including himself) still have faith in Mormonism, that somehow those who do not, (like Jeremy Runnells) are brittle. They didn’t water the seed. It’s not a hard concept to understand. But that doesn’t stop Christensen from whining about it.seed-sower-jeremy-sams

Christensen laments that I “nowhere report” that the parable of the sower is foundational to his approach. But it isn’t hard for anyone to miss since that is in the title of his article! So, Christensen and Runnells plant the same seed and get different harvests. That was the whole point wasn’t it? He claims that somehow because he and his fellow apologists still have faith in Joseph Smith and discount/dismiss all the critical evidence about him that somehow (someway) this means that his/their methods are superior. Yeah, I get it.

But if that is so, then why is there still a large group of people following Warren Jeffs? Why did the followers of David Koresh choose to burn with him? Many of those had the evidence right in front of them too, didn’t they?

I’ve never claimed that Christensen and his cohorts don’t study the evidence or are familiar with it. They do and are. What I do claim is that they present evidence in disingenuous ways (withholding information, partial and out of context quoting, etc.), which they substitute for actual evidence to suit their own agenda: to stay faithful. (Embracing DoubleThink) We will once again see how Christensen blatantly does this below with David Whitmer and the claimed 1820 vision accounts.

Christensen then puts words into my mouth claiming that my “portrait” of LDS Apologists is that they are “money-seeking spin doctors.” Though I have claimed that they are spin doctors (that much is obvious), I’ve never claimed they were “money-seeking”.  (Is there some psychological issue embedded in his subconscious?) And he complains about my rhetoric! And what does Lindsay’s job have to do with this?  He works at a Paper Company in Shanghai. According to him, his areas of expertise are,

Open innovation, intellectual property strategy, new business development, biomaterials, bioproducts, external business development, alliances and licensing, innovation systems, technology scouting, private brand development, value network analysis, university-industry relationships, public speaking, amateur magic, and photography. Technical experience includes cellulose chemistry (a subject of several of my chemical patents), consumer products manufacturing, fluid flow in fibrous media, recycling and deinking, multiphase flow and heat transfer, predictive test methods and test method development, fiber-water interactions in paper and cellulosic materials, etc. I am also a registered patent agent before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and have a strong interest in patents and patent law.

Wonderful achievements, to be sure. He’s certainly a smart guy. Does this make him less susceptible to spinning the evidence in favor of his faith claims? I don’t see him listed as any kind of Mormon “Authority”.  Why would Lindsay’s résumé be troubling for me?  I’m not criticizing his work on Paper Products or cellulose chemistry. (That would be a rather foolish endeavor, to be sure). But leave it to Christensen to claim that this somehow has relevance. How about the actual issues of Mormonism that Jeremy cites? Let’s see if their arguments stand up in that area.

Christensen writes,

Nowhere have I argued that because I had a spiritual experience when I was 19, Runnells must be wrong, so I don’t have to reply to his arguments.

I didn’t claim that he did. I claimed that his paradigm was misapplied because he claimed to know and this disqualifies him from his own equation. (tentative conclusion) Remember Christensen’s equation:

Investigator [+ |-] Preconceptions/(Adaptive or brittle interpretive framework) x (Questions generated + Available facts/Selectivity + Contextualization + Subjective weighting for significance/Breadth of relevant knowledge) * Time = TENTATIVE CONCLUSION.

But Christensen claimed a sure knowledge that Moroni was real. Is this a panacea against future problems? No. (As Christensen notes). Many people that claimed the same apostatized. But it excludes him from his equation now and makes it far more difficult to evaluate critical new evidence that might change his mind. Can Christensen claim this about critics? Oh, absolutely. But he goes off the rails in claiming that we are not open to new evidence. I sure am, as is Jeremy. But none of it that I’ve analyzed in depth has been enough to persuade me that Joseph Smith really was a “prophet, seer & revelator” for God. Christensen argues the opposite. Fair enough. It is not this that I have a problem with, but his analysis of the evidence and his penchant for narcissistic formulas that he claims lead to believing his “superior” interpretations of the evidence.

Joseph & Moroni, photo by grindael

Joseph & Moroni, Hill Cumorah, photo by grindael

And I don’t just point to critics arguments, and neither does Jeremy. We quote Apologist arguments. We analyze them. We advocate openness and fairness in quoting all sides. We provide live links to critics arguments. See my analysis below where I actually quote Matthew Brown and contrast his conjectures with the evidence, something that Christensen doesn’t do and never has done with Jeremy’s arguments. (The few that he addresses).

He simply references whole books and chapters of the Bible, or quotes selected passages that seem to favor their interpretation, or references FAIRMORMON, or Apologist articles. He also condemns Jeremy for not doing so in the CES letter which was never an Essay (as Christensen constantly calls it) but a letter highlighting things Jeremy found questionable about Mormonism.

His knowing always trumps the evidence even though he says it does not. Why then, write a formula for keeping the “faith” and claim that it works and give yourself as an example? (Over and over and over again). Does Christensen know the future? Does he know that he won’t encounter evidence that will cause him to apostatize? So he seems to be claiming. Did that save former apologists like Kevin Graham, Kerry Shirts, myself, or a host of others? I guess that all of us were simply “brittle”. What I object to is Christensen’s simplistic logic that all of this is easily solved by his pseudo scientific equations and the rather trite use of Jesus parables. (Like no one has ever encountered the Parable of the Sower before).

Apologists like Kerry Shirts and Kevin Graham were committed Mormon Apologists that studied all the same information that Christensen claims that he did. How does Christensen’s magic formula apply there? Again, Christensen takes the simplistic CES Letter and thinks that is the sum of all Jeremy’s knowledge and condemns him for not quoting Mormon Apologists in it.

Christensen has got “flexible” faith while Jeremy is “brittle” and unbending. Sure thing. “Spiritual experiences” and “faith beliefs” are not scientifically quantifiable. To try to apply Kuhn or Barbour to faith claims is ultimately a misuse of their formulas, as others have stated elsewhere. Christensen’s ramblings are simply esoteric jargon that he has cobbled together by misapplying Kuhn and others, something that “Big Brother” would be proud of.

Christensen goes on about how what we seek is what we find and how we process information “all matters to both the course their journey takes and where they end up.”

Well duh. That is not what I’m arguing against. (Though I’m not convinced that we always find what we seek). I definitely was not seeking to find Brigham Young’s teachings on Adam, nor was I seeking to lose my testimony. Christensen claims that his and Lindsay’s way is better because they have retained their “faith”, and that you can apply misconstrued scientific formula to faith claims. But Christensen can’t explain how, (not in any coherent manner)  other than he never lost his “testimony” (because of “superior” research by his Mormon Apologist buddies).  He wants you to discount real evidence that is critical to Mormonism by using his pseudo scientific formula which favors getting information from Mormon Apologists. If you don’t, you are “brittle” and your faith will “shatter”. Look at Christensen, still strong in the faith because he uses his presto chango, super duper scientific formula while poor Jeremy did not.

Yes, just use Christensen’s magic formula and you will retain your faith. It is therefore better than Jeremy’s reasoned decision because Christensen has retained his faith. How, because he used his magic formula. This is simply circular reasoning gone wild.

Again, the followers of Warren Jeffs can claim the same thing as can those who follow any faith. (We kept ours but you didn’t, nah, nah, nah…) Why many choose to accept and others reject is because of their own evaluation of the evidence and how it impacts them. The truth really is the truth. There are problems quantifying any faith claims. There is no formula that can predict what people will do in relation to those faith claims. But Christensen won’t accept that, all can “retain the faith” by using his formula, and there must be something wrong with people who do not.

My gripe is that Christensen vilifies Jeremy for not doing things his way, and that Christensen’s way somehow validates his version of historical events. He talks like he is all cool with Jeremy and that,

I don’t think that he is being intentionally deceptive, or betraying my trust.

What trust? Yet his rhetoric tells a different story:

In approaching the Book of Mormon, we could do what Runnells does; look for imperfection, and then display indignation and shock.

Jeremy is a real person, not Christensen’s caricature. Was Jeremy looking for imperfection? Not according to his story that Christensen never tells. And again,

Runnells looks only for imperfection in Mormonism.

Did he do so when he served his 2+ year mission and when he was a faithful Mormon for years? To Christensen, Jeremy’s analysis of the evidence is looking for imperfection.

But it is Christensen that misrepresents Jeremy by claiming he “ignores all LDS scholarship” and “misrepresents every apologetic argument”. He calls Jeremy a hypocrite with this jab:

Notice too that the closest Runnells comes to actually defining translate is when he complains that according to unnamed “unofficial apologists” the word “translate doesn’t really mean translate.” This would be a good place to explain what the word means in the context of what Joseph Smith actually did. We need to do a bit of eye checking here.

Notice that Christensen uses variations of the word “complain” 22 times in his initial essay about Jeremy. Christensen of course, is referring to what Jesus said,

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, italics mine)

He is calling Jeremy a hypocrite, yet he is not doing so intentionally? Right. Christensen claims,

Runnells sets out his own expectations of what he expects to find…

How does Christensen know what Jeremy “expects/expected to find”? That is not how Jeremy characterized himself at all. This is simply an ad hoc assumption of Christensen’s and it makes Jeremy seem as if he had an agenda from the beginning. This is simply dishonest of Christensen. Christensen “finds” what he wants to find, by a “closer reading” of the Book of Mormon (that conflicts with Mormon “Authorities” statements) yet Jeremy is the one who set his own expectations?

Rather, it was Mormon “Authorities” that set his expectations, but Christensen discounts their authoritative declarations, and assumes that Jeremy should have too. The Book of Mormon does not describe any “pre-existing populations” but claims that they land was empty, a promised land for only the righteous that God led them to. (Ether 2:10,  2 Nephi, 1:5-11). But Christesnsen’s alternative/unofficial reading of the Book of Mormon based on a Mormon Apologetic agenda finds something totally different, so he is right and Jeremy and the Mormon “Authorities” are wrong. (DoubleThink again).

Mormon Apostle J. Reuben Clark taught:

“The Lord took every precaution to see that nothing might interfere with this posterity of Joseph in working out their God-given destiny and the destiny of America. He provided, and so told Lehi at the very beginning of his settlement, that: . . it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations ; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance. (2 Nephi 1:8.) The Lord so kept the land for a thousand years after Lehi landed. He so kept it in His wisdom for another thousand years after the Nephites were destroyed, perhaps to give the Lamanitish branch another chance.” (“Prophecies, Penalties, and Blessings,” Improvement Era, 1940, v. xliii., July 1940. no. 7).

And Spencer W. Kimball, the “Prophet” stated authoritatively:

“About twenty-five centuries ago, a hardy group left the comforts of a great city, crossed a desert, braved an ocean, and came to the shores of this, their promised land. There were two large families, those of Lehi and Ishmael, who in not many centuries numbered hundreds of millions of people on these two American continents.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 601, thanks, MormonThink).

B.H. Roberts (Mormon “Authority”),

Lehi’s colony, it must be remembered, came to an empty America, so far as human inhabitants were concerned—according to the Book of Mormon accounting of things.  (B.H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, p.252).

Yet, these authoritative statements (which of course are not to the DoubleThinking Christensen) are to be replaced by Mormon Apologists’ disclaimed opinions. (The “real” authorities). Anything to retain the “faith”. To Christensen, this is just Clarke’s opinion and his calling as a prophet and apostle means nothing in relation to teaching correct doctrine. (See his amazing comments about Fielding Smith below).

And of course, B.H. Roberts didn’t read the Book of Mormon correctly, right? He needed to read it like Modern Mormon Apologists do, and then he would have arrived at a totally different rendering of what it said. The correct rendering. I guess all of those Mormon “Authorities” were incapable of closely reading the Book of Mormon. To quote Chris Carter, “Apology is Policy.” DoubleThink is their paradigm. Only sustain Mormon “Authorities” when it is convenient.

Apology is Policy

I was reading a blog article the other day and came across this comment by a believing Mormon who wanted to make a point about the creation of the world and quoted Brigham Young to support it:

Mark: Your list of claims made by the LDS Church is merely a really bad straw man. A global flood — even Brigham Young argued against it. Only 7,000 years old? it is easy to find numerous statements by GAs contrary to this claim.

This comment was made in response to someone posting the current stated doctrine about the creation:

The LDS church is making claims that are testable. The BOM is historical. The earth is 7000 years old. There was a global flood. Etc.

The above comment was supported with this quote, from the Ensign:

“There is a third group of people—those who accept the literal message of the Bible regarding Noah, the ark, and the Deluge. Latter-day Saints belong to this group. In spite of the world’s arguments against the historicity of the Flood, and despite the supposed lack of geologic evidence, we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God’s prophets.”

Then the author of the blog article wrote,

Why is it that only the sources you choose matter? Shouldn’t a good interpretation of LDS positions on something like the flood take into account as many authoritative statements as possible?

Yet, when someone cites Joseph Smith on the contradictory nature of God described in the Lectures on Faith, Blake writes,

Joseph Smith had the same problem when members became attached to one expression of the gospel and then, when further revelation came along, complained that they had been taught something different. One of the hallmarks of the Church is continuing revelation. Our understanding changes due to further revelations — especially in the case of Joseph Smith. Later changes often come from continuing reflection on the revelations received and coming to different (sometimes even better) grasp of what was said. Take for instance the Fifth Lecture on Faith that teaches that the Father is “a personage of Spirit.” It seems to me it is quite easily explained by the fact that it had not yet been revealed to Joseph Smith that the Father had once had a mortal experience and had a resurrected body. It reflects an exegesis of Mosiah 15-16 and D&C 93 primarily and looks to the scriptures and revelations to understand God. The Nephites did not have a complete revelation and Joseph Smith still had further revelations to receive on the issue.

How come the Ensign article (current source of official doctrine) does not trump Brigham Young? Because when apologists want to use Mormon “authorities” to confirm their pet arguments, they do. When something questionable by a Mormon “authority” is quoted by a critic they then claim there needed to be “further revelation” etc., and make up anything to explain away what they don’t ascribe to. Mormon “Authorities” are only cited (or “authoritative”) when it is convenient to prop up apologetic arguments.

There are many other examples I could cite of Chrisensen’s subtle way of denigrating Jeremy. His claim that he doesn’t think that Jeremy is being intentionally deceptive, is just empty rhetoric. Christensen’s original rant about Jeremy is condescending and arrogant and that is the reason for my harsh criticisms of Christensen. We see the falsehood in his words above.

This is the context of Christensen’s use of Jeremy’s quote that he was obsessed with Church History after he discovered many things that troubled him. Christensen paints him as an obsessive moron (remember, he stupidly trusted his leaders had answers and that was all Jeremy’s fault) that never read anything published by Mormon Apologists and therefore didn’t have all the evidence to save his shaken faith, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Because I didn’t expressly state that Jeremy used the word obsessive in relation to his research, Christensen tries to score points off of it:

Stephenson says, “In his introduction, Christensen calls Runnells ‘obsessive’ and contrasts that [Page 102]with Lindsay’s ‘boundless enthusiasm.’ It is obvious where this is going right from the start.” My obviousness seems to be a quality that goes against the grain of a claim that I am disingenuous.

Point of fact: Runnells describes his CES letter as the result of “an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history.” I would have thought that my repeating and quoting his self-description was not an academic crime. I was not attempting any shade of ad hominem, just being a reporter. Oddly enough, Stephenson does not mention my quotation of Runnells’s self-description. Dare I call this a spin of omission?

Here is Christensen’s original quote,

Jeremy T. Runnells is a “disaffected Mormon” who describes the grounds of his loss of faith in a website/pdf document published in 2013 called Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony. He had been an active LDS until 2012, when he read an account of a news article called “Mormonism Besieged by the Modern Age,” which claimed that Mormons were leaving the church in droves. Disturbed, he reports in his 83-page letter that, “All this information is a result of over a year of intense research and an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history.”

Jeff Lindsay, on the other hand, describes himself as an active, believing Latter-day Saint and also an apologist who has been blogging since 1994.

Christensen knows very well that using that particular quote in that particular way mischaracterizes Jeremy. He then states,

That such different responses to the same information can even exist should demonstrate that neither the issues that Runnells raises nor the information he provides is the real cause of his disillusion.

Now Christensen is a mind reader. What Christensen really is saying in his original Essay about Jeremy was that the issues that Jeremy listed in the CES Letter were not the cause of his disillusion. In other words, Jeremy was lying or simply so stupid that he didn’t know himself. But was he? Here is Jeremy’s quote, in context:

I’m just going to be straightforward and blunt in sharing my concerns. Obviously I’m a disaffected member who lost his testimony so it’s no secret which side I’m on at the moment. All this information [contained in the CES Letter] is a result of over a year of intense research and an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history. With this said, I’d be pretty arrogant and ignorant to say that I have all the information and that you don’t have answers. Like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time and I see through a glass darkly. You may have new information and/or a new perspective that I may not have heard or considered before. This is why I’m genuinely interested in what your answers and thoughts are to these troubling problems.

Christensen goes on and on about how Jeremy is brittle and that is because he limited his perspective. But here we see that Jeremy understood that there were other perspectives and invited someone with authority (or access to those who had it) to share them. So what is Christensen’s point? That Jeremy is either lying to himself, or (as Christensen states), he was purposefully looking for “imperfections”. In other words, this was all Jeremy’s fault and Christensen is so much better because he didn’t fall for it.

The way that Christensen presented Jeremy’s quote (in the context of his later statements), made it seem like he just read an article and then began obsessing on Joseph Smith and Church history to look for “imperfections”. Christensen then leaves it there, without showing that Jeremy was still open to answers.  After he saw the article that Christensen mentions, Jeremy wrote,

I started doing research and reading books like LDS historian and scholar Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling and many others to try to better understand what was happening.

But Christensen doesn’t mention any of this. Talk about spins of omission! But Jeremy is “brittle” and unbending, his faith “shattered” by what? Not by what Jeremy discovered, according to Christensen. So what was the “real cause of his disillusion”? That he didn’t buy into Lindsay’s/whoever’s apologetics or their disclaimed opinions and perspectives? Of course. Christensen condemns Jeremy for,

His preference for “official” thought rather than “the best books” is telling (D&C 88:118).

This makes my point, even though Christensen goes to the extreme here. Yet in the Ensign (an official organ of the Church) we read,

Of course, not all knowledge is of equal value. “… There is a great fund of knowledge in the possession of men,” counseled Joseph Fielding Smith, “that will not save them in the kingdom of God. What they have got to learn are the fundamental things of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Doctrines of Salvation (Bookcraft, 1954), 1:291.)

And where do they learn that from? The Church today claims that one can only rely on “official” declarations, etc. for sound doctrine, not on the “opinions” generated without the official stamp of approval by the Prophet and Q12.  But what did Jeremy claim? He said,

One of my goals in writing Letter to a CES Director was to get a response as close to official answers that I could get. I had spent the entire previous year researching the works of LDS scholars Richard Bushman, Hugh B. Nibley, Terryl Givens, Leonard Arrington and a few others as well as the not-so-respected works of the likes of unofficial apologists such as the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FairMormon) and others regarding the serious problems of Mormonism.

Christensen acts like Jeremy never made any statements like this. He claims that because Jeremy didn’t interweave all of the apologetic arguments into his CES Letter, that he must be lying. Still, this was Jeremy’s obsession that he spoke of. To find out all he could so he could better understand the issues and find answers that addressed his concerns. But the Apologist answers that Christensen touts weren’t persuasive to Jeremy.

And where would Jeremy have learned about all those other issues in the CES Letter (after trying to research his initial concerns with “the best books”). FAIRMORMON!

But Christensen continually characterizes Jeremy as having an obsessive agenda to “look for imperfection.” He wasn’t searching for answers or he would have found them in the Mormon Apologists’ explanations. So to Christensen, Jeremy never read them. He lied. Christensen writes,

Runnells, on the other hand, frequently and characteristically offers complaints without acknowledging the existence of well-known responses to issues he raises by the most important and conspicuous LDS authors. Frankly, I don’t see evidence that he has done his homework properly. … I couldn’t give Runnells credit even if I wanted to do so.

Because he didn’t see “evidence” of apologetic arguments in the CES Letter. Christensen’s whole argument is his own fabrication! Again, the Ensign:

As you know by now there is no scarcity of good books to read, study, and ponder. But there is a possibility that you can be so busy pursuing an education and striving to be well-rounded in thought that you neglect the pursuit of those things that matter most in an eternal perspective of life. If you are not careful, you can be so busy reading and studying from good books that you have little time, if any, to pursue a knowledge of the saving principles of the gospel. (Seek Ye Out Of The Best Books, Ensign, August, 1974).

Jeremy is condemned by Christensen for doing what he was counselled to do. Christensen wants to have his cake and eat it too. He criticizes Jeremy for following the instructions of Mormon “authorities” and relying on them for official doctrine and spiritual guidance. To Christensen, Lindsay’s Apologist arguments are better, because to him they are superior. Yet, they are still only LINDSAY’S OPINIONS. Lindsay even has this disclaimer:

The Church has not endorsed my writings (though one early essay on DNA is on the LDS newsroom site for informational purposes). While I strive to be accurate, my writings reflect my personal understanding and are subject to human error and bias.

Can any of those that Christensen cites, (Hugh Nibley, et. al) claim otherwise? (Yes, I know Nibley is dead). Yeah, get your answers from the likes of Neal Rappleye or Mike Ash who has just published a book titled “Bamboozled by the CES Letter”. This is one of the “best books” that Jeremy (or others) should get their answers from? Really?

Ash’s answer for why no remains of horses have been found? Gee wilikers, the jungle ate them. Some day we might find them. Why then, haven’t there been any discoveries in the desert areas of America (for the right time period)? Did the jungle eat them too? Notice how Ash wants to limit where the Book of Mormon people supposedly lived to Central America. And of course, horses were probably only to be found there, too. He can then conveniently claim that the bones disappeared because the jungle ate them, and it’s just too hard to find anything there. This contradicts what Mormon “Authorities” have said, but of course in Christensen’s world “Bamboozled” takes precedence over them.

united_states_500_bc

I’m sure Bamboozled is chock full of other lovely opinions. So who is bamboozling who here?

Time after time Christensen answers Jeremy with the opinions of Mormon Apologists. How is this “superior” to the doctrinal teachings of Mormon “Authorities” when they disclaim their answers as opinions that carry no weight? He then lambastes Jeremy for expecting Mormon “Authorities” to provide him with official answers.  (This is the current trend of Mormon Apologists). For Christensen, Mormon Apologist’s best guesses are “superior”. He also turns Jeremy’s reliance on Mormon “Authorites” for official answers into an expectation for everyone in the Church to have every answer to every question. This stuff is beyond silly.

Notice how Christensen will denigrate what he hasn’t even seen,

He [Stephenson] continues: “Recently, Jeremy and I completed a 458-page response to Brian Hales’ attacks on him and others. One hopes that this might be enough to satisfy those like Christensen, but he will probably complain that it is too long.”

It really depends on the quality of the content, doesn’t it? I have, as it happens, read many lengthy books. Some of them I like a great deal and I have even re-read them. Length and persuasiveness are not the same thing. Nor are scandalous topics and foundational topics necessarily the same thing, nor, in my view, deserving of the same effort.

So polygamy is a “scandalous topic”? I guess Brian Hales really flubbed up when he wrote, what is it… four books on the subject?  Funny how much effort Christensen has put in to decrying the CES Letter. Was he too bamboozled? He worked on his rebuttal to me for months:

I’m currently working on a response to Jeremy Runnells’ friend Johnny Stephenson, who claims that all we have to offer is spin. (Kevin Christensen, Mormon Dialogue & Discussions, May 19, 2015).

Christensen then makes much ado about my comment that his tactic of making critics links dead is Orwellian and shady. Notice that Christensen never addresses why he uses that tactic. He just piles on the hyperbole by claiming that somehow I’m condemning the Joseph Smith Papers. Last I checked, the JSP wasn’t responding to their critics arguments. Their agenda is to release documents. They have been exemplary in doing so. They give readers the chance to evaluate those documents on their own, without presenting them in bits and pieces interspersed with “faithful” commentary as FAIRMORMON does. (They use a series of footnotes for further explanations, and even those are very unapologetic and reasoned).

They are not FAIRMORMON or the INTERPRETER. But how do we get to the Orwellian world of 1984? A little bit at a time and a lot of DoubleThink. Making it less convenient to access information you don’t want people to see. Of course, Christensen has to contrast this with all the other far worse things that Big Brother did. But how did Big Brother get to be Big Brother? A little bit at a time. Try being an active member and criticizing a Mormon “Authority” in public or publishing something. See what happened to Rock Waterman, here. This is not Big Brother watching?

This point seems lost on Christensen but I’m not surprised. And who STILL has the dead links even in their current article?

Christensen claims:

The whole concept of paradigm debate and the influence of theory on experiment design, testing, and interpretation has also been a prominent theme in my LDS writings since my first publication in 1990. And Stephenson’s conspicuous failure to address that basic underlying premise means that the beam in his own eye remains in place to obscure his vision. Everything that follows in his essay suffers thereby.

Well, now I’m a hypocrite. See PART II of my response where I do just that. I guess he didn’t bother to read that. He can find it here. Christensen talks about personal responsibility to be informed, (which should be a must before making accusations of hypocrisy) but he doesn’t even think to check if there was a response somewhere other than Jeremy’s CES site. He had at least five months to find it.  He then writes,

Likewise, Stephenson seems to forget that he is an apologist for Jeremy Runnells and their mutual unfaith, which claims that Joseph Smith fabricated the Book of Mormon. Their conclusions are at as much risk of bias and distortion as mine are — but Stephenson apparently cannot see this. He is objective and rational; all who disagree are merely schizophrenic apologists.

No, not nearly as much as we will see below. Christensen just admitted to bias and distortion. What is my bias? Why would I distort? Can he answer those questions? Has he? No. Don Bradley disagrees with me quite often. I don’t consider him schizophrenic. But then, he doesn’t call me and my friends hypocrites and question their honesty and motives. (Not even subtlety). And I don’t question his. He’s not an Apologist like Christensen.

Notice that Christensen claims that we have mutual “unfaith”. This is an interesting way to describe us but totally wrong. I still have faith, but don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. Is Christensen somehow better than I am because he still has “faith” in Joseph Smith’s claims? Seems so.  He has read and believes the “superior” research. Got it.

And I have no problems with being called an apologist for Jeremy as I was defending him. FAIRMORMON has an army of people arrayed against Jeremy, including Christensen. But I’m just not invested in Jeremy as Christensen is in Mormonism, therefore who has more to lose here? Jeremy is just my friend. I have no reason not to present the evidence in a balanced way the best I can.  I had nothing to do with Mormonism for 25 years after I left the church. I just find Mormon History fascinating. (I always did, even when I was a member of the Church). But I guess that is something that Christensen can’t fathom. I have an “agenda”. No, I just dislike the dishonesty of those Mormon Apologists.

I, in fact, disagree that some of Jeremy’s evidence in the CES Letter should be there. One example is the Vernal Holley maps. We discussed it. Jeremy even sent me the letter and asked me to evaluate some of the claims it makes and provide more source material. Jeremy is open to valid criticisms. He is just not open to being called names by Christensen, however subtle and folksy sounding. He is far from “brittle” and unbending. This is simply an ad hoc assumption concocted by Christensen.

Jeremy can also speak for himself and I’m not going to spend my life defending him as Christensen and Lindsay are obviously spending theirs defending Mormonism.  We will see who is distorting what below when we get into the specific claims, which is what I really want to address instead of Christensen’s 30+ pages of esoteric bullshit and whining.

Ah, and the good old “rhetorical effects.” Well, where was I not accurate? Christensen just doesn’t like the word peepstone it seems, even though Mormon Authorities have done the reverse, calling what anyone besides a Mormon “prophet” used, that very thing. Here is Marion G. Romney from 1956:

Now, the Prophet gave other tests applicable to special claims and doctrines, of which the following two are typical.

(1) He made it clear that there is never more than one man on the earth at a time authorized to receive revelations for the Church. This principle answered the claims of the purported peepstone revelations. (Conference Report, April 1956, p.73).

Is this just for rhetorical effects? Here is Marvin S. Hill doing the same thing,

Opposition to Joseph came from the followers of Hyrum Page, who had a peepstone and had received a handful of revelations of his own. About this time, Smith had ceased to rely heavily upon his own seerstone for inspiration, and the change was disturbing to Cowdery and the Whitmers. (Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge, p.28).

Why did Romney not use “seer stone” in relation to those revelations he did not deem as “authentic” to the truth claims of Mormonism? In all actuality, they were called both peepstones/peekstones and seerstones. I’ve made it clear that I disbelieve that Joseph Smith was a “seer”, so why should I pander to Christensen’s obvious bias? And I suppose that Dale Morgan should be accused of the same thing:

That the senior Joseph did much to launch his son upon his troubled career as a diviner and peepstone seer, that his unbounded extravagance of statement as to the wonders his son could see contributed largely to his celebrity, is clear from all accounts; the more fantastic stories of Joseph’s early powers and the marvels he discerned are to be traced back to the wagging tongue of his father.(John Phillip Walker, Dale Morgan, p.229).

Mike Quinn writes,

The excavation of the Logan (Utah) temple site during the 1880s unearthed a stone which a local woman (“Peepstone Lady”) used to locate lost animals and the body of a missing person. (D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p.203)

Joseph.Smith.Whitmer.Farm.Winter_1830.Just this year, Mike Quinn wrote,

The second object of divine revelation that LDS headquarters has recently publicized is the brown-colored seer stone that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon in 1829. In 2015, the Church officially clarified a century of misconceptions about how the translation occurred. I must admit that the official photographs of his artifact are stunning, and I can see why Joseph Smith refused to give it [back] to Willard Chase after the farmboy found  while digging a well on Chase’s property. Like the common seer stones or “peek stones” in early America, Mormonism’s founding prophet dictated the translation while looking at the brown stone in a hat held close to his face for about six weeks during 1829. (D. Michael Quinn, Using Material Objects to “Receive” Revelations, Sunstone Symposium, 18 October, 2015, 5)

Jan Shipps called it a peepstone in The Prophet Puzzle. Is she guilty too, of  simple “rhetorical effects?” Of having an agenda and distortion? Does Christensen want to criticize her for that? Good luck with that.

So are we to call what Joseph used a “peepstone” when he looked for buried treasure and then a “seerstone” when he used it for “revelations”? In the new Ensign article they don’t want to make this distinction, they stick to the “faithful” name calling.

Why be so concerned with this distinction? The fact that this bothers Christensen is rather telling, is it not? It shows that he is viewing things through a “faithful” lens, and so his claims to a better methodology are suspect and his admitted bias is right there to see.

Here is something interesting that Alma Jensen recently said, (Mormon (LDS) Institute Director from the University of Utah Institute of Religion) reportedly by someone who was there,

“Yes, Joseph used the seer stone to search for treasure. Just because he misused the stone, does that mean he’s not a prophet?”

Why is it called a seer stone when Smith misuses it, but a peepstone when Hiram Page does? Is there any kind of good explanation for this? That is why I call them peepstones. It is not just a matter of rhetoric, what Smith did was called “peeping” or “peeking” in his day. (Even when he “translated” the Book of Mormon). See this interesting article about Mary Jane Thompson (Joseph F. Smith’s cousin) and her “peeping” in 1856 Utah:

On July 18, 1856, she [Martha Ann Smith] wrote, [to Joseph F. Smith] “Ma[r]y Jane has been looking is [sic] the peap stone for you and she seen you[.]” …Referring to the same event Martha Ann wrote of, Jane wrote:  “Mary Jane saw you only last Friday, Martha will tell you how” (Jane Fisher to JFS, Great Salt Lake City, July 20, 1856). Jane again wrote to Joseph F. Smith, again mentioning the peepstone, on May 11, 1857: “I think you have stayed long enough, away, and if you do not come home soon, more than mary, Jane, will take a look in the peepstone. I should like to see you, in little grass House.”

So in the days before webcams, there were other media for communication–something faster than mail, and even more virtual than photography: a peep stone.

So what makes this a peepstone and Joseph’s a “seerstone”? Modern Mormon preference. Was Mary Jane “misusing” the stone? Was Joseph? Interesting questions.

Christensen whines that I didn’t disclose his entire history when I mentioned his experience about “knowing” Moroni was a prophet. Yet, he didn’t do that with Jeremy as I pointed out in my rebuttal to him. I guess he really ought to have read that second part. The thing is, my point didn’t need the bio. It spoke for itself and Christensen loves to talk about himself.

And did I not share a LIVE link to the podcast where Christensen makes his comments on my blog? Anyone could go and listen to it for themselves in one click. This is something that FAIRMORMON and Christensen do not do. The link in his CURRENT article is still dead to the CES letter and to Jeremy’s posting of Part I of The Sky Is Falling. And where is a specific link to Jeremy’s podcast where he explains his background and reasons for leaving the Church? I can’t find one.

Christensen then creates a straw man by claiming that I stated that “cognitive dissonance provides the means by which apologists like me ignore “facts”.  Nope, I never said that. Christensen even quotes me. I said,

 “Christensen appears to be unable to grasp that flexibility does not change facts while cognitive dissonance can allow you to live with and ignore them.”

Notice my wording: can allow you to live with them and ignore them. I argued that the part that applies to Christensen is his dissonance allows him to live with those facts. (not ignore them). Since he loves to talk about himself, he has made it clear that he is well read, and so is not ignoring the facts. This is very simple. Christensen mentions Edward Ashment’s excellent article, Reducing Dissonance: The Book of Abraham as a Case Study, and I highly recommend it. Of course, everything he doesn’t like is a “rhetorical tool” to Christensen. His rebuttal to this was a quote by Wendy Ulrich:

People who put cognitive dissonance forward as the explanation for the high level of commitment and sacrifice among some Mormons ignore that by the time the prophecy of the world ending in Festinger’s study had failed three times virtually everyone left the group, cognitive dissonance theory or no. People may rationalize their behavior and beliefs for a time, but they will not continue to do so indefinitely unless their beliefs are producing the expected payback–as long as they have reasonable choices about what to believe.

This misapplies my argument. It is not about those who have a high level of commitment and sacrifice among some Mormons, it is about those who engage in disingenuous apologetics. Again, what about the failings of Warren Jeffs who also predicted the end of the world and it never came to pass? His movement is still going strong and has been for many decades. I strongly suggest he watch the movie Prophet’s Prey. And perhaps Christensen ought to think about why he is even challenging Jeremy Runnells.

Is it because many Mormon are feeling uncomfortable about much of what he published, so much so that the Church authored their anonymous Essays soon after the CES Letter was published?  Is Christensen uncomfortable with what Jeremy published? If not, why spend so much time writing long Essays about him, and spending months to answer me? If this is all so frivolous, (the claims by Jeremy) why bother? Jeremy published the CES Letter in April of 2013 and the first anonymous Essays appeared seven months later.

But Christensen claims he has no dissonance and that I don’t understand the term and am misapplying it. Perhaps then, his problem is just DoubleThink. As George Orwell explains,

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, … to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.  (Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, London, part 1, chapter 3, pp 32).

This is why to Christensen, the truth is “in the eye of the beholder”. In his world, I suppose it is.

And claiming that I (or Jeremy) didn’t address “Old World evidences for the Book of Mormon”? I do, in Part II of “The Sky is Falling” which has been published since April. Jeremy does so, here.   What I find astoundingly hypocritical of Christensen is that he (in many instances) acts like Jeremy has published nothing but the original CES Letter even though he will reference Jeremy’s other writings when it is convenient for him.

Nothing about the so called “Old World evidences for the Book of Mormon” makes me uncomfortable. (Nice try with endeavoring to put his own dissonance–or whatever it is since I am so wrong–on me). As for Thomas Kuhn, I addressed some of my concerns in Part II of The Sky is falling, and others have challenged Christensen here. Christensen did not really address those challenges, but simply left a short comment.  As Runtu wrote,

In essence, Kevin is turning Kuhn on his head, as Kuhn’s notion of a crisis of faith is a point at which one clings stubbornly to the “rules,” despite the presence of anomaly. It’s not about “values” but about accepting the prevailing paradigm as a boundary of inquiry. The paradigm shifts (and only just enough) to accommodate anomaly when the rules can’t explain them anymore. “Conclusions among individuals will differ” seems completely unrelated to a discussion of paradigm and shift.

He then takes a jab at me for calling Joseph Fielding Smith a prophet before he was the Church President. But doesn’t he realize that Smith was ordained a “prophet, seer, and revelator” when he became an apostle? This kind of silly posturing is all Christensen has to offer.  His apathy towards Joseph Fielding Smith’s racism when he was an apostle (prophet, seer & revelator) and Church President is appalling. Dissonance anyone? It wasn’t Smith who lifted the Priesthood Ban when he was the PRESIDENT (The chief Apostle), now, was it?

Most the the FAIRMORMON Apologists that I’ve crossed paths with have disappointed me with their deceptive tactics and justifications for Mormon Leadership’s racism.  Christensen is no different.  He writes,

Stephenson cannot help but demonstrate how a hidden ideology lurks behind his arguments.

So, point of view determines truth? What does point of view have to do with it?

For years, Joseph Fielding Smith denied that Joseph Smith used his peepstone to translate the Book of Mormon. He also called black people “an inferior race.” Did his evaluation of the evidence and point of view make these things true? Or make Joseph Fielding Smith a true prophet?

What does Joseph Fielding Smith’s denial regarding the historical use of a peepstone (seer stone, if labels applied by the people involved matter) have to do with his being a true prophet? What do his views of race have to do with his being a true prophet? Should I assume that the answers are self-evident, or should I actually ask the question and consider that such a question is most appropriate only from January 23, 1970 to July 2, 1972, when the office of prophet was actually his? I’ll hazard the risk of making my own ideology explicit so you can see what happens when I do it.

So exactly what, is my “hidden ideology”? Christensen is strangely silent about this. He speaks of his own ideologies. All this is, is Christensen bragging about how much humbler he is than anyone else. He writes,

He argues based on a premise that a prophet wouldn’t make or perpetuate a mistake in history. And a prophet wouldn’t reflect any of the now embarrassing prejudices of his time and culture.

I get this all the time from Mormon Apologists. You see, this is the only way they can make their prophets blatant racism work. And see how he turns it into I advocate that their prophets can’t make a mistake “in history”. (Whatever that is). And I am well aware that men are human, and a prophet is a man. Joseph Smith said,

I never told you I was perfect but there are no errors in the revelations I have taught.

Mormon “authorities” still claim there are no errors in the “revelations”. Joseph Fielding Smith’s racism was institutional. He believed that God instigated the racism in Mormonism. (Of course it wasn’t racism to them). He taught that blacks were an “inferior race”. That God had revealed it so through his “prophets”.  I have a real problem with this. But Christensen doesn’t get it. I simply have an agenda. Yeah, right.

I addressed peepstones above, but here is Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation, Volume III:

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Joseph Fielding Smith

EARLY SPECULATION AS TO SITE OF NEW JERUSALEM. When it was made known that the New Jerusalem was to be built in America, the saints began to wonder where the city would be. Hiram Page, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, secured a “peep stone” by means of which he claimed to receive revelation for the Church. Among the things he attempted to make known was where this city was to be built, Considerable commotion naturally prevailed, and even Oliver Cowdery was deceived into accepting what Hiram Page had given. The Prophet Joseph Smith had some difficulty in correcting this evil and composing the minds of the members of the Church. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. III, 500).

So why can’t I apply that criteria to Joseph Smith since I do not believe that his “revelations” were authentic? Should I be dishonest and apply what I think is a Mormon prop? This is simply Christensen’s double standard, folks. Was this simply rhetoric on the part of Fielding Smith? Will Christensen admit he also had an “agenda”? No, he instead claims, “He actually comes out looking very good…”

How does the above show a “hidden agenda” on my part? First, all Mormon Apostles are ordained prophets, seers, and revelators, and Christensen ought to know this and so, is being dishonest here.  Claiming that such a question is “most appropriate only from January 23, 1970 to July 2, 1972” when JSF became the President of the Church is simply disingenuous.  Smith was actually ordained an Apostle, (thus a prophet, seer, & revelator) on April 7, 1910.  As Jeffrey R. Holland explained,

Against such times as come in our modern day, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators, with the President of the Church sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator, the senior Apostle, and as such the only man authorized to exercise all of the revelatory and administrative keys for the Church. … Are the heavens open? Does God reveal His will to prophets and apostles as in days of old? That they are and that He does is the unflinching declaration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to all the world. (“Prophets, Seers, and Revelators”, Jeffrey R. Holland, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Conference, October 2004).

So how is Joseph Fielding Smith a true prophet when he teaches and condones racism? Dallin Oaks makes my point when he claimed:

Stand fast with the leadership of the church. I heard President Hinckley in describing a revelation he had received concerning the building of small temples form which he will soon benefit in this part of the world that he did not claim perfection that there was only one perfect person who had ever lived upon this earth and even the prophets of God were not perfect. But, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, on a great occasion, ‘there is no error in the teachings. ’Spoken under the influence of the spirit of the Lord, witnessed to be true in the hearts and minds of those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost, those teachings are the Lord’s will to his people. And I testify to you that these teachings are true and that if we hold with and follow the current leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, we will stay on the path toward eternal life. (Dallin Oaks, “Boise Rescue Transcript”, 117, On tape, 1:12:38)

“There is no error in the teachings.” The problem with Christensen’s version of what a constitutes a prophet, is that it is not what Mormon prophets themselves declare they are. Their teachings (the ones that don’t fit the Apologist’s personal criteria) are error filled opinions that aren’t much good for anything. This is Christensen’s version of Mormonism, nothing more. His agenda is promoting his own opinion and condemning those who don’t jump on board his Apologist band wagon. He wants us to give Joseph Fielding Smith a pass on his blatant racism simply because he was not the “head prophet” at the time. Yet these “apostles” are all  ordained and sustained as prophets when they become apostles. What a silly and disingenuous argument.

As Brigham Young taught,

An Apostle is the highest office in the Church & kingdom of God. Joseph Smith was a Prophet Seer & Revelator before he was baptized or ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood or had any Authority to administer one of the ordinances of the house of the Lord. He was afterwards ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood then to the Melchizedek Priesthood & Apostleship which is the highest office in the Church & kingdom of God on Earth. When a man is ordained to the Apostleship & keys thereof if he dies in faith He will hold those keys to all Eternity. All the Prophets Patriarchs & Apostles who ever did or ever will hold the keys of the Apostleship if faithful unto death will hold them forever.

Brigham Young also taught,

Many may say, “br. Brigham, perhaps you are mistaken; you are liable to err, and if the mob should not come, after all, and we should burn up our houses and learn that the Government had actually countermanded their orders and that no armies are coming to Utah, it would be a needless destruction. We have all the time felt that there was no need of leaving our houses. How easy it is for men to be mistaken, and we think a Prophet may be mistaken once in a while.” I am just as willing as the Lord, if he is disposed to make me make mistakes, and it is none of the business of any other person. If a people do the best they know, they have the power to ask and receive, and no power can prevent it.

And if the Lord wants me to make a mistake, I would as soon be mistaken as anything else, if that will save the lives of the people and give us the victory. If you get such feelings in your hearts, think of what my conclusion on the subject is, and do not come to my office to ask me whether I am mistaken, for I want to tell you now perhaps I am.

Do I want to save you? Ask that question. But John, what are you doing? Are you not an Elder in Israel? “Yes, I am a High Priest.” What is the office of an High Priest? John replies, “I do not know, without it is to whip my wife, knock down my children and make everybody obey me; and I believe a High Priest presides over an Elder.” You will find some Elders just about that ignorant. Let me tell you what the office of a High Priest and an Elder is. It holds the keys of the revelation of Jesus Christ; it unlocks the gates of heaven. It opens the broad windows of revelation from eternity. John, what are you about, imagining that I may be mistaken? or that br. Heber may be mistaken? Why do you not open the windows of heaven and get revelation for yourself? and not go whining around and saying, “do you not think that you may be mistaken? Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken?” Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right. If I am thus borne off by your prayers and faith, with my own, and suffered to lead you wrong, it proves that your faith is vain. Do not worry. (Brigham Young, sermon given on 21 March 1858, Salt Lake Tabernacle, transcribed by George D. Watt, Richard S. Van Wagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, pp. 1417-1418)

Notice how it would be “the Lord” making Young make a mistake. And again on the same day in the afternoon session Young clarified what he was talking about:

I have told you what causes apostacy. It arises from neglect of prayers and duties, and the Spirit of the Lord leaves those who are thus negligent and they begin to think that the authorities of the church are wrong. In the days of Joseph the first thing manifested in the case of apostacy was the idea that Joseph was liable to be mistaken, and when a man admits that in his feelings and sets it down as a fact, it is a step towards apostacy, and he only needs to make one step more and he is cut off from the church. That is the case in any man. When several of the Twelve were cut off, the first step was that Joseph was a prophet, but he had fallen from his office and the Lord would suffer him to lead the people wrong. When persons get that idea in their minds, they are taking the first step to apostacy. If the Lord has designed that I should lead you wrong, then let us all go to hell together and, as Joseph used to say, we will take hell by force, turn the devils out and make a heaven of it. (ibid., 1420)

Christensen claims,

None of the biblical keys condemn Joseph Fielding Smith as a potential prophet. He actually comes out looking very good by these measures. His racial views and mistakes on points of history, his behavior before he became the prophet, and his age and behavior when he was the prophet, all have a historical context and biblical precedent.

By Christensen’s personal “measures” . Except he wasn’t a “potential prophet”, he was a prophet when he was ordained an apostle, therefore all of Christensen’s criteria to Presidents of the Church (the chief apostle) apply. Christensen simply is advocating his own brand of Mormonism, not what is taught by Mormon authorities. There is no Biblical precedent for a “revelation” that excludes anyone from all the blessings that others enjoyed under the New Covenant. The “Curse of Ham” was an invention of racist men and adopted by a misguided Mormon Hierarchy who claimed it for themselves as a revelation from God.

But of course to Christensen, racism is irrelevant. And then here we go with the red herring soup:

“By their fruits shall ye know them” refers to the recognition of a characteristic fruit as the key to identification. So if you happen to spot unripe, fallen, bruised, or wormy fruit, if you know the fruit’s identifying characteristics, even they will do. A grape with a blemish is not a thorn, nor is even a perfect thorn any kind of fruit. A fig that has been pecked by a bird is still a fig, and a flawless or fashionably popular thistle is still a just a thistle (see Matthew 7:16–17).

If Stephenson wants to dismiss or reject these biblical criteria, his alternative ideology resorts to a subjective appeal to emotional hot-button issues argued on the unacknowledged basis that Smith represents behavior and attitudes that are “not the way I would arrange it if I were God.” Such an argument suffers from the inescapable limitation that Stephenson is not God. Notice that if Stephenson had openly stated that his use of these criteria depends on the reasoning that the situation is “not the way I would arrange it if I were God,” that opens his reasoning to critical examination in the same way my listing of biblical tests opens them to critical examination. Rather than be swept up by the emotional wave of impassioned disapproval of Joseph Fielding Smith as a person — which flatter the reader as enlightened and demand no mental or emotional effort — such as offered by Stephenson as an apparently objective and decisive set of self-evident facts, he’d have to admit that they are grounded on the claim that if he were God he wouldn’t permit such behavior in a true prophet. The effectiveness of the argument therefore depends on concealing these assumptions and forestalling any undesirable critical consideration from his audience about who is clearly not God.

So racism is not bad fruit? Ok. Where does this guy get this shit from? Did I claim that I was God? Nope. But Christensen must be claiming that, according to his own words, because his “ideology” is right and Fielding Smith comes out just fine by his criteria.

And what were the “fruits” of Mormonism’s institutional racism? Oh yeah, that is irrelevant! And what Biblical criteria does Christensen give? None. He mentions a couple of Chapters in Acts and a couple of books and an article by a Mormon Apologist. Could he be more vague? How does he apply such references? Where is his reasoned argument using the evidence? Nowhere to be found, though we have lots and lots of copy detailing Christensen’s own personal ideology.

So what Christensen classes as “emotional hot button issues” are off the table? Sounds like the National Rifle Association’s shtick when anyone wants to discuss gun regulatons after a mass shooting.  Except there was no mass shooting here (this is an old issue but still very relevant) and of course the Church itself published on the issue just a few years ago in one of their anonymous Essays. So no one can have a reasoned argument about Mormon revelation without first declaring “If I were God” first? Hogwash. As one of the Mormon “Apostles” stated:

False prophets and false teachers are those who arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God’s words to His children but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation. …However, in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed. (M. Russell Ballard, 1999)

This is the very thing that Christensen is doing with Fielding Smith, claiming that the Mormon apostles words “should not be read as God’s words to His children, but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases.” He and his FAIRMORMON friends have the “right” interpretation. All that Mormon “Authorities” teach is opinion, based on their faulty reading of the scriptures unless they are the President of the Church and make an “official” declaration. The Holy Ghost does not operate in this brand of Mormonism except when Mormon Apologists say so. It is irrelevant unless an official vote is taken. But according to Ballard, Christensen is the false teacher here if he contradicts the “Authorities” of the Church. Remember, he claimed that Jeremy was wrong in favoring official doctrine over “the best books” when it came to answering his questions about his eternal welfare:

His preference for “official” thought rather than “the best books” is telling (D&C 88:118).

Notice though, what D&C 88 states in context,

118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

This is directed to  “those who have not faith”. Jeremy did have faith. He was simply troubled by things he had learned. He then went to what Christensen describes as “the best books,” but that made it worse. But Jeremy is wrong simply because Christensen has a personal preference for Apologist answers, which to him are always “superior”.

The only one playing God here appears to be Christensen by deigning to judge his methods of research as “superior” to Jeremy’s. This is simply Big Brother mentality. FAIRMORMON’s ways are what one must follow to keep the “faith”. Otherwise, you will turn bitter and brittle and you will “shatter”. Don’t follow your heart, follow our formula.

Our leaders are to be revered, but we will question their relevance when it suits our purpose.  You must read the Book of Mormon our way, to have the correct interpretation of what it states. Those “Authorities” that came before, didn’t know what they were talking about because our interpretation is “superior”.

The only one that seems to be getting swept up in an “emotional wave” is Christensen. He is the one who is bothered by anyone speaking about Mormon racism. And he condemns my rhetoric?

The rest of Christensen’s rant is just more same ol’ same ol’, which I may come back and address at a later time. But I want to get to the claimed 1820 vision and the supposed priesthood restoration.

It’s not surprising to learn that Christensen has been carrying on with his pseudo historical apologist blather for years. For a good example of how “Christensen travels [the] well-worn path of the pseudo-scientist, pseudo-historian, and New Age religionists,” see Dan Vogel’s 2002 critique here. To quote Vogel:

Christensen misapplies Kuhn’s work to Book of Mormon studies in several ways….Christensen questions the “adequacy” of my approach, by which he means that I paid little attention to the works of Book of Mormon apologists, particularly those at FARMS, that support Book of Mormon antiquity. (Emphasis mine).

Sound familiar folks?

II. First Vision Vagaries

I was intrigued by Christensen’s mention of the late Matthew Brown’s book, and so I bought the Kindle Version (they didn’t have it at Gospelink) and read it. (It took me a couple of hours). This will actually help me with an Essay I’ve been writing on the claimed 1820 Vision, because Brown makes some interesting (but mistaken) conclusions.

Christensen writes,

Stephenson’s most focused and substantial challenge applies to a specific argument regarding the First Vision. He quotes this passage from me:

Look at his [Jeremy Runnells] complaints about the various First Vision Accounts and the priesthood restoration. On page 22 of his Letter, Runnells claims that “there is absolutely no record of a First Vision prior to 1832.” The FairMormon website response points out an article in the Palmyra Reflector from 1831 that indicates discussion of Joseph’s vision as early as November 1830. They also point to the allusion in D&C 20, which dates to April 1830.67

In response Stephenson has this:

This is the real issue. Is there any evidence of discussion about the claimed 1820 vision before 1832 when Joseph first penned it? The answer is no. The FairMormon article that Christensen quotes is wrong. Why? Because the two missionaries that the newspaper article describes are referring not to any claimed 1820 vision but rather the visit of Moroni three years later.

Christensen links to a FairMormon article that is not only incorrect but completely deceptive as well.

One check on whether the FairMormon article is correct or deceptive is to read the newspaper article cited. Matt Roper has reproduced the Reflector February 14, 1831 for the archive of “19th-Century Publications about the Book of Mormon”:

Our Painesville correspondent informs us, that about the first of Nov. last, Oliver Cowdery, (we shall notice this character in the course of our labors,) and three others arrived at that village with the “New Bible,” on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously — took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of “Heavenly origin.” Rigdon, with about 20 of his flock, were dipt immediately. They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, — that no one had been authorised to preach &c. for that periodthat Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New-York would (probably) be sunk. Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally — Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels, and had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should “step their feet” upon it.

Notice that the newspaper describes four missionaries, not two. Matthew Brown identifies them as “Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Richard Ziba Peterson.” Why does Stephenson miss this?

Did Joseph receive a commission from God to preach in 1820? He did not get that until after the “translation” of the Book of Mormon. Did I miss something? No, I didn’t. I was pointing out how the FAIRMORMON article was deceptive. Notice my language:

The FairMormon article that Christensen quotes is wrong. Why?

I didn’t say they had misquoted the Reflector article which Christensen implies. (Though they did manipulate it) That is another strawman of Christensen’s.That particular FAIRMORMON article dealt with a lot of material. I was focusing on the 1832 accounts of Missionaries that Christensen later tries to dismiss to show exactly what was being taught after Joseph write the 1832 History. There is a reason for this. What I was claiming is that FAIRMORMON was being deceptive about them in attributing them to a claimed earlier vision. That much is obvious from my later comments and quotes. Christensen knew this, and so wrote,

Well, for one thing, in his essay he doesn’t deal directly with that specific issue of the Reflector. [Bingo!] Part of his approach is to look at other newspaper accounts reporting on different LDS missionaries that did not mention theophanies, but rather focused on the more sensational story of the angel and the book. And he compares those accounts with Cowdery’s 1834 history, Lucy’s later history, and a letter from William McLellan, none of which mention theophany, but focus on the angel and the book. That is, he looks to them as paradigmatic, rather than the one with the clear evidence that contradicts Runnells’s original claim of “absolutely no evidence” before 1832.

So, seeing an angel was more “sensational” than claiming to see God? Really? No, my point was that FAIRMORMON was claiming that those 1832 accounts were about Smith’s theophany, and that was deceptive. None of the 1831/1832 sources mention specific theophanies, that is the point. They don’t “focus” on the angel story, it was all they knew about. Therefore, the account by McLellin is extrememly relevant because it was given just a few months after the Reflector article, from a known source who gave accurate information about what Mormon Missionaries (one of them Joseph’s brother) were teaching. This is much more “credible evidence” as we shall see. This was a direct answer to the problem with the Reflector article. There are many more, as we shall see.

III. Paradigm Precedent?

The claims made in the 1831 Reflector account are actually so ludicrous that I didn’t think I needed to respond to them, but obviously I do. It only makes it worse for Christensen (as does his really deceptive comments about David Whitmer).  And is the FAIRMORMON Article deceptive here also? Why, yes it is. Here is what they quote:

1831

LDS missionaries were teaching that Joseph Smith “had seen God frequently and personally” and received a commission from Him to teach true religion. (The Reflector, vol. 2, no. 13, 14 February 1831).

First, this is not an actual quote. (Notice what is actually in quotes) It is parts of Cole’s synopsis cobbled together. They do not explain that they did this. And where is FAIRMORMON’s anaylsis of this comment? Where is the full quote? The article doesn’t mention “true religion”, it says Mormons were teaching that there was “no religion” on the earth for 1500 years and that Joseph claimed that he got a commission from God “for that purpose”, or, to preach with authority. But this did not happen in 1820.

Christensen actually does me a favor by quoting the entire portion of the “Painsville Correspondent’s” section in the Reflector issue from Febuary 14. (Something you seldom see from FairMormon Apologists). Now everyone that reads his article can see it, and how ridiculous some of the claims it makes are. (They sure can’t find the whole quote in the FAIRMORMON article). You can now see how FAIRMORMON manipulated it to look like Smith talked to God and got “a commission from Him”, as if it was all one event.

Before I get into that, here is what Christensen says about me:

… he looks to them [the 1831/1832 articles] as paradigmatic, rather than the one with the clear evidence that contradicts Runnells’s original claim of “absolutely no evidence” before 1832.

First, Remember folks, what Jeremy claimed was this:

The first and earliest written account of the First Vision in Joseph Smith’s journal was written 12 years after the spring of 1820. There is absolutely no record of a First Vision prior to 1832.

Secondly, what the Missionaries taught in 1832 is absolutely paradigmatic. Does the article written by Abner Cole that FAIRMORMON/Christensen is quoting, which generalizes what four missionaries were allegedly teaching constitute “clear evidence” of the specific claim that Joseph Smith saw God in 1820 (who at that time told him all of the churches were an “abomination”) and received a “commission” from him and then spoke about it? Not even close. Does it even give us good evidence that Joseph was claiming to have “seen God frequently”? before he organized his church in 1830? Not at all. This was obviously about Joseph and Oliver receiving signed “revelations” from God (Jesus). How, exactly,  does this verify a supposed vision in 1820? It doesn’t. We will see below what was actually meant by this.

I have a good friend (Matthew Bowman) who has written about this here. He rightly points out that this article is nothing but unsubstantiated rumors:

First, as it stands the information is little more than rumor. An unnamed “correspondent” reported to the author of the Reflector article (Abner Cole) the claims made by Oliver Cowdery and his three associates concerning what Joseph Smith had seen. We therefore have the following chain of sources:

Joseph Smith → Oliver Cowdery and friends → unnamed correspondent → Abner Cole

The opportunities for garbled communication through this many stages of transmission are obvious. Information obtained third- or fourth-hand is not exactly reliable.

This is the same Abner Cole who wrote “The Book of Pukei”, a spoof on the Book of Mormon and had a penchant for exaggerating. And Christensen doesn’t quote the entire article from the Reflector. Let’s do that, shall we? It reads,

GOLD BIBLE, NO. 4.

Since we have any knowledge of the habits or propensities of the human species, we find that man has been prone to absurdities; and it too often happens that while we carefully attempt to detect them in others, we fondly cherish some gross inconsistencies within our own bosoms. The lust of power, doubtless stimulates the few, while ignorance binds the many, like passive slaves to the car of superstition.

It is passing strange, that in all ages of the world, gross stupidity in an impostor should be considered among the vulgar, irrefragible proof of his divine mission, and the most bungling piece of legerdemain, will receive from them all the credit of a well attested miracle.

Joanna Southcote published a book in the city of London, in 1804, in which her first prophecies were detailed. — She declares that she did not understand the communications given her by the spirit, till they were afterwards explained to her. The spirit informed her how she could fortel the weather and other events. She declares that the death of Bishop Buller, was foretold her in a dream. One night she heard an iron ball roll three steps down stairs, which the spirit told her was a sign of three great evils, about to fall upon the land — the sword, the plague, and famine. She relates that she foretold the extraordinary harvest, which happened in 1800. She was often ordered to read the bible, when the spirit would interpret its meaning. She informs her readers that Jacob’s warning to his sons, is applicable to our times — mentions frequent contests with various preachers, and talks much about the marriage of the Lamb.

The following is from one of her communications. “As wrong as they are in saying thou hast children bro’t up by the parish, and that thou art Bonaparte’s brother, and that thou hast been in prison; so false is their sayings, thy writings come from the devil, or any spirit but the spirit of the LIVING GOD; and that every soul in this nation shall know before the FIVE YEARS I mentioned to the people in 1800 are expired, and then I will return as a DIADEM of beauty to the residence of my people, and they shall praise the GOD OF THEIR SALVATION.”

In 1805 Joanna published a pamphlet, attempting to confute the “five charges” which had been made against her and published in the newspapers. First, sealing her disciples. Second, on the invasion. Third, on famine. Fourth, her mission, and fifth, her death. Sealing is an important point among these people. — Joanna gives those who profess a belief in her mission, and will subscribe to the things revealed in her “WARNING,” a sealed paper with her signature, by which they are led to think, that they are sealed against the day of redemption, and that all those who possess these seals, would be signally honored by the Messiah when he should come in the spring (of 1807.) Her followers believed her to be the bride, the Lamb’s wife, and that as man fell by a woman, he will be restored by a woman. Many of her followers pretended to have visions and revelations. At present it would appear that both warning, and sealing have subsided; and they are waiting in awful suspense for the commencement of the thousand years reign on earth, when peace will universally prevail. They now pretend that Christ will not come in person, but in spirit, and all the dead who have been sealed, will be raised from their graves to partake of this happy state.

If an imposture, like the one we have so briefly noticed, could spring up in the great metropolis of England, and spread over a considerable portion of that kingdom, it is not surprising that one equally absurd, should have its origin in this neighborhood, where its dupes are not, or ever will be numerous.

In the commencement, the imposture of the “book of Mormon,” had no regular plan or features. At a time when the money digging ardor was somewhat abated, the elder Smith declared that his son Jo had seen the spirit, (which he then described as a little old man with a long beard,) and was informed that he (Jo) under certain circumstances, eventually should obtain great treasures, and that in due time he (the spirit) would furnish him (Jo) with a book, which would give an account of the Ancient inhabitants (antideluvians) of this country, and where they had deposited their substance, consisting of costly furniture, &c. at the approach of the great deluge, which had ever since that time remained secure in his (the spirits) charge, in large and spacious chambers, in sundry places in this vicinity, and these tidings corresponded precisely with revelations made to, and predictions made by the elder Smith a number of years before.

The time at length arrived, when young Jo was to receive the book from the hand of the spirit, and he repaired accordingly, alone, and in the night time, to the woods in the rear of his father’s house (in the town of Manchester  about two miles south of this village) and met the spirit as had been appointed. This rogue of a spirit who had baffled all the united efforts of the money diggers, (although they had tried many devices to gain his favor, and at one time sacrificed a barn yard fowl,) intended it would seem to play our prophet a similar trick on this occasion; for no sooner had he delivered the book according to promise, than he made a most desperate attempt to regain its possession. Our prophet however, like a lad of true metal, stuck to his prize, and attempted to gain his father’s dwelling, which it appears, was near at hand. The father being alarmed at the long absence of his son, and probably fearing some trick of the spirit, having known him for many years; sallied forth in quest of the youthful adventurer. He had not however, proceeded far before he fell in with the object of his kind solicitude who appeared to be in the greatest peril. The spirit had become exasperated at the stubborn conduct of the young prophet, in wishing to keep possession of the book, and out of sheer spite, raised a whirlwind, which at that particular juncture, throwing trunks and limbs of trees about their ears, besides the “elfish sprite” had belabored Jo soundly with blows, — had felled him once to the ground, and bruised him severely in the side. The rescue however, was timely, Jo retained his treasure, and returned to the house with his father, much fatigued and injured. This tale in substance, was told at the time the event was said to have happened by both father and son, and is well recollected by many of our citizens. It will be borne in mind that no divine interposition had been dreamed of at the period.

BOOK OF MORMON. — Our Painesville correspondent informs us, that about the first of Nov. last, Oliver Cowdery, (we shall notice this character in the course of our labors,) and three others arrived at that village with the “New Bible,” on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously — took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of “Heavenly origin.” Rigdon, with about 20 of his flock, were dipt immediately. They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, — that no one had been authorised to preach &c. for that period, — that Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New York would (probably) be sunk. Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally — Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels, and had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should “step their feet” upon it. They pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so. The Indians were the ten lost tribes — some of them had already been dipt. From 1 to 200 (whites) had already been in the water, and showed great zeal in this new religion — many were converted before they saw the book. Smith was continually receiving new revelations, and it would probably take him 1000 years to complete them — commissions and papers were exhibited, said to be signed by Christ himself!!! Cowdery authorised three persons to preach, &c.  and descended the Ohio River. The converts are forming “common stock” families, as most pleasing in the sight of God. They pretend to give the “Holy Spirit” and under its operations they fall upon the floor — see visions, &c. Indians followed Cowdery daily, and finally saw him enter the promised land, where he placed a pole in the ground, with a light on its top, to designate the site of the New Jerusalem. (The Palmyra Reflector, February 14, 1831).

Dale Broadhurst writes in his notes:

Mormon Historians makes this observation on the claim of the men having seen God frequently:

The above, third-hand report, of Joseph Smith, Jr. having “seen God frequently and personally,” is an interesting historical item. It is strange that the old report comes from Ohio and not from Smith’s home region around Palmyra, New York. Nevertheless, it appears to be the first published allegation that the young seer had gazed upon the afwul countenance of God the Father — an occurrence which biblical scriptures pronounce impossible for a living being to endure. It seems likely, that even as early as 1831, the first Mormons believed they were living in the “final dispensation of the gospel” and were no longer subject to certain divine restrictions which had limited the efforts of their predecessors, the “former day saints.” While there is no documentation of Smith himself claiming to have seen God, so early as 1831, he seems to have been content to allow his followers to spread such stories, if they wished to be so believing.

My friend Dale is being very generous here. Cole is claiming to be quoting a “Painesville Correspondent”. Actually, it appears that Cole was just reading the Painesville Telegraph’s back issues and supplemented them with a letter received from an anonymous “correspondent”. If one looks at the Issues from December 1830 to February 1831, we see much of what Cole attributes to his anonymous “correspondent”.

But before I get into that, lets take a look at what Cole wrote in the Reflector. He first writes under the title of “Gold Bible, No. 4”. He mentions Joanna Southcote, [sic] and how,

If an imposture, like the one we have so briefly noticed, could spring up in the great metropolis of England, and spread over a considerable portion of that kingdom, it is not surprising that one equally absurd, should have its origin in this neighborhood, where its dupes are not, or ever will be numerous.

This echos the words of Thomas Campbell, from the Telegraph article, who mentions the French Prophets, the first Quakers, the Shakers and Jemima Wilkenson and then observes:

Mormonite prophets & teachers can show no better authority for their pretended mission and revelations than these impostors have done, we have no better authority to believe them than we have to believe their predecessors in imposition. But the dilemma is, we can’t believe all, for each was exclusively right in his day, and those of them that remain are still exclusively right to this day; and if the Shakers be right, the whole world, the Mormonites themselves not excepted, are in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity — quite as far from salvation as you yourself have pronounced all the sectarians on earth to be, namely, in a state of absolute damnation.

Cole then writes about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and how it was all tied into Joseph’s monyedigging. He mentions Joseph Smith’s history with the angel or spirit, and does not mention anything about any claimed vision of God. He then speaks of his “Painesville correspondent.”

Here is what Cole in the Reflector claims that the unnamed correspondent related to him, contrasted with Telegraph articles:

Our Painesville correspondent informs us, that about the first of Nov. last, Oliver Cowdery, (we shall notice this character in the course of our labors,) and three others arrived at that village with the “New Bible,” on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously — took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of “Heavenly origin.

Telegraph (Dec 14, 1830) article claims:

Four men are traveling westward, who say they are commanded by their Heavenly Father, to go and collect the scattered tribes of Israel, which they say a new Gospel or Prophecy informs them are the different tribes of Indians.

Telegraph (Feb 14, 1831):

About the last of October, 1830, four men, claiming to be divinely inspired, came from Manchester and Palmyra, Ontario county, N.Y., bringing a pretended revelation, entitled the “Book of Mormon.” They came to the brethern of the reformation in Mentor, saluted them as brethern, and professed to rejoice at finding a people walking according to the scriptures of truth, and acknowledging no other guide. They professed to have no commands for them, nevertheless, they called upon them to receive their mission and book as from Heaven, which they said chiefly concerned the western Indians, as being an account of their origin, and a prophecy of their final conversion to christianity, and make them a white and delightsome people, and be reinstated in the possession of their lands of which they have been despoiled by the whites. — When called upon for testimony, they appealed (like Mahomet) to the internal evidences of their book. The book was read and pronounced a silly fabrication. When farther pressed upon the subject, they required the brethern to humble themselves before God, and pray for a sign from heaven.  They took up their abode with the pastor of the congregation, (Sidney Rigdon,) who read their book and partly condemned it — but, two days afterwards, was heard to confess his conviction of its truth.

Notice that Cole writes “the last of October 1830” and the Telegraph claims “the first of November last”.  We have the four missionaries and that Sidney Rigdon was converted. The Telegraph claims that Sidney first condemned it, Cole in the Reflector glosses over this.

Reflector:

Rigdon, with about 20 of his flock, were dipt immediately.

Telegraph (Feb. 14):

Immediately the subtlety and duplicity of these men were manifest — as soon as they saw a number disposed to give heed to them, then it was they bethought themselves of making a party — then it was they declared that their book contained a new covenant, to come under which the disciple must be re-immersed. When called upon to answer concerning their pretended covenant, whether it was distinct from that mentioned in Hebrews VIII, 10-13, they would equivocate, and would say, (to use their own words) “on the large scale, the covenant is the same, but in some things it is different.” Immediately they made a party — seventeen persons were immersed by them in one night. At this Mr. Rigdon seemed much displeased, and when they came next day to his house, he withstood them to the face — showed them that what they had done was entirely without precedent in the holy scriptures — for they had immersed those persons that they might work miracles as well as come under the said covenant — showed them that the apostles baptized for the remission of sins — but miraculous gifts were conferred by the imposition of hands. But when pressed upon the point, they justified themselves by saying, it was on their part merely a compliance with the solicitations of those persons.

Reflector:

They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, — that no one had been authorised to preach &c. for that period, — that Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New York would (probably) be sunk.

Telegraph (Nov 16, 1830):

He proclaims destruction upon the world within a few years, — holds forth that the ordinances of the gospel, have not been regularly administered since the days of the Apostles, till the said Smith and himself commenced the work

Telegraph (Feb 1, 1831):

[Sidney Rigdon] After denouncing dreadful vengeance on the whole state of New York, and this village in particular, and recommending to all such as wished to flee from “the wrath to come,” to follow him beyond the ‘western waters,’ he took his leave.

Telegraph (Feb 14, 1831):

We shall next proceed to expose the anti-scriptural assertion, that there has been none duly authorized to administer baptism, for the space of fourteen hundred years up to the present time, by showing that the church or the kingdom of Christ, must have been totally extinct during that period, provided its visible administration had actually ceased during that time, is an express contradiction of the testimony of Jesus, Matt. xvi. 18.

They declared that all the great things they spoke would be manifest over the whole earth within the term of three years.

Reflector:

Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personallyCowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels, and had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should “step their feet” upon it.

Telegraph (Nov. 16, 1830)

About two weeks since some persons came along here with the book, one of whom pretends to have seen Angels, and assisted in translating the plates.

Telegraph (Dec 7, 1830)

Those who are the friends and advocates of this wonderful book, state that Mr. Oliver Cowdry has his commission directly from the God of Heaven, and that he has credentials, written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ, with whom he has personally conversed, and as such, said Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name.

Telegraph (Jan 18, 1831)

But the more important part of the mission was to inform the brethren that the boundaries of the promised land, or the New Jerusalem, had just been made known to Smith from God

Telegraph (Feb 14, 1831):

They said, they saw the heavens open, the angels, paradise, and hell.

Mr. Rigdon again called upon them for proof of the truth of their book and mission: they then related the manner in which they obtained faith, which was by praying for a sign, and an angel was shown unto them.…but said Cowdrey, “Do you think if I should go to my Heavenly Father with all sincerity, and pray to him in the name of Jesus Christ, that he would not show me an angel — that he would suffer Satan to deceive me?”

Reflector:

They pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so.

Telegraph:

They say much about working miracles, and pretend to have that power. Cowdery and his fellows, essayed to work several while they tarried in Kirtland, one in particular, the circumstances of which I had from the Mormonites themselves. It was a young female who had been confined to her bed for two years — they prayed over her, laying on hands, and commanded her in the name of Jesus Christ to rise up and walk; however, no effect appeared until the next day, when she was persuaded to leave her couch and attempt to walk. She arose, walked three or four steps, (which they told as a miracle) she then almost fainted, and was assisted back to her bed from which she’s not since arisen. But as all their miracles have proved to be a mere sham, to speak vulgarly, the Mormonites have endeavored to save the credit of their prophets, by declaring that they never pronounced these people whole but only prayed for them — but when confronted by one of the disciples in Kirtland upon the instance just mentioned, as it was so public they could not deny it, one of them said that he did not know but Cowdery did command her to arise, but if he did it was in a laughing, jesting way!!! –

Another of the Mormonites said Cowdery did not command her to arise, but merely asked her why she did not arise. Another instance of a man in Painesville, who was in the last stage of consumption, was attempted to be healed by Cowdery. A few days afterwards Mr. Rigdon was heard to say “that he would get well, if there was a God in Heaven!” He has since deceased. But these prophets had the policy to cover their retreat in these things, by saying that they would not recover immediately; the Lord would take his own time; and one of these people a few days ago, when put to the worst upon the subject, said that he did not think Cowdery would have attempted to do any miracles, had he have known how things would turn out.

Reflector:

Smith was continually receiving new revelations, and it would probably take him 1000 years to complete them — commissions and papers were exhibited, said to be signed by Christ himself!!!

Telegraph (Dec 7, 1830)

Those who are the friends and advocates of this wonderful book, state that Mr. Oliver Cowdry has his commission directly from the God of Heaven, and that he has credentials, written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ, with whom he has personally conversed, and as such, said Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name.

You can’t get revelation signed by Jesus Christ unless he is there to sign it. This is why it was claimed that Smith saw God “frequently”. Substitute Smith for Cowdery and there you have it.

Telegraph (Feb 1, 1831)

Elder S. Rigdon left this village on Monday last in the stage, for the “Holy Land,” where all the “Gold Bible” converts have recently received a written command from God, through Jo. Smith, Junior, to repair with all convenient speed, selling off the property.

Reflector:

Cowdery authorised three persons to preach, &c.  and descended the Ohio River.

Telegraph:

About three weeks after Mr. R. was baptized by Oliver Cowdery, he went to the state of New York, to see Joseph Smith, jr. while Cowdrey, with his three companions, proceeded on to the western Indians.

Reflector:

The converts are forming “common stock” families, as most pleasing in the sight of God.

Telegraph (Feb 14, 1831):

We are prepared to show that the pretended duty of common property among Christians is anti-scriptural, being subversive of the law of Christ, and inimical to the just rights of society.

Reflector:

They pretend to give the “Holy Spirit” and under its operations they fall upon the floorsee visions, &c.

Telegraph (Feb 14, 1831):

Immediately after Mr. R. and the four pretended prophets left Kirtland, a scene of the wildest enthusiasm was exhibited, chiefly, however, among the young people; they would fall, as without strength, roll upon the floor, and, so mad were they that even the females were seen on a cold winter day, lying under the bare canopy of heaven, with no couch or pillow but the fleecy snow. At other times they exhibited all the apish actions imaginable, making grimaces both horrid and ridiculous, creeping upon their hands and feet, &c. Sometimes, in these exercises the young men would rise and play before the people, going through all the Indian maneuvers of knocking down, scalping, ripping open, and taking out the bowels. At other times, they would start and run several furlongs, then get upon stumps and preach to imagined congregations, baptize ghosts, &c. At other times, they are taken with a fit of jabbering after which they neither understood themselves nor anybody else, and this they call speaking foreign languages by divine inspiration. Again the young men are seen running over the hills in pursuit, they say, of balls of fire which they see flying through the air.

But there is one piece of evidence that apparently all the Mormon experts have missed. In the February 1, 1831 edition of the Palmyra Reflector, (The issue preceding the Feb. 14 issue), Abner Cole published this blurb:

We have received a long letter from a gentleman of respectability from Painesville, Ohio, respecting the conduct of the “Mormonites” in that state. We shall publish a synopsis of it in our next We have an article in type, copied from the Painesville Telegraph, which from want of room has been excluded from this day’s paper detailing some account of the Mormonites in the state of Ohio, it will appear in our next.

Cole himself admits that he was only going to publish a “synopsis” of the letter. This is the material that he attributes to the “Painesville Correspondent”.

It is obvious from the above, that Abner Cole had simply taken the accounts from several of the back issues of the Telegraph, and supplemented them with material from some letter he had received which turned into the Painesville “correspondent” material. It might have even been the same person who submitted material to the Telegraph. Certainly there are too many similarities to assume all of those claims came from one letter. (Though it might be possible) It seems more likely that Cole was simply taking a little artistic license here.

This begs the question though, if we are to accept the anonymous claim that Smith had seen and spoken to God frequently as “clear evidence”; does this contradict the claim that Jeremy made which was: “There is absolutely no record of a First Vision prior to 1832?” It is ludicrous to even suggest that it does. We have no idea what was actually written in the letter that Cole received.

What Cole did was common practice in Nineteenth Century America:

News gathering procedures grew from four practices that were routine by 1800: taking items from other papers, culling excerpts from letters, assembling word of mouth reports and taking notes on congressional sessions. … Despite increased pursuit of news, a great amount of newspaper content still came from other newspapers—through the system of editors’ exchanges—until the Civil War brought the first organized, systematic news gathering in the field. (Hazel Dicken-Garcia, Reporters and Reporting in the Nineteenth Century, History of Mass Media in the United States, Margaret A. Blanchard, ed., 1998, p. 585, 586)

Cole did not publish excerpts though, but a synopsis, or brief summary of the letter he put into his own words. That means what we see in print was authored by Cole, who was not in Ohio, but in New York. We have no way at all of determining what was in the original letter. What is interesting is that in all of the comparisons above from the Telegraph, we see none that claim that Smith had actually seen God (Jesus) frequently or at all, for that matter. The Telegraph articles claimed this of Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith.

This claim (about Smith seeing God frequently) only appears in Cole’s synopsis. We can confirm the information about Cowdery, but not Smith in the Telegraph articles. In other words we have no idea what additions or elaborations Cole may have made since it was not a verbatim quote of the letter. One also has to ask, if Cole actually had a long letter, why not publish at least parts of it verbatim? He certainly printed up a lot of other material on the Mormons (and Joanna Southcott) in that issue.

Christensen also astoundingly characterizes the above synopsis by Abner Cole as a “discussion of Joseph’s vision as early as November 1830″. Who is he trying to kid here? A discussion of Joseph’s claimed 1820 vision? Really? What was being discussed, apparently, were the “revelations” that Joseph had received signed by Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the New Jerusalem, along with the authority to preach.

This is his clear evidence for the claimed 1820 vision? And what about the rest of the claims that were made by Abner Cole? Is Christensen ready to admit that they too, are clear evidence of the doctrines being taught at that time? For example, that the Mormons were receiving signed “revelations” by Jesus? What is deceptive about FAIRMORMON is that they do not quote the entire article (or explain it) and let people judge for themselves if this is an actual quote, or the generalizations of an Editor.

Christensen writes,

What he does not do is cancel out or explain the reason for the existence of the distinctive themes in the February 1831 Reflector. He writes as though reticence and variations in personal knowledge in other reports about such experiences could never be a factor in who said, or reported, what when.

Distinctive “themes”? Gleaned from the synopsis of an anonymous letter? How can we take anything that Christensen says seriously? And it was one anonymous report, not “other reports” that Christensen was whining about. Perhaps we should understand this statement from the Palmyra Reflector made a week later as having distinctive themes also, that should be taken as seriously as the February 14th synopsis:

It is well known that Jo Smith never pretended to have any communion with angels, until a long period after the pretended finding of his book, and that the juggling of himself or father, went no further than the pretended faculty of seeing wonders in a “peep stone,” and the occasional interview with the spirit, supposed to have the custody of hidden treasures; and it is also equally well known, that a vagabond fortune-teller by the name of Walters, who then resided in the town of Sodus, and was once committed to the jail of this country for juggling, was the constant companion and bosom friend of these money digging impostors. (Palmyra Reflector, February 28, 1831).

IV. Back to Legitimacy

Christensen dismisses the crucial accounts that I produced in Part I of The Sky is Falling. Regardless of what Christensen claims, these accounts are important, because they are close or contemporary to the time period and are first hand. For example, this account by Peter Bauder, who writes in 1834 (then from a critical perspective):

However … we find him [anti-Christ] in various other places. For instance, view him in the Mahometan system, and a variety of other imposters, who have drawn disciples after them, who had no Theological Seminaries among them; but if you will observe their manner of increasing their numbers, you will find it is done without a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter, 1, 8—because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them according to Romans, 5, 5.

Among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr. who commenced his system of church government in this state, (New York) in the year 1830. His followers are commonly called Mormonites, sometimes New Jerusalemites, or Golden Bible society1; they call themselves the true followers of Christ.2 I conceive it my duty to expose this diabolical system for two special reasons—first, because I have had an opportunity with Smith, in his first setting out, to discover his plan; secondly, because I learn since they were broke up in New York State, they have gone to the western States, and are deceiving themselves and the people, and are increasing very fast.

I will name some of the particular discoveries which through Divine Providence I was favored with in an interview with Joseph Smith, Jr. [p.17] at the house of Peter Whitmer, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, state of New York, in October, 1830. I called at P[eter]. Whitmer’s house, for the purpose of seeing Smith, and searching into the mystery of his system of religion, and had the privilege of conversing with him alone, several hours, and of investigating his writings, church records, &c. I improved near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers: he could give me no christian experience, but told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family. He went, and after the third or fourth time, which was repeated [p. 36] once a year, he obtained a parcel of plate resembling gold, on which were engraved what he did not understand, only by the aid of a glass which he also obtained with the plate, by which means he was enabled to translate the characters on the plate into English. He says he was not allowed to let the plate be seen only by a few individuals named by the angel, and after he had a part translated, the angel conmanded him to carry the plate into a certain piece of woods, which he did:—the angel took them and carried them to parts unknown to him. The part translated he had published, and it is before the public, entitled the Book of Mormon: a horrid blasphemy, but not so wicked as another manuscript which he was then preparing for publication, which I also saw. He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles: the publication intended was to be the Bible!!! The manner in which it was written is as follows:—he commenced at the first chapter of Genesis, he wrote a few verses of scripture, then added delusion, which he added every [p.18] few verses of scripture, and so making a compound of scripture and delusion. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. (Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 16-18. I have included a previous paragrpah that does not appear in EMD and explains what Bauder meant by “Christian Experience”)

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834.

Peter Bauder, The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834).

Unlike the Cole synopsis, this account gives accurate information about Joseph’s “translation” of the Bible, the story of the angel, and how Smith “translated” the plates. Bauder spent a whole day with Joseph Smith and his followers. For more on this, see my article here.

The William McLellin Letter is important because it is contemporary to the year, and shows us what Mormon Missionaries (one of them the brother of Joseph Smith) were teaching from a first hand source (uncritical of Joseph) in 1831 (only a few months after the Reflector synopsis was published):

Some time in July 1831, two men [Elders Samuel H. Smith and Reynolds Cahoon] came to Paris and held an evening meeting, only a few attended, but among the others, I was there. They delivered some ideas which appeared very strange to me at that time. They said that in September 1827 an angel appeared to Joseph Smith (in Ontario Co., New York) and showed to him the confusion on the earth respecting true religion. It also told him to go a few miles distant to a certain hill and there he should find some plates with engravings, which (if he was faithful) he should be enabled to translate…

This was the paradigm. Christensen’s synopsis by Abner Cole cannot overturn this other, far more credible evidence, bolstered by the later,1832 reports. Christensen continues,

Stephenson says:

Who wrote the 1832 history? Joseph Smith and Frederick Williams. Not Oliver Cowdery. Therefore, Jeremy’s argument that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery made no such claim until 1834 is exactly correct. That is when they both jointly published Joseph’s history in a series of letters for the Messenger and Advocate. Writing a partial history in secret and abandoning it in the back of a letterbook is not making any “claim”. There is absolutely no evidence that Cowdery knew anything about the claimed 1820 vision.

Notice Runnells’s argument of “no such claim” regarding the vision, and the use of Boolean logic by Stephenson here to define the problem in terms of a specific combination of people, rather than the most important question, which is, “Did Joseph have a vision in 1820?”

Boolean logic? Really? Was the 1832 account made public? Why did Joseph never once refer to it after it was relegated to the back of a letterbook? Why didn’t he copy it into the large journal as he did with the 1834 History? And most importantly, did Oliver Cowdery take part in crafting it? Again, the claim that Jeremy made was absolutely true, but that is not good enough for Christensen.

Actually, I do address the question of Smith claiming to have a vision in 1820. Christensen just isn’t paying attention. I wasn’t writing a book, but giving limited examples, just as he did. But this is how Mormon Apologists roll.  If all else fails, invent a strawman.

I also note his appeal to secrecy regarding the 1832 history and a declaration of “absolutely no evidence” of Cowdery’s knowledge. This last runs directly into Matthew Brown’s 2009 book, A Pillar of Light: The History and Message of the First Vision, which continues a line of thought dating at least to Richard L. Anderson in BYU Studies in 1969.

Which is full of problems. Nowhere is there any proof that Cowdery had knowledge of the 1832 History. His own History proves this. I will elaborate below. Christensen continues:

Brown quotes Cowdery’s declaration that in producing his 1834–1835 histories, he would draw on assistance from Joseph Smith, and use “authentic documents now in our possession.” Brown then offers a careful comparison of what Cowdery produced in 1834 with what Joseph Smith and Frederick Williams had created in 1832 and shows that Cowdery actually used the 1832 account. This means, contra Stephenson, there is good evidence that Cowdery knew about Joseph’s 1820 vision, which also means, there is good evidence that the statement in the Reflector has an authentic source behind it. That source is most likely Cowdery, and therefore the report in the Reflector has a reason for existing.

This is just… wrong. Obviously Christensen hasn’t really studied this issue or he wouldn’t be appealing to the late Mormon Apologist Matthew Brown and the completely flawed arguments of Richard Anderson or the source of the Reflector article (Abner Cole). But I guess facts are just stubborn things. A lot of the material that Christensen would cite from Brown has actually been compiled in Exploring the First Vision which gives (in my opinion the best compiled Mormon perspectives on the subject to date).

I was skeptical about any claims by Brown (after reading his dismal 2010 FAIRMORMON presentation on Adam God), but I get really tired of people quoting whole books as Christensen does time after time and I want to show why he does it, so as I mentioned above, I bought Brown’s book.

In actually seeing the material it is obvious that it would not have been difficult for Christensen to do what I’m going to do, Quote Brown’s “careful” comparison.  (But Christensen would rather spend lots of time blathering about Kuhn and his own invented formulas and pointing out mistakes in word counts than actually presenting and analyzing evidence). Here is Brown’s comparison of the 1832 and the 1834 Histories. It’s not very complex, long, or detailed.

V. The Matthew Brown Comparison

Cowdery 1834: “our brother’s mind became awakened”
Smith 1832: “my mind became seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul”

Cowdery 1834: “the word of God”
Smith 1832: “the word of God”

Cowdery 1834: “the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches”
Smith 1832: “those of different denominations”

Cowdery 1834: “godliness”
Smith 1832: “adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation”

Cowdery 1834: “the fifteenth year of his life”
Smith 1832: “the age of . . . fifteen”

Cowdery 1834: “this general strife . . . gave opportunity for further reflection. . . . [H]is mind was led to more seriously contemplate”
Smith 1832: “I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind the contentions and divisions”

Cowdery 1834: “his spirit was not at rest day nor night”
Smith 1832: “my mind became exceedingly distressed”

Cowdery 1834: “arouse the sinner to look about him for safety”
Smith 1832: “I became convicted of my sins”

Cowdery 1834: “a society professing to be built upon the only sure foundation”
Smith 1832: “there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ”

Cowdery 1834: “All professed to be the true church”
Smith 1832: “worship Him . . . in truth”

Cowdery 1834: “In this situation where could he go?”
Smith 1832: “there was none else to whom I could go”

Cowdery 1834: “the pardoning influence and condescension of the Savior”
Smith 1832: “Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. . . . I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world”

Cowdery 1834: “life eternal”
Smith 1832: “eternal life”

Cowdery 1834: “they were certainly hypocritical”
Smith 1832: “they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me”

Cowdery 1834: “his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians”
Smith 1832: “about that time my mother and”

Cowdery 1835: “he continued to call upon the Lord in secret”
Smith 1832: “the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness”

Cowdery 1835: “filled with a joy unspeakable”
Smith 1832: “I could rejoice with great joy”

Cowdery 1835: “pure and holy religion”
Smith 1832: “the true and living faith”

Cowdery 1835: “The Lord . . . said [in the scriptures]. . . . whosoever would, might. . . . to the remotest ages of times”
Smith 1832: “I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons”

Cowdery 1835: “the creation of the world”
Smith 1832: “the earth . . . created”

Cowdery 1835: “if a Supreme being did exist”
Smith 1832: “it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God”

Cowdery 1835: “he . . . call[ed] upon the Lord . . . to have an assurance that he was accepted of Him. . . . a humble penitent sinner”
Smith 1832: “I cried unto the Lord for mercy”

Cowdery 1835: “He [i.e., God] . . . passing it as a firm decree”
Smith 1832: “a Being who . . . decreeth”

Cowdery 1835: “the world . . . its inhabitants”
Smith 1832: “the inhabitants of the earth”

Cowdery 1835: “bring [the] inhabitants [of the world] to judgment”
Smith 1832: “visit [the inhabitants of the earth] according to their ungodliness”

Cowdery 1835: “soul”
Smith 1832: “soul”

(Brown, Matthew B., A Pillar of Light: The History and Message of the First Vision, Deseret Book Company, Kindle Locations 3516-3558).

There is so much that Cowdery didn’t include from Smith’s 1832 account (and so many differences between the two) that it defies logic that he had it as a basis for the later History.  Brown also desperately includes the word “soul” which appears in both accounts (numerous times in 1834/1835 in different contexts).  One thing I noticed, many of these comparisons are very general and out of context. It would have been just as easy for Cowdery to glean the information from Joseph orally, or from his own History that he probably had written prior to this one. (Discussed below)

And there is that really persuasive argument that if Cowdery had the 1832 account, why did Joseph find it necessary to provide Cowdery with another document which gave him the same information about his birth date and birthplace? And why did Cowdery call this information provided by Joseph “indispensable”?

And those word combinations. Here are some actual word combinations between “ A Manuscript Story” and The Book of Mormon by Vernal Holley. (Some of Holley’s best work). Notice how many words are alike (compared to Brown’s). Using Brown’s methodology here, is Christensen and other Mormon Apologists going to admit that Joseph got the Book of Mormon from Solomon Spaulding?

The problem is that Joseph was telling a story that at first didn’t include a claimed 1820 vision, the same story that Mormon Missionaries were obviously telling since the founding of the Church in 1830. Of course some elements are going to be the same and Cowdery has to describe them. What I found hard to believe were many of Brown’s supposed matches. Here is one,

Cowdery 1835: “if a Supreme being did exist”
Smith 1832: “it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God”

In Smith’s 1832 account, he uses the quote above in this context:

thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of differant denominations led me to marvel excedingly for I discovered that <they did not adorn> instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed  for I become convicted of my Sins and by Searching the Scriptures I found that mand <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own Sins and for the Sins of the world for I learned in the Scriptures that God was the Same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respecter to persons [Heb. 13:8; Acts 10:34-35] for he was God for I looked upon the Sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and [p. 2] marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him <them> and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said the <it is a> fool <that> saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity (Joseph Smith History, circa 1832,  JS Letterbook 1, JS Collection, CHL, 2).

In the 1832 account, Joseph Smith already believed there was a God. Because of that, he became “convicted of my sins”. He wrote why he believed in God:

“the Sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and [p. 2] marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him <them> (ibid).

This is why Joseph used the Bible quote that only a fool would believe that there is no God.

In Cowdery’s account Joseph’s “mind became awakened”. There is nothing about him reading the scriptures, being convicted of his sins, nor looking around himself and becoming convinced by nature that there actually was a God. This dovetails perfectly with what Joseph told Peter Bauder in 1830. He had “no Christian experience”. He didn’t know if a “Supreme Being” did exist. This is the opposite of what Joseph writes in the 1832 History. In Cowdery’s account, this is all different. Cowdery writes,

To profess godliness [as the Ministers of the day were doing and Joseph was supposed to do] without its benign influence upon the heart, was a thing so foreign from his feelings, that his spirit was not at rest day nor night. (Oliver Cowery, History, 1834-36,  JS History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, CHL, 63).

Joseph was not “convicted of my sins”.  He didn’t even believe that there was a God as Cowdery relates it! He did not have the “benign influence” of godliness upon his heart. The whole purpose of him praying in 1823 was to find out “if a Supreme Being did exist”. In his 1832 account he already believed this. Matthew Brown simply claims that “critics” are misinterpreting Cowdery because he must have had the 1832 History. (More on this below). It is simply circular logic.

Cowdery writes,

In this situation where could he go? If he went to one he was told they were right, and all others were wrong-If to another, the same was heard from those: All professed to be the true church; the idle wind or the spider’s web. But if others were not benefited, our brother was urged forward and strengthened in the determination to know for himself of the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion.-And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him. This, most assuredly, was correct-it was right. The Lord has said, long since, and his word remains steadfast, that for him who knocks it shall be opened, & whosoever will, may come and partake of the waters of life freely. (ibid, 61).

Joseph’s 1832 account shows a young man who had read the Bible in his youth (from 12 yrs. to 15 yrs.) and looked around and saw the wonder of creation and this impressed him that,

<it is a> fool <that> saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity

Then in his 16th year, he prays, which would be four years after he encountered the religious strife. This is the opposite of what Cowdery writes. Look at the contrast in the Cowdery account:

In this general strife for followers, his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians. This gave opportunity for further reflection; and as will be seen in the sequel, laid a foundation, or was one means of laying a foundation for the attestation of the truths, or professions of truth, contained in that record called the word of God.

After strong solicitations to unite with one of those different societies, and seeing the apparent proselyting [proselytizing] disposition manifested with equal warmth from each, his mind was led to more seriously contemplate the importance of a move of this kind. To profess godliness without its benign influence upon the heart, was thing so foreign from his feelings, that his spirit was not at rest day nor night. To unite with a society professing to be built upon the only sure foundation, and that profession be a vain one, was calculated, in its very nature, the more it was contemplated, the more to arouse the mind to the serious consequences of moving hastily, in a course fraught with eternal realities. To say he was right, and still be wrong, could not profit; and amid so many, some must be built upon the sand. In this situation where could he go? If he went to one he was told they were right, and all others were wrong-If to another, the same was heard from those: All professed to be the true church; and if not they were certainly hypocritical, because, if I am presented with a system of religion, and enquire [inquire] of my teacher whether it is correct, and he informs me that he is not certain, he acknowledges at once that he is teaching without authority, and acting without a commission!

If one professed a degree of authority or preference in consequence of age or right, and that superiority was without evidence, it was insufficient to convince a mind once aroused to that degree of determination which at that time operated upon him. And upon farther reflecting, that the Savior had said that the gate was straight and the way narrow that lead to life eternal, and that few entered there; and that the way was broad, and the gate wide which lead to destruction, and that many crowded its current, a proof from some source was wanting to settle the mind and give peace to the agitated bosom. It is not frequent that the minds of men are exercised with proper determination relative to obtaining a certainty of the things of God.-They are too apt to rest short of that assurance which the Lord Jesus has so freely offered in his word to man, and which so beautifully characterizes his whole plan of salvation, as revealed to us.

I do not deem it to be necessary to write further on the subject of this excitement. It is doubted by many whether any real or essential good ever resulted from such excitements, while others advocate their propriety with warmth. The mind is easily called up to reflection upon a matter of such deep importance, and it is just that it should be; but there is a regret occupying the heart when we consider the deep anxiety of thousands, who are lead away with a vain imagination, or a groundless hope, no better than the idle wind or the spider’s web.

But if others were not benefited, our brother was urged forward and strengthened in the determination to know for himself of the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion.-And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him. This, most assuredly, was correct-it was right. The Lord has said, long since, and his word remains steadfast, that for him who knocks it shall be opened, & whosoever will, may come and partake of the waters of life freely.

To deny a humble penitent sinner a refreshing draught from this most pure of all fountains, and most desirable of all refreshments, to a thirsty soul, is a matter for the full performance of which the sacred record stands pledged. The Lord never said-“Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” to turn a deaf ear to those who were weary, when they call upon him. He never said, by the mouth of the prophet-“Ho, every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters,” without passing it as a firm decree, at the same time, that he that should after come, should be filled with a joy unspeakable.

Neither did he manifest by the Spirit to John upon the isle-“Let him that is athirst, come,” and command him to send the same abroad, under any other consideration, than that “whosoever would, might take the water of life freely,” to the remotest ages of time, or while there was a sinner upon his footstool.

These sacred and important promises are looked upon in our day as being given, either to another people, or in a figuratively form, and consequently require spiritualizing, notwithstanding they are as conspicuously plain, and are meant to be understood according to their literal reading, as those passages which teach us of the creation of the world, and of the decree of its Maker to bring its inhabitants to judgment. But to proceed with my narrative.- (Oliver Cowdery, 1834-1836 History, 59-60).

Notice Cowdery’s language that mirrors the claims made in the Telegraph from 1831, about getting a “commission”. Cowdery explains that Joseph’s commission comes from God through the angel. Nowhere do we see a Joseph who has studied the Bible and was unsure if there even was a God. Joseph had read the Bible, looked around and believed it to be God’s handiwork, believed there was a God, and then had felt Godly sorrow and was “convicted of my sins.” Cowdery’s account doesn’t describe the 1832’s wonder of Joseph’s observation of the world, but only that this was to be understood literally in the Bible as a promise which was being professed by the ministers of the day.  That God was not speaking “figuratively” when he gave his promise of answers. Joseph was “urged forward” by the preaching of George Lane and the strife he saw, and then his family joining the Presbyterians. In the 1832 History, it led him to a period of study that took years. (12 to 15) He had his theophany, the visit from the angel, and then he begins to mention his family joining the Presbyterians but crosses it out and never finishes it.

Joseph is convinced in the 1832 account that all the sects were wrong. He doesn’t need the remonstrations of George Lane to feel compelled to action. Cowdery even claims that  “It is doubted by many whether any real or essential good ever resulted from such excitements, while others advocate their propriety with warmth.” And that “ there is a regret occupying the heart when we consider the deep anxiety of thousands, who are lead away with a vain imagination, or a groundless hope, no better than the idle wind or the spider’s web.”

Joseph goes to God to “see if a Supreme Being did exist,” in Cowdery’s version because he was troubled by the message of George Lane and the strife he saw among the religious sects of the day. This indeed is part of the 1832 History (the strife he saw) but that led him to an intense study of the scriptures that lasted for years, all of which Cowdery is strangely silent about.

VI. The Presbyterian Problem

Brown writes,

NOTE (1) If all of these phrases are highlighted in a side-by-side comparison of documents, it will be seen that even though Oliver Cowdery utilized the majority of the 1832 First Vision text in creating his own historical report, he went right around the theophany material in the Prophet’s recital. (Brown, Matthew B., A Pillar of Light: The History and Message of the First Vision, Deseret Book Company, Kindle Locations 3558-3561).

Oliver used a “majority” of the 1832 History? Far from it. I have done a comparison, here. It doesn’t help, it indicates nothing of the kind. What it does show, is that Cowdery relates the elements of an earlier (oral or written) version of a history that Joseph had been conveying to people since he had first spoken of the angel and the plates in 1827. The same story that his mother wrote in her preliminary draft. The same story that William McLellin was told. The same story that was preached by the Mormon Missionaries in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The same story told by William Smith long before the 1880’s: That when Joseph first prayed, he was answered by the angel Moroni. 

If the 1834 History was based on the 1832 History, then why is it missing so many elements of that History? Why doesn’t it speak of Joseph’s early concerns for his “immortal welfare”? Joseph wrote,

At about the age of twelve years my mind become Seriously imprest  with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of nay immortal Soul which led me to Searching the Scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God to whom I could go and to obtain mercy (Joseph Smith, 1832 History, 2)

Cowdery claims that this occurred after Joseph was in his 17th year. (Or 15th, if you disbelieve what Cowdery said, that  15th year was a typo). Joseph claimed that it was in his 12th year. Smith was very specific in the 1832 History.  If Cowdery was simply instructed to just leave out the theophany, then why did he not include the named age of Smith in the 1832 History when he began his quest for answers? Why skip over that, and write about George Lane? Because Cowdery was probably drawing from a previous History, one that he learned and wrote down himself. (I’m getting to that).

Joseph also claims in the 1832 History that the “war of words” led him, when he turned twelve, to begin reading the Bible and searching the scriptures. In Cowdery’s History, it leads him to ask God for an answer, not knowing if there even was a God. How could Cowdery get this so wrong if he had the 1832 History to draw from?

Here, Brown highlights the phrase “word of God”.  He then links it to Cowdery’s use of the word:

In this general strife for followers, his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians. This gave opportunity for further reflection; and as will be seen in the sequel, laid a foundation, or was one means of laying a foundation for the attestation of the truths, or professions of truth, contained in that record called the word of God. (Cowdery, 1834-1836 History, link provided above).

It seems that these two align, but they do not. Cowdery uses the phrase “word of God” as describing “attestations of truth”, and that the Bible was self explanatory in that sense. Joseph uses it in an entirely different way, what he believed already:  that the scriptures actually contained the word of God and he knew it. Brown also claims that these two phrases show that Cowdery took his information from the 1832 account:

Cowdery 1834: “his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians”
Smith 1832: “about that time my mother and

Except that in Joseph’s 1832 account the crossed out phrase, “about that time my mother and” appears after the theophany, not before it. Joseph would later claim that his mother and siblings had joined with the Presbyterians before his claimed 1820  vision:

I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.

This is a crucial point, because if his mother and siblings joined the Presbyterian Church after the theophany, it creates doubt that Joseph had ever told anyone about his claimed vision. Joseph knew this and changed the timeline in his 1838 version. Cowdery’s version changes the 1832 timeline of events (which would have been correct if Joseph actually had a claimed 1820 vision), because that would have occurred before members of his family joined with the Presbyterians and there were no declarations from God that all of the churches were wrong and an “abomination” to him.

We have documented evidence that members of the Smith family had joined the Presbyterian Church after the death of Alvin. Lucy Smith’s timeline in her biography of Joseph attests this, as do the records of the Presbyterian Church itself.

Matthew Brown writes,

There is one piece of evidence from Lucy Mack Smith’s autobiography that is consistently ignored by the critics, possibly because it effectively nullifies the theory that she became a Presbyterian during Palmyra’s undisputed late 1824 and early 1825 revival. She stated quite clearly that she formally attached herself to a church after her son Alvin “attained his 22nd year”—which took place on 11 February 1820. Alvin died on 19 November 1823, when he was twenty-five years and nine months old. If Mother Smith had really joined the Presbyterians near the recognizable start of the 1824 Palmyra revival—ca. December—then Alvin would have been dead for a little more than a year and her autobiographical statement about formally joining a church would make no sense. (Brown, Matthew B., A Pillar of Light: The History and Message of the First Vision, Deseret Book Company, Kindle Locations 2655-2660).

Brown is simply mistaken here.  This has been addressed by many historians. Dr. Richard Lloyd Anderson, in his contribution to the anthology Exploring the First Vision,  “Joseph Smith’s Accuracy on the First Vision Setting: The Pivotal 1818 Palmyra Camp Meeting”, makes the same argument and tries to give Lucy’s joining the Presbyterian Church an 1820 date:

Early in her marriage, Lucy had received believer’s baptism without commitment to a specific church, later commenting that she retained this status “until my oldest son attained his 22nd year.” She refers to the oldest living son, Alvin, who died of a doctor’s folk remedy in late 1823 but had started his twenty-second year on February 11, 1820. Here she agrees with Joseph’s 1838 history that she made a Presbyterian commitment by early 1820. (Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s Accuracy on the First Vision Setting: The Pivotal 1818 Palmyra Camp Meeting,” in Exploring the First Vision, ed. Samuel Alonzo Dodge and Steven C. Harper (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2012), 91–169.)

It is hard to believe that Anderson isn’t aware that Lucy in her preliminary manuscript misdated the year of Alvin’s birth to 1799, so this makes Anderson’s claim untenable. Dan Vogel explains that,

Alvin became twenty-two on 11 February 1820. However, Lucy mis-dates Alvin’s birth to 1799, rather than 1798, and his death to 1824, instead of 1823 (L. Smith 1853, 40). Later she states that she joined the Presbyterian church after Alvin’s death. This is complicated by the Presbyterian committee’s mention in March 1830 that she had been a member for one year (see MS:49-50, 110). Richard L. Anderson has suggested that “[t]here may be various degrees of ‘joining’ a church” (R. L. Anderson 1969a, 391, n. 55). (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 243, note 33).

Since Lucy recalled Alvin’s birth in the year 1799 that would make Alvin 22 in 1821 (a year after the claimed 1820 vision) and so using this argument is disingenuous. Even in Joseph Smith’s own history written in 1838 he wrote that Alvin died in 1824, and this date was published in Mormon scriptures until 1981. In 1970, Russell Rich wrote,

Lucy Mack Smith lists the date [of Alvin’s birth] as February 11, 1799, in her first edition of her history of the Prophet. There has been much more controversy over Alvin’s death than over his birth. A footnote in the DHC 1:16 includes a genealogy of the Prophet’s family, giving the date of Alvin’s death as November 19, 1825. On the same page (and also on page 2) in the body of the text the Prophet is quoted as specifying the date as 1824. In Mother Smith’s original edition she also gave 1824 as the year of Alvin’s death. In Joseph Smith 2:4-6, in the Pearl of Great Price, the present edition also gives 1824 as the year of Alvin’s death.  (BYU Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, p.255).

Anderson surely should have known this since an article of his own on the first vision appears in the same issue as that of Russell Rich. Marvin Hill, as far back as 1982 understood that Lucy joined the Presbyterians after Alvin’s death:

Indicating that the angel had told Joseph of the plates prior to the revival, Lucy added that for a long time after Alvin’s death the family could not bear any talk about the golden plates, for the subject had been one of great interest to him and any reference to the plates stirred sorrowful memories. She said she attended the revival with hope of gaining solace for Alvin’s loss. That kind of detail is just the sort that gives validity to Lucy’s chronology. She would not have been likely to make up such a reaction for herself or the family nor mistake the time when it happened.  I am persuaded that it was 1824 when Lucy joined the Presbyterians. (Dialogue, Vol.15, No.2, p.39 – p.40).

Anderson continues to misconstrue the facts by claiming that,

Joseph recalled at Nauvoo that he came from the 1820 vision in the grove and told Mother Lucy that he had learned for himself that “Presbyterianism is not true” (v. 20). Thus the older Smiths were investigating Palmyra churches on a parallel track to Joseph prior to the First Vision. The Neibaur journal, discussed above, has Joseph recalling a Methodist “Revival meeting,” likely the June 1818 camp meeting in the Seagar journal, where “his mother & Br & Sist got religion.” As Joseph says in the 1838 history, he was fourteen at the end of 1819, the period when his mother and three siblings chose Presbyterianism, and afterward Alvin received a Presbyterian funeral in 1823.

Why is Anderson misconstruing the facts? Because he is linking an event that took place in 1823/1824 with one that took place in 1818. Much has been made lately of Aurora Seagar and another Methodist, Benajah Williams by the Mormon experts since these accounts were resurrected by D. Michael Quinn in 2006 who tries to push the date of Joseph’s claimed 1820 vision to early summer of that year, but they are easy to explain. See Dan Vogel’s response, here.

Joseph himself stated that this happened before the claimed 1820 vision:

My Fathers family w<ere> proselyted to the Presbyterian faith and four of them joined that Church, Namely, My Mother Lucy, My Brothers Hyrum, Samuel Harrison, and my Sister Soph[r]onia. (Joseph Smith, History)

This is an important distinction from just being converted, or uniting with that faith. Anderson himself defines this distinction,

On which level were Lucy and three children Presbyterians? This could be Presbyterian attendance, attendance on formal probation, or full membership, with right of the Lord’s Supper. Yet historians following Walters have tried to merge revivals dated around 1820 with those after Alvin’s death by claiming (without direct evidence) that Lucy became a Presbyterian member in her grief about 1824. Mother Smith does describe a Palmyra awakening then, when her hopes were raised by a minister who sought cooperation from local denominations, though she could not influence her husband or son Joseph to attend these meetings. However, Lucy’s history does not say she joined a church in the surge of religion at Palmyra after Alvin’s late 1823 death. A later religious conflict throws light on the intervening years. In March 1830, Lucy and sons Hyrum and Samuel were served notice of a church hearing for nonattendance and were then visited by officials of the Palmyra Presbyterian Church. Lucy’s history gives her version of the conversation with visiting Presbyterian elders, when the Smiths defended the Book of Mormon vigorously, which was significant, since the Smith men were two of the Eight Witnesses, who had seen and handled the plates. The hearing minutes still exist, indicating that the Smiths “did not wish to unite with us anymore.” The defendants avoided the hearing, which charged them with “neglect of public worship and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for the last eighteen months.” Instead of being cut off, the three were disfellowshipped, “suspended from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” (Anderson, op. cited above).

The answer is right in front of Anderson, but he refuses to see it. He writes, “full membership with right of the Lord’s Supper.”  And Lucy does say that she joined the Presbyterians after Alvin’s death for she writes,

My husband also declined attending the meetings after the first but did not object to myself and such of the children as chose to go or to become <going or becoming> church members <if we wished> (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents p. 307).

Lucy writes that this took place after the death of Alvin. Joseph wrote that they joined that church. The Smiths in question were members of the Presbyterian Church because they were charged in 1830 with “neglect of public worship and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for the last eighteen months.” That would take them back to 1828, so they were members for four years previous to this because they joined that church shortly after Alvin’s death in 1823. Their break came a few months after Joseph began his “translation” of  the Book of Mormon. Stanley Kimball relates the sequence of events:

On March 3, 1830 the session “met pursuant to notice,” and, among other things, “Resolved that the Reverend A. E. Campbell and H. Jessup be a committee to visit Hiram Smith, Lucy Smith, and Samuel Harrison Smith and report at the next meeting of session.”

[March 10] “The committee appointed to visit Hiram Smith, Lucy Smith, and Samuel Harrison Smith reported that they had visited them and received no satisfaction. They acknowledged that they had entirely neglected the ordinances of the church for the last eighteenth months and that they did not wish to unite with us anymore. Whereupon Resolved that they be cited to appear before the session on the 24th day of March inst., at 2 o’clock P.M. at this Meeting House to answer to the following charge to wit:

Neglect of public worship and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for the last eighteen months.”

This action was taken by the Rev. Alfred E. Campbell and Elders George Beckwith, Henry Jessup, Pelatiah West, and Newton Foster and witnessed by Harvey Shet, Levi Dagget, James Robinson, Robert W. Smith, and Frederick Sheffield.

[March 24] “Hiram Smith, Lucy Smith, and Samuel Harrison Smith not appearing pursuant to the citation served upon them by P. West–Resolved that they be again cited to appear before his session on Monday the 29th inst. At this place at 2 o’clock P.M.– and that P. West serve said citation.” On March 29, 1830 “The persons before cited to wit–Hiram Smith, Lucy Smith, and Samuel Harrison Smith not appearing and the session having satisfactory evidence that the citation was duly served. Resolved that they be censured for their contumacy. Resolved that George Beckwith manage their defense. The charge in the above case being fully sustained by the testimony of Henry Jessup, Harvey Shet, Robert W. Smith, and Frederick U. Sheffield. (In minutes of . . . [?] on file with the clerk.) The session after duly considering the matter were unanimously of opinion Hiram Smith, Lucy Smith, and Samuel Harrison Smith ought to be suspended– Resolved that Hiram Smith, Lucy Smith, and Samuel Harrison Smith be and they hereby are suspended from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”

Such was the ecclesiastical trial of members of the Prophet’s family. From this we can conclude, in addition to the fact that Lucy, Hiram, and Samuel Harrison were indeed members of the Palmyra congregation, that sometime during the translation of the Book of Mormon they had become inactive and that by early March of 1830 they were being charged with “Neglect of public worship and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper….” We also know that they ignored two personally served citations and that on March 29 they were “suspended from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”

Lucy, Hiram, and Samuel’s inactivity in the Presbyterian Church was no doubt directly related to Joseph’s opinions. When they were contemplating joining with the Presbyterians, Joseph told his mother that “it would do us no injury to join them, that if we did, we should not continue with them long, for we were mistaken in them, and did not know the wickedness of their hearts.” (Dialogue, Vol.5, No.4, p.122-123).

If Lucy was already a member of the Presbyterian Church before 1823, then why is it she expressly states that her husband and her son Joseph did not object to them joining after Alvin’s death? Anderson adds, (inexplicably) that “the charge of church inactivity probably indicates that the Presbyterian Smiths had fairly regularly attended preaching and communion meetings during the early 1820s, or the nonattendance charge would have been filed earlier.” This makes no sense and is simply wishful thinking. It would only have been filed earlier if the Smith’s had actually been members of that Church in 1820 as Joseph said they were. The evidence shows that Joseph was wrong as well as Anderson. The charge was filed in 1830. Why would they wait 10 years to file their charge and then claim that they had been inactive for only eighteen months?

Brown’s curious claim that no “critics” have addressed this is bizarre.  We see that Lucy Smith places her joining the Presbyterian Church after the death of Alvin.  To show that Lucy was off in her dates by a year, she wrote,

“We were still making arrangements for building[.] my oldest son took principle management Charge of this and when the month of November 1822 arrived the House was raised…” (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 299).

The Smith frame home was raised in November of 1823, a year later. Lucy Smith also claimed that she had been “partial to the Presbyterians” and so Brown’s claim that this discredits the arguments above is disingenuous.

VII. Apologist Blather

If Joseph’s purpose was to simply have Cowdery leave out the theophany, why are there all of these discrepancies in the timeline? Why omit information that leads up to the theophany and relate a whole different story (about George Lane)  that Joseph later discards?  Where did Cowdery get his information about George Lane? Surely this had to come from Joseph himself, who had at some time related it to Cowdery, thus strengthening the evidence that he had gotten his information from oral statements made by Joseph. The best answer is that Joseph was telling the story about George Lane and some were familiar with it, including Oliver Cowdery.  Cowdery writes,

While continuing in prayer for a manifestation in some way that his sins were forgiven; endeavoring to exercise faith in the scriptures (Cowdery, op. cited above)

Yet in the 1832 History, Joseph claims that

“my mind become Seriously imprest  with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to Searching the Scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God to whom I could go and to obtain mercy” (Smith, 1832 History, op. cited above).

Joseph did have “faith in the scriptures”. This is obvious from reading the 1832 History. So how does Cowdery miss this and the many other details that are crucial to the 1832 History? The answer is obvious. He did not know about that History and did not use it to craft his History for the Messenger and Advocate.

Still, Christensen blathers on:

These conclusions raise the question of why Cowdery did not expand on the vision in the 1834-35 articles. Opinions differ on this of course, but Brown and Anderson, among others, have proposed sensible solutions. Any argument that Cowdery knew nothing does not account for the content of Reflector’s report from the Painesville correspondent. Nor does it explain Cowdery’s consistent testimony even while out of the church. If a contradiction in Joseph’s accounts is so clear-cut to Runnells and Stephenson at two centuries’ removed, would it not have been even more clear to Oliver Cowdery? Why, then, did Oliver not expose the hoax once he was disaffected from the Church and Joseph?

I do not see any “sensible solutions” by Brown and Anderson, only apologist spin. Do you see Christensen’s pattern here? Make a statement with a footnote, and then link it to a Mormon Apologists book. He presents none of the real evidence himself. Anyone who doesn’t have Brown’s book, can’t verify what he is referencing without buying the book. He doesn’t even bother to quote Brown, which is easy to do.  I will now address Brown’s arguments. He writes,

Some critics have focused their attention on a Church history document that was produced by Oliver Cowdery in 1835, claiming that it says Joseph Smith did not know if God existed when the angel Moroni appeared to him in 1823. Moreover, critics point out that Oliver’s history was published in the Church’s official newspaper and that the Prophet had helped to create the text (though they fail to demonstrate or explain exactly how much involvement the Prophet had in the project). (Brown, Matthew B., op. cited above, Kindle Locations 2224-2227).

In fact we do know how much involvement that Joseph had in the project. Cowdery writes,

Clerks of Council.

-> The following communication was designed to have been published in the last No. of the Star; but owing to a press of other matter it was laid over for this No. of the Messenger and Advocate. Since it was written, upon further reflection, we have thought that a full history of the rise of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints.-If circumstances admit, an article on this subject will appear in each subsequent No. of the Messenger and Advocate, until the time when the church was driven from Jackson Co. Mo. by a lawless banditti; & such other remarks as may be thought appropriate and interesting.

That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. SMITH jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.-To do justice to this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask the forbearance of our readers, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts. ~Norton, Medina co. Ohio, Sabbath evening, September 7, 1834.

Here we see that Joseph’s participation (his labor) was “indispensable”. This indicates a high degree of involvement with the project.

VIII. The Authentic Documents

Mormon Apologists like Matthew Brown claim that the authentic documents that Cowdery alluded to was the 1832 History. But there is another explanation for these “authentic documents”.  John Whitmer wrote in his History that,

Oliver Cowdery has written the commencement of the Church history, commencing at the time of the finding of the plates, up to June 12th, 1831. From this date I have written the things that I have written, and they are a mere sketch of the things that have transpired, they are however all that seemed to me wisdom to write many things happened that are to be lamented, because of the weakness and instability of man. (“The Book of John Whitmer Kept by Commandment,” Chapter 6, Community of Christ Archives.)

Whitmer began his history on June 12, 1831 picking up (as he says) where Cowdery left off. As they write at the Joseph Smith Papers,

Between his arrival in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to assist JS with the Book of Mormon translation on 5 April 1829 and his departure from New York on a mission to the Indians in October 1830, Cowdery kept several non-narrative records, such as meeting minutes and revelations. He later wrote a series of letters about JS’s early history that were published in 1834–1835 in the LDS Messenger and Advocate. None of these records, however, matches the date range given here. If Whitmer was referring to some other narrative history kept by Cowdery, this is the only known contemporary indication of such a narrative.

 Whitmer claimed that Cowdery had written a History that included far more material than the 1834/35  History published in the Messenger and Advocate.

When Oliver Cowdery died in 1850, he was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery, and a daughter, Maria Louise Cowdery, who eventually married but had no children. Oliver’s widow and daughter both died in Southwest City in 1892, leaving Oliver without descendants. Extant correspondence of Maria Louise indicated that the family burned Oliver’s old papers, finding them too cumbersome to carry on their many moves. (Ensign, December 1986)

If Cowdery had written an early history of Joseph Smith prior to 1834, it is possible that it was destroyed by his family after his death. Why would Cowdery need the 1832 History, when he already had one of his own, that he had written prior to 1831?

Therefore, Cowdery could easily have drawn on his own history for the material that led up to Joseph finding the plates, (like the account of George Lane) and then he needed Joseph to fill in his early years, which Joseph did with his letter to Cowdery. This is why none of the material (mentioned above) from the 1832 History appears in Cowdery’s history.

What is interesting is that Brown writes in his book,

There are several things that need to be taken into consideration when dealing with the narrative composed by the second elder of the Church. Oliver Cowdery announced in an article published at the outset of his 1834–35 history project that not only would he be assisted by the Prophet in this endeavor, but he also had authoritative documents from which to extract correct information. His statement reads, That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J[oseph] Smith [J]r. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative. . . . [I]t shall be founded upon facts.” Since Oliver had both of these valuable resources at his disposal, it is only natural for modern readers to expect that his recital of the founding events of the Church would be both accurate and complete. And since the story of Deity’s visitation to the grove is missing from this literary venture, some readers assume that Oliver was not yet aware of the story when he wrote this statement (and, by extension, neither was the general Church populace). The main problem with this argument lies in the fact that when a comparison is carried out between Oliver’s text and the Prophet’s unpublished 1832 history it becomes clear that the “authentic documents” Oliver had in his possession were the six pages of the Prophet’s 1832 account18—and the Prophet’s 1832 account does, in fact, rehearse the Lord’s visitation to the grove. (Brown, Matthew B., op. cited above, Kindle Locations 1725-1737).

The only evidence that Brown can produce for this is a comparison of words, which I’ve shown is inadequate to the task. Notice also, that Brown substitutes the word “authoritative” for “authentic”.  Cowdery also claims that Joseph’s assistance was “indispensable”, or absolutely necessary. We know he was involved, but Brown still has to claim that critics can’t specify how much involvement Joseph had, even though the word “indispensable” is self explanatory.

Cowdery then stresses that he needed the help of Joseph “particularly with the introduction”. This makes perfect sense given that John Whitmer claimed that Cowdery’s History began with the appearance of the angel to Joseph. The “authentic documents now in our possession” was the letter that Joseph had just written to Oliver and his own history that he would have gotten from Joseph himself.

Brown continues,

The passage in question reads as follows: This would bring the date down to the year 1823. . . . [Joseph] continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme Being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of Him.

There are at least four problems with the interpretation of this text as proposed by nonbelievers. Firstly, the most glaring difficulty with this point of view is that Oliver Cowdery had the Prophet’s unpublished 1832 history in his personal possession and was utilizing it to write his new historical narrative. In this document the Prophet not only plainly stated that he had seen the Lord before he was visited by the angel but also said that before he saw the Lord he believed that “it is a fool that [says] in his heart there is no God.”  (Brown, Matthew B., op. cited above, Kindle Locations 2227-2234).

It was also written in the 1832 that Joseph was in his 16th year, not his 15th. So why would Cowdery write the “15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr’s, age”, unless it really was a typo? Notice the 1832 History claims that Joseph was “in the 16th year of my age”. 1832 History I saw the Lord

Brown writes,

Secondly, it is important to remember that Oliver edited his text after he had told the preliminary portion of the First Vision story with the correct year appended to it. Brother Cowdery had received a letter from William W. Phelps after the first article of his historical series had been printed, and in that letter Brother Phelps mentioned that he wanted to learn certain information about the Book of Mormon. Oliver obliged by changing the date of focus to 1823, saying that he did not think it was necessary to talk about the revival associated with the First Vision any longer and then proceeding to tell the story of the angel Moroni and the golden plates. This is the context in which the above quotation was made—during a transition in storylines.(ibid., Kindle Locations 2234-2239).

Yet Cowdery’s History didn’t have the correct year according to the 1832 History. His argument about Phelps is a red herring. Cowdery’s earlier History started with the vision of the angel, and he told it as he knew it. (With the story of George Lane). That is why he needed the letter from Smith about his birth date and whatever Smith gave him about his childhood. (Which was very little). If Cowdery was using the 1832 History, he would not have needed this. Yet to Oliver, this was “indispensable.” Oliver Cowdery wrote,

But such facts as are within my knowledge, will be given without any reference to inconsistencies, in the minds of others, or impossibilities, in the feelings of such as do not give credence to the system of salvation and redemption so clearly set forth and so plainly written over the face of the sacred scriptures… (Cowdery, Letter III, op. cited above).

Here, Cowdery states that the facts that are “within my knowledge, will be given.” This dovetails perfectly with what he wrote about the information Joseph gave him:

You will recollect that I informed you, in my letter published in the first No. of the Messenger and Advocate, that this history would necessarily embrace the life and character of our esteemed friend and brother, J. Smith JR. one of the presidents of this church, and for information on that part of the subject, I refer you to his communication of the same, published in this paper. I shall, therefore, pass over that, till I come to the 15th year of his life. (ibid.)

Obviously Cowdery did not have access to the 1832 history or it would have been within the realm of his knowledge and it would have been given. He then skips to 1823 because he had previously (according to John Whitmer) started Joseph’s history at that time.

That is all the information that Cowdery had access to in relation to Joseph’s youth. That is why he states at the end of letter III, “I shall, therefore, pass over that, till I come to the 15th [17th] year of his life.” He didn’t just refocus because Phelps wanted more information on Moroni, he gave what he had, by publishing the letter that Smith wrote. If he already had the information contained in that letter, why have Smith write him a letter with that same information? I have never seen a Mormon Apologist address this point.   Cowdery then begins Letter IV by claiming that the age of 15 was a typo. Cowdery writes,

You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr’s, age-that was an error in the type-it should have been in the 17th.-You will please remember this correction, as it will be necessary for the full understanding of what will follow in time. This would bring the date down to the year 1823. (Cowdery, Letter IV, op. cited above).

This is exactly what it was. A typo. Brown writes,

Thirdly, a non-LDS newspaper reported that around the first of November 1830 Oliver Cowdery was part of a small group of missionaries who were teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God “personally.” This printed statement by the missionaries predates Oliver’s above-mentioned historical narrative by approximately four years and nine months. (Brown, Matthew B. op. cited, Kindle Locations 2240-2242).

I have addressed this above. Brown again,

Fourthly, a close look at the paragraph where the phrase “if a Supreme Being did exist” occurs reveals that its context is “while this excitement [i.e., revival activity] continued.” These two pieces of information do indeed belong to the First Vision storyline. But in this paragraph, and in the paragraphs surrounding it, Oliver was making a transition to a completely different storyline, and in the process he erroneously mixed the two of them together. With all of the preceding evidence at hand, it is not reasonable to believe that in 1823 Joseph Smith did not know whether God existed. Oliver Cowdery’s statement is simply being misinterpreted by the critics. (Brown, Matthew B, op. cited, Kindle Locations 2224-2247).

He erroneously mixed the two together? This is a “sensible solution”? Speculation? If Cowdery knew about the 1832 History, and that Joseph had actually seen God in 1820 then why is he even writing that Joseph went to pray “to see if a Supreme Being” actually existed when Joseph already believed that he did exist? This makes no sense at all. If all Cowdery was doing was omitting the theophany, why is this phrase even in his History? What we have to believe, (per Mormon Apologists) is that Cowdery was crafting a History, put all kinds of elements of the 1832 History in it, but was ordered by Smith to leave out the most crucial detail of that History, became confused and then wrote all kinds of insensible things. Cowdery does so, and just leaves it at that? He throws his promise of giving actual facts out the window and instead makes up that Joseph didn’t know God existed prior to the 1823 vision? These kinds of ad hoc arguments are all that can be produced by Christensen and Brown. These are reasonable explanations? To who? Only Mormon Apologists. How is anyone misinterpreting the statement that Joseph did not know that God existed in 1823? Why would Cowdery write it at all? It makes no sense whatsoever, unless Cowdery knew the story to be (as he was told, as was being related by everyone) that Joseph first prayed in 1823 and had no Christen experience.

Then, Christensen gets desperate:

Stephenson cites accounts by Cowdery, Lucy Smith, and others that did not mention the theophany in the grove, but none of them ever contradicted Joseph’s vision accounts when they had opportunity to do so, even those who separated from the church. Why did the charge that Joseph was late in inventing a theophany not appear until decades after his death? It seems that a certain historical distance was required before such a claim could be at all plausible, since Joseph’s contemporaries had heard the story from very early on.

This is a silly argument. Why didn’t David Whitmer deny his testimony of the Book of Mormon when he called Joseph Smith a fallen prophet? Why did he make his demarcation line at the Book of Mormon? Each had his own personal reasons for how they acted. Perhaps Cowdery was worried about his reputation. How would it look if he claimed he made it all up? That it didn’t happen? Why would Joseph’s own mother want to contradict her son? What good would that do? She believed he was a prophet. Again, these are silly questions that can only be answered by speculation.

There are lots of reasons one could give, but they would all be speculation, as would be any for why he kept silent. Why did many keep silent when Joseph changed “revelations”? They had faith in him as a prophet and it did not bother them. As for those who separated from the church, there is a big difference in publishing and speaking about it privately.

Let’s take David Whitmer for example. How can anyone determine what was important to Whitmer and what was not? Very few knew about the 1832 History. How can they claim discrepancies  when they didn’t know about it? We have the documents to compare today. They did not in the 19th century. This answer will not satisfy the Mormon Apologists, but it is what it is. The fact is, we have the documentation to show that Joseph’s followers were teaching that he first went to God in 1823, not 1820. All they have to back up Joseph’s later, changed version are an anonymous “synopsis”, vague interpretations of D&C 20, and ad hoc speculations about the 1834-1835 History.

IX. The William Smith Problem

Next Christensen brings up William Smith:

Stephenson cites the report of William Smith, who appears to mix elements from 1820 and 1824 in an 1883 article. But in the same article, William twice referred to Joseph’s own history: “a more elaborate and accurate description of his vision, however, will be found in his own history,” and “a particular account of his visions and life during this period will be found in his biography, and therefore I will omit it here.” Notice that William Smith gives a logical reason for omitting information.

But if William Smith was familiar with that history, why did he write the vision completely differently than it appeared there? Because that is how he remembered it. Christensen is also not taking into account the earlier accounts of William Smith (like from 1843) where he relates the same story of only the angel. By 1883 the story of the claimed 1820 vision was widely known and William finally referred to it (in an aside). Let’s investigate some of those, shall we?

In an interview given to James Murdock in 1842 William Smith recalled that,

“About the year 1823, there was a revival of religion in that region, and Joseph was one of several hopeful converts. The others were joining, some [to]one church, and some [to]another in that vicinity, but Joseph hesitated between the different denominations. While his mind was perplexed with this subject, he prayed for divine direction; and afterwards was awaked one night by an extraordinary vision. The glory of the Lord filled the chamber with a dazzling light, and a glorious angel appeared to him, conversed with him, and told him that he was a chosen vessel unto the Lord to make known true religion.The next day he went into the field, but he was unable to work, his mind being oppressed by the remembrance of the vision. He returned to the house, and soon after sent for his father and brothers from the field; and then, in the presence of the family–my informant one of them–he related all that had occurred. They were astounded, but not altogether incredulous. ” (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, pages 478-479).

Lest it be thought that this may be some kind of mix up with Joseph’s claimed 1820 vision, William affirms that this “glorious angel” that appeared to him, was the angel that also told him of the gold plates. This is the same exact story that Oliver Cowdery writes in 1834.

This was not William Smith’s only retelling of this event. He was interviewed in 1875 and affirmed that “It is to be remembered that Joseph Smith was only 17 years of age when he first began his profesional career in the Minestrey.” geography with other studies in the Common Schools of his day he was no novis and for writing he wrote a plain intelegable hand[.] William Smith, “Notes Written on ‘Chambers’ Life of Joseph Smith,'” circa 1875, page  26, quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 486. When William Smith recalled the beginning of his brother’s religious experience in 1883 he said,

Joseph became concerned on the subject of religion. My mother and brother Hyrum and a sister were members of the Presbyterian Church. We knew that Joseph’s mind was engrossed on religious subjects for some time, and we compared his condition to one who felt himself a stranger in a strange land, a desert land, without any one to guide him, or to afford him the needed relief. Yet seeming to know there must be some circumstances to arise that would afford succor, and desiring to know where to find help. This was Joseph’s condition. The idea was then, as it is now, that there was another world where the soul must live forever, and some means in existence whereby man might be prepared for it. “Was there a revealed plan by which man could find out that way?” My brother told me there was a lack of wisdom; he did not know which way to go. He retired to the woods to ask the Lord for guidance. While praying he saw a bright light, like the brightness of the sun. In that light he saw a personage3; and that being pointed him out as the messenger to go forth and declare his truth to the world; for “They had all gone astray;” “Every man was going his own way.” If we understand the order of God we learn that he is a God of order and hence could not be the author of all this confusion. After he had received this vision, he called his father’s family together and told them what he had seen. If a youth, not more than [p.491] seventeen, could concoct the message that he brought forth and then delivered to his family, it is strange indeed. He told of the “golden plates” which contained the history of the ancient inhabitants of this continent. [..]”William B. Smith. Experience and Testimony,” in “Sketches of Conference Sermons,” reported by Charles Derry, Saints’ Herald 30 (16 June 1883): 388, as quoted in Vogel, EMD pages 490-491.

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

These are the same elements of Joseph’s claimed 1820 vision story, but William consistently recalled that this took place in 1823 and that he saw an angel, not Jesus or his Father.  William would then write a book in 1883 titled William Smith on Mormonism (with a string of subtitles),

“This book contains a true account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon. A sketch of the History, Experience, and Ministry of Elder William Smith. The Story of the Golden Plates from which the Book of Mormon Was Translated. An Account of the Angel’s Visit to Joseph Smith, by which Means the Ancient Nephite Records Were Found and by Him Translated. An Account of a Most Extraordinary Miracle, Wrought by the Laying on of the Hands of the Elders of the Church, and a Statement of the Principles and Doctrines, As Believed and Taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with Other Matters of Great Interest to All Believers in Christianity.” (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 493). and in the Preface he expresses his “wish to correct the errors instilled into the minds of the people—by the many falsehoods and misrepresentations that book writers have set afloat concerning the character of Joseph Smith and the origin of the Book of Mormon regardless of the facts” (p. 3).

On page 5-12, he again gives an account of his brother’s first religious manifestation:

In 1822 and 1823, the people in our neighborhood were very much stirred up with regard to religious matters by the preaching of a Mr. Lane, an Elder of the Methodist Church, and celebrated throughout the country as a “great revival preacher.”

My mother, who was a very pious woman and much interested in the welfare of her children, both here and hereafter, made use of every means which her parental love could suggest, to get us engaged in seeking for our souls’ salvation, or (as the term then was) “in getting religion.” She prevailed on us to attend the meetings, and almost the whole family became interested in the matter, and seekers after truth. I attended the meetings with the rest, but being quite young and inconsiderate, did not take so much interest in the matter as the older ones did. This extraordinary excitement prevailed not only in our neighborhood but throughout the whole country. Great numbers were converted. It extended from the Methodists [p. 6] to the Baptists, from them to the Presbyterians; and so on until finally, almost all the sects became engaged in it; and it became quite the fashion to “get religion.” My mother continued her importunities and exertions to interest us in the importance of seeking for the salvation of our immortal souls, until almost all of the family became either converted or seriously inclined.

After the excitement had subsided, in a measure, each sect began to beat up for volunteers; each one saying, “We are right,” “Come and join us,” “Walk with us and we will do you good,” etc. The consequence was that my mother, my brothers Hyrum and Samuel, older than I, joined the Presbyterian Church. Joseph, then about seventeen years of age,7 had become seriously inclined, though not “brought out,” as the phrase was, began to reflect and inquire, which of all these sects was right. Each one said that it was right; which he knew could not be the case; and the question then was which one of the whole taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and made known the plan of salvation. If he went to one he was told they were right, and all others were wrong. If to another, the same was heard from them. Each [p. 7] professed to be the true church. This did not satisfy him, as he was aware that there would be but one way of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven, and that there was but one “straight and narrow path,” etc. All this however was beneficial to him, as it urged him forward, and strengthened him in the determination to know for himself of the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion. He continued in secret to call upon the Lord for a full manifestation of his will, the assurance that he was accepted of him, and that he might have an understanding of the path of obedience.

At length he determined to call upon the Lord until he should get a manifestation from him. He accordingly went out into the woods and falling upon his knees called for a long time upon the Lord for wisdom and knowledge. While engaged in prayer a light appeared in the heavens, and descended until it rested upon the trees where he was. It appeared like fire. But to his great astonishment, did not burn the trees. An angel then appeared to him and conversed with him upon many things. He told him that none of the sects were right; but that if he was faithful in keeping the commandments he should receive, the [p. 8] true way should be made known to him; that his sins were forgiven, etc. A more elaborate and accurate description of his vision, however, will be found in his own history.

The next day I was at work in the field together with Joseph and my eldest brother Alvin. Joseph looked pale and unwell, so that Alvin told him if he was sick he need not work; he then went and sat down by the fence, when the angel again appeared to him, and told him to call his father’s house together and communicate to them the visions he had received, which he had not yet told to any one; and promised him that if he would do so, they would believe it. He accordingly asked us to come to the house, as he had something to tell us. After we were all gathered, he arose and told us how the angel appeared to him; what he had told him as written above; and that the angel had also given him a short account of the inhabitants who formerly resided upon this continent, a full history of whom he said was engraved on some plates which were hidden, and which the angel promised to show him. (William Smith, op. cited above).

Once again, William Smith is true to his timeline that his brother did not receive any vision until he was 17 – in 1823. Even though he refers the reader to Joseph’s own history, William still recounts the details of the story he was familiar with his whole life, that Joseph’s prayer in 1823 was answered by an angel.  In 1884 he preaches a sermon that is virtually the same as the 1883 account in his book, conflating elements of his brother’s story of the claimed 1820 vision, but once again, staying true to his timeline that this event took place in 1823. It is my guess that someone pointed out to William the 1838 account written by his brother or that he was doing some research about it for his 1883 book, and that he picked up elements of the story about the claimed 1820 vision and tried to make them fit in the timeline that he had always recounted since the 1840’s. He didn’t do a very good job. But the fact that both his brother William and his mother Lucy (who were both first hand witnesses to the early years of Joseph) put the event in 1823, along with Oliver Cowdery (helped by Joseph himself in 1834-35) throws tremendous doubt upon Joseph’s private 1832 account as do the following accounts:

From the Hampton Whig, written by a Mormon in October, 1831:

Canandaigua, Oct. 9, 1831.

We live in this place, and have ever since the 8th of October last. My mind and time have mostly been taken up in the labor of the new covenant, and I cannot say much which would be interesting either to you or to me, unless I write upon this interesting subject. You must suppose I have had a good opportunity of witnessing much of the proceedings of those who believe in the book of Mormon. The book causes great excitement in these parts, and many [lisp] and foam out their shame, and some believe and become meek and lowly in this region.

There are about one hundred souls who have humbled themselves and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and desired baptism at the hand of Joseph Smith, or some other elder, — for you must know that there are, in this church, elders, priests, teachers and deacons, each ordained according to the gift and calling of God. Upon him, many have been ordained, and some preach. Four of these only have gone to the Samanites [sic – Lamanites?] (or Indians) to preach the gospel unto them. They passed through Ohio, and preached, and three hundred have come forth; many, on coming, brought all their possessions and gave to the church. One of the first was an old miser, who set the example by throwing in all his property — eight hundred acres of land under good cultivation. Thus we see, that when the people become right, this will follow, as in the Apostles’ days.

There are about four hundred souls, and yet no one has aught he calls his own. This we have not preached; but it is the natural consequence of embracing the Apostolic doctrine, which we have done; for He has visited his people, by the ministration of angels, and by raising up a new seer and revelator, that He may communicate unto us such things as are necessary for our preservation and instruction.

You recollect we were talking of the hill which contained all the sacred engravings; we thought it must be far South. But we were both mistaken; for since I saw you, I have seen the spot, and been all over the hill. The time is short, and this generation will not pass before there will be great and marvellous things take place to the confounding of all false, vain, and pernicious doctrines, and to the bringing to nought the wisdom of the world; for Israel shall be saved with an everlasting salvation, and the day is soon at hand when the wicked shall be cut off and the meek shall inherit the earth, and the Lord God will turn to the people a pure language; this is the first language, and it is still preserved on the plates of Jared, and will be the last language that will be.

From the Fredonia Censor, (March, 1832)

[From the Franklin (Pa.) Democrat.]

We of this place were visited on Saturday last by a couple of young men [Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt] styling themselves Mormonites. They explained their doctrine to a large part of the citizens in the court house that evening. They commenced by reading the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: also by giving an account of their founder, Joseph Smith, then an inhabitant of the state of New-York, county of Ontario, and town of Manchester. Having repented of his sins, but not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them, and being in doubt what his duty was, he had recourse prayer. After retiring to bed one night, he was visited by an Angel and directed to proceed to a hill in the neighborhood where he would find a stone box containing a quantity of Gold plates. The plates were six or eight inches square, and as many of them as would make them six or eight inches thick, each as thick as a pane of glass. They were filled with characters which the learned of that state were not able to translate. A Mr. Anthony [sic], a professor of one of the colleges, found them to contain something like the Cyrian, Chaldean, or Hebrew characters. However, Smith with divine aid, was able to translate the plates, and from them we have the Mormon bible, or as they stated it, another Revelation to part of the house of Joseph.

From the Catholic Telegraph 1 (April 14, 1832):

[Reprinted from The Western Press, Mercer, Pennsylvania.]

On Wednesday, the 8th of this month, two strangers [Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt] called at my house and stated that they were sent by God to preach the gospel to every creature and said if a number should be convened they would deliver a discourse. On the question, what is your profession? they answered, the world call us Mormonites: this excited my curiosity, and at early candle light they commenced an address to the people convened. The substance for which I took down while they were speaking, and afterwards in conversation.

“We are commanded by the Lord to declare his will to effect his intended purpose.-In 1827 a young man called Joseph Smith of the state of New York, of no denomination, but under conviction, inquired of the Lord what he should do to be saved-he went to bed without any reply, but in the night was awakened by an angel, whiter and shining in greater splendour than the sun at noonday, who gave information where the plates were deposited:-Smith awoke, and after due preparation and agreeably to the information given by the angel, he went into the township of Manchester, and there, on the side of a hill, found in a stone box, or a separate space enclosed by stone on every side, the plates on which the revelation was inscribed. The box in thickness was about 6 inches, and about 7 by 5 otherwise; the plates themselves were about as thick as window glass, or common tin, pure gold, and well secured by silver rings or loops in the box as an effectual defence against all w eather. Smith, being entirely ignorant of any language but the English, and knowing that itself in a very imperfect manner was unable to read or decypher a single word-he therefore sent the plates to the city of New York to be translated by Professor Anthony, who could make nothing of them;-here seemed to be an insurmountable difficulty. ~Benjamin Stokely

To simply try and explain this away as Christensen does by William referring to Joseph’s 1838 History (which he does in 1883 – forty years later) is disingenuous.

X. More Apologetic Vagaries

Christensen then writes,

Ronald Barney spoke at the FAIR Conference in 2013 on Joseph Smith’s unfolding approaches to sharing his visions: So what I am asserting is that: initially, Joseph had personal instincts that precluded him from publicly sharing his experiences

Not really. He shared a lot of things publicly. He shared his story of the angel right away, even when he told his mother that they must keep it a secret. In fact, he was supposedly told not to publish his “revelations” by God himself and then went ahead and did it anyway in 1833 in the midst of intense persecution in Missouri. This was a bone of contention with David Whitmer. Joseph even told his “first vision” story to someone that he considered a murderer in 1835.

despite this instinct, in his youth he apparently shared the vision with people he thought would sympathize with his circumstances

Notice “apparently”. There is no evidence that he did. Even his own mother omitted it in her history. She recalled at age 14 that someone had apparently taken a shot at her son, but not the claimed 1820 vision.

being subject to rejection and disdain from these confidences he learned his lesson thereafter and protected his experiences

Again, not borne out in the historical record.

eventually he sensed the need of informing his intimates of what had happened to him …later his audience broadened to others outside his immediate circle…he made an early attempt to establish his story in writing in 1832 but the project stalled for reasons about which we can only speculate

Which is all he can do with this issue, and his speculations make no sense.

finally, recognizing the necessity of publishing his story as a counter to his contemporary critics to advance the cause of the Church, he had prepared what we now know as the History of the Church.

Which he began, then abandoned. He also had Cowdery and John Whitmer and John Corrill keep histories. He then had Cowdery publish his early history, and helped him with it. He chose not to disclose the rough 1832 History at this time but instead stuck with the narrative that his missionaries had been propagating since the Church was organized. We will never know why. But the evidence is incontrovertible that there was no mention of any claimed 1820 vision until 1832, exactly as Jeremy Runnells claims.

I do though, have a theory about one reason why Joseph abandoned the 1832 History and that is because Joseph hadn’t contemplated fully the complexity of the timeline he was reinventing. As I noted above, some words in the 1832 History were crossed out. They read,

about that time my mother and

The note to this at the JSP reads,

This canceled fragment may refer to the Presbyterian affiliation of JS’s mother and three of his siblings. In 1838, JS recounted that they “were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith” in connection with the revivalism preceding his vision.

Joseph places this event after his claimed 1820 vision. As they note above, Joseph in 1838 placed this event to before the claimed vision. If Joseph tried to include the narrative about George Lane here, it wouldn’t fit this timeline, he therefore decided to abandon this attempt. There are also other reasons why Joseph abandoned this History, which I will discuss at a later time.

In 2003, Mark Ashurst-McGee in The FARMS Review also discussed Smith and Cowdery’s motives for both reticence and publication:

Similarly, Smith and Cowdery may have begun providing the details of priesthood restoration in response to the bad publicity caused by the publication of Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed. It may be that Palmer [another critic] has made a historical contribution not in identifying the cause for inventing the priesthood stories, but in identifying a reason for Smith and Cowdery making them public. They had initially kept them confidential in order to avoid persecution, but after the publication of Mormonism Unvailed they may have found that false reports “put in circulation by evil disposed and designing persons” were a form of persecution that outweighed the persecution they would receive from publicizing the details of priesthood restoration. The reason for keeping the story to themselves became the reason for sharing it.

This makes no sense in the light of Smith publishing his other revelations and experiences in the Book of Mormon and then the Book of Commandments. What could they persecute him for if he published the additional details of the supposed priesthood restoration and his claimed 1820 theophany that they weren’t persecuting him for already? What makes more sense is what Dan Vogel postulated:

The History was begun in the midst of challenges to Smith’s authority, primarily initiated by Bishop Edward Partridge in Missouri, which evoked Smith’s introduction of the office of president of the high priesthood (Vogel 1988, 113-16). It is therefore not simply an autobiographical sketch, but an apology setting forth Smith’s credentials as leader of the church. The History therefore contains the earliest account of what is known as his “first vision” and earliest mention of angelic priesthood ordinations. (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 26).

Joseph wanted to recraft his history, the same as he had recrafted the “revelations” in the Book of Commandments. The finished version was published in 1842 in the Times and Seasons.

XI. More Blathering

Christensen writes,

Regarding the 1820 First Vision, Stephenson comments: “Unfortunately, no contemporary evidence has come to light to support this claim; and Joseph Smith himself did not document this supposed event until more than 12 years later.”

Notice the important qualification of “no contemporary evidence.” Contemporary evidence (that is Spring of 1820) is not the only kind of evidence.

Bravo. Tell us more Professor Christensen.

What contemporary evidence do we have for the Big Bang or the Creation of Life or for Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays or for my Dad’s participation in the battle at Hill 609 in Tunisia or of my childhood success at playing Risk with my brothers in the basement of our home?)

This is disingenuous, but really, can you expect anything more from Christensen? The Big Bang is a theory. (Not proven). Is Christensen claiming that Smith’s claimed 1820 vision is a theory? He is not. He is claiming that Joseph’s story is absolutely true. No one is claiming that the Big Bang is absolutely true. (No one knows). That is why it is called the Big Bang Theory.

As for his Dad’s participation in some battle, are there papers of his being assigned there? Is there testimony of others who served with him? I don’t know these things so can’t answer it, something that Christensen knows very well. This is a silly example. And then another red herring, playing childhood games. Really? Shakespeare? Really? Others have answered this very well.shake-face

If the question is “Did Joseph Smith have a vision in 1820 that affected the course of his life?” rather than “What contemporary evidence is there that Joseph Smith had a vision in 1820?” the methods, problem fields, and standards of solution change radically.

This is Christensen’s red herring. That is not the question. That is not Jeremy’s contention. Anyone can claim anything later. Therefore the burden of proof is on those who say the claims of Joseph Smith are based on real events, not on later stories. Even Christensen’s personal claims.

Stephenson might claim that “if Joseph Smith did have a vision, we would have abundant contemporary evidence,” but that claim itself is open to investigation.

I might do a lot of things, but I didn’t claim that. This doesn’t answer anything. I never claimed that we would or should “have abundant contemporary evidence”. I claimed (as Jeremy does) that there isn’t any at all. And my definition of contemporary is far more generous that Christensen makes it out to be; I’m claiming contemporary as anything before 1832, not just the year 1820. He knows this, but would rather invent red herrings than answer the charge. That is why we are arguing about the 1831 Reflector Article.

Christensen then regales us with this bit of strangery:

It is not a fact, but a premise that we can test only indirectly. Notice that Stephenson is perfectly willing to accept my oral report of an experience I had when I was 19 years old, a short time before my mission, of a vivid spiritual impression while reading Ether 12:39. What is his evidence that the event happened? Well, he listened to a FAIR Podcast that I recorded. It happens that the podcast happened over forty years after the event. I didn’t write the experience down at the time. I don’t remember telling anyone about it until much later. My parents were in a different part of the U.S. I don’t even remember who my Bishop was, and have no memory of telling any leaders. I don’t even remember when I began to tell the story. I have written it up on occasion, posting on internet message boards, and relating it in testimony meetings and a podcast or two. Have I told the story differently at different times? Perhaps I have. I doubt if I can narrow the day of the experience down to more than July to September 15th 1973. Does Stephenson worry at all about this lack of contemporary external confirmation or supportive witnesses or imprecision in the exact day? Remember, he also says that I’m dishonest. Why then does he take my report of a forty-year-old personal experience at face value? He doesn’t agree with the validity of my experience, but he bases a whole line of argument on the fact of such an experience. Obviously he accepts the existence of my personal account is a kind of evidence that he accepts as persuasive enough to use, even by itself. Among other things, my report makes sense within the LDS culture and if I did have an experience, it helps him explain important aspects of my behavior.

In fact, I don’t take anything that Christensen says at face value. I only said that he CLAIMED to know. Here is my quote,

In a podcast presented by FAIRMORMON he CLAIMS,

I got a testimony in my third reading of the Book of Mormon just before my mission, actually I was reading Ether 12:39 when he says that then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus face to face and he spoke to me in plain humility as one man speaketh to his friend. You know that just really powerfully hit me, I felt like that really happened. That meant Jesus was real, he’d been resurrected and that Moroni was a real person.

There is no “tentative” in these statements. Would I use the word tentative in describing the reality of my wife?  No, I say I know she is a real person There is no “tentative” needed. So Christensen has already made up his mind that Moroni is a real person and therefore shapes the narrative to support that claim. He even claims that there is an “improper” way to ask questions! Improper to whom?

This was all about what Christensen claimed. If he wants to raise doubts about his own subjective experiences, more power to him. Some might think that only further strengthens the case that he is dishonest or just psychotic. Remember, Christensen made the claim, not me. If he wants to try and disqualify my line of reasoning by throwing doubt on his own claims, who am I to argue with that? All of this though, is just silly posturing by Christensen that does nothing to prove that Joseph had a claimed 1820 vision. Instead of focusing on the evidence (or in this case lack of it) he plays semantic games to divert the issue. It reeks of desperation. I expect no less of Mormon Apologists based on their long track record of doing just this.

As for the rest of Christensen’s offering on the First Vision, he brings up Don Bradley’s recent contribution at the FAIRMORMON Conference of 2015. I’ve read it. I see problems with Don’s analysis though. What he, and Christensen fail to consider is that the claims that are made about context, (angelic visitations, and divine commissions, and the need for authority), are all answered in Joseph’s original narrative, which started with the visit of the Angel Moroni and the “translation” of the Book of Mormon.

Don wants to place the religious excitement and Lucy Smith’s joining of the Presbyterians before 1820, which is untenable, given the evidence. The narrative being preached by Mormon Missionaries after the Church was organized was of Moroni,  not a narrative based on a claimed 1820 theophany.  Therefore, the claim made by Dan Vogel fits perfectly within this historically correct narrative. Even Don himself claimed his premise is based on, “If Latter-day Saint belief about the First Vision is correct…” One can just as easily say, Joseph entered his bedroom in 1823 a boy and left it a prophet and seer. All of the family criteria still apply. Once again, the evidence determines what follows. Is the evidence stronger that the revivals spoken of were in 1823/4, or 1818/19? Lucy’s own words tell us. They were after the death of her son Alvin. Dan Vogel, Mike Marquardt, and others attest to this with far more credible evidence. That is why Don gives a friendly poke at Dan in his presentation. He disagrees, but sees the weight of Dan’s evidence.

Joseph didn’t just craft the claimed 1820 vision out of thin air in the 1830’s as Don wants us to believe. It was crafted from an already existing narrative about the Angel Moroni. Therefore significant details of his early life were already in place. He just shifted the dates and inserted a theophany, and the problems with him doing this are in the historical accounts by others who lived with him at the time, or reported on what Smith claimed in the 1820’s and 1830’s.

Christensen writes,

The Reflector is evidence that someone quite early on, almost two years before the 1832 account was written, knew something about theophanies, The silences that Stephenson discusses in the sources he quotes amount to his display of dissonance management relative to the Reflector. Silences elsewhere don’t explain how such ideas got into the Reflector. He fails to even mention the existence of reminiscent accounts such as those reported by Tim Barker. They are evidence to appreciate, deprecate, or ignore, depending on the direction of one’s cognitive efforts or dissonance management relative to that sort of evidence. Note too how my paradigm can account for all the evidence (including “negative” evidence, such as a lack of contemporary accusations that Joseph fabricated the First Vision later), while Runnells’s cannot.

No, they didn’t know anything about theophanies. It was Abner Cole’s synopsis, most likely based on contemporary accounts of the time. We have no letter to compare it with. And as you can see, I’m far from dissonant about the Reflector article. I understand more about it than Christensen does. I see it for what it is, not for what someone wants it to be. He keeps harping on my failure to mention evidences that he keeps pulling out of his Mormon Apologist hat. Christensen’s paradigm is based on anonymous sources, and cryptic allusions. That is all he has. It doesn’t account for anything.

I can list dozens of things Christensen did not mention, but I’m not playing that game. We both only touched on evidences (or the lack of) of the claimed 1820 and nowhere did either of us claim that we were giving definitive arguments. He seems to think that a two part blog article is a book about Smith’s claimed 1820 vision. (Christensen can’t even present limited arguments in a very coherent manner). To make the claim above that I was being purposefully silent about evidence (or avoiding apologist arguments) is all kinds of disingenuous, but again, I’m not surprised.

XII. The David Whitmer Problem

Christensen writes,

And there is evidence from Whitmer on the priesthood from earlier accounts that Stephenson did not report. Kenneth Godfrey has shown that “David Whitmer himself was not free from inconsistency when recounting his views on the priesthood. For example, David H. Cannon reported that in 1861 when he visited Whitmer, the two men with others stood beside the grave of Oliver Cowdery. Whitmer declared that he had heard Oliver say, ‘I know the Gospel to be true and upon this head has Peter, James and John laid their hands and conferred the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood.’ Whitmer also displayed for the group how this was done.

Again, here we go with these evidences out of the hat. It was actually evidence that Christensen didn’t specify (he referenced a whole book!). Was I supposed to address the whole book in a blog article? Now, (finally) I have something definite to check on. How can I report on something if I don’t know that Christensen is referring to? Christensen’s reference for this is:

Kenneth W. Godfrey, “David Whitmer and the Shaping of Latter-day Saint History,” in Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, eds.,The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-Day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson (Provo: Foundation of Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000), 241-242.

It is obvious that Christensen is reading second hand sources without knowing what he is referencing. Here is the actual full quote that Christensen claims is indicative of Whitmer’s “true” feelings about High Priests and the Priesthood “restoration”:

The thing which impressed me most of all was as we stood beside the grave of Oliver Cowdery the other witness who had come back into the church before his death and in describing Olivers action when bearing his testimony said to the people in his room placing his hands like this upon his head saying “I know the gospel to be true and upon this head has Peter James and John laid their hands and conf centered ered the Holy Melchesdic Priestood,” the manner in which this tall grey headed man went through the exhibition of what Oliver had done was prophetic I shall never forget the impression that the testimony of David Whitmer made upon me. (David H. Cannon, Autobiography, March 13, 1917, 5).

This is a recollection written by David H. Cannon (who worked in the St. George Temple for years), and was made 56 years later. Nowhere does Christensen mention this. Whitmer supposedly said this in 1861. If he felt this way, why did he write what he did about High Priests in his “Address to all Believers in Christ” in 1887? (26 years later) Fact is, this is obviously an apologetic “recollection” by Cannon made years later. Whitmer always felt that the Priesthood restoration was bogus. This is easy to prove.

David Whitmer, Kirtland Ohio, 1832

David Whitmer, Kirtland Ohio, 1832

In 1847 he got together with William McLellin and they were trying to start a church. McLellin had a “revelation” in Feb. 1847 relative to the rebaptism and the reordination of all adherents their new The Church of Christ. (Jan Shipps, McLellin, Man of Diversity, 343)

Whitmer was ordained a “prophet” which included “all the gifts and callings to which he had been appointed through Joseph Smith in the general assembly of the inhabitants of Zion, in 1834.” (ibid) Whitmer chose for his counselors Oliver Cowdery and his brother John Whitmer. Cowdery had written to Whitmer,

So far as I understand his labor, it has simply been directed to one great object—to wit: in preparing, or endeavoring to prepare the way for the old ship to unhitch her cables and again sail forth. . . . We may not live to see the day, but we have the authority, and do hold the keys. It is important should we not be permitted to act in that authority, that we confer them upon some man or men, whom God may appoint, that this priesthood be not taken again from the earth till the earth be sanctified. I want to see you much on this great matter. That our brother william has been directed and influenced in what he has been doing by the Holy Spirit, I need not say to you I fully believe. I do not say that every thing he has done has been done by inspiration—it would be strange if it were so. But that God has touched his heart, that he might begin to prepare the way, I have no doubt. In this doing he has done well, and he will in no wise lose his reward. . . . You will talk this matter all over, and make all the necessary enquiry, and I will only say that when the time comes, I am ready! But I am not persuaded that it has yet fully come. (Ensign of Liberty 1 (December 1847): 35).

David Whitmer received a “revelation” that McLellin was to build up the church in the land of Kirtland. But the voice to the others specified, “A commandment I give unto you my servant David, and also my servants John, and Hiram, and Jacob, that you must remain until I command you, and then you shall only be permitted to visit the faithful in my kingdom. For now ye do hold the right of this, the consecrated land of Zion.” John Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery were appointed counselors to David Whitmer in the presidency.

David appointed McLellin “president to stand in relation to me as [Oliver] stood to Joseph,” with responsibilities “to build up the church of Christ in Kirtland.” Jacob Whitmer and Hiram Page were ordained high priests. (Shipps, ibid). McLellin had accepted the office of High Priests (and the angelic restorations) even though he never heard of it until 1834, as he later recalled.

But there was a problem. It came from David Whitmer:

On behalf of David Whitmer, Hiram Page prepared a lengthy and carefully worded letter “to all the saints scattered abroad,” in which a number of key elements of “brother William’s” organization and doctrine were soundly denounced. The letter, dated from Richmond, Missouri, June 24, 1849, declared:

In 1847 brother William commenced vindicating our characters as honest men; in that he done well. In September 1848, he made us a visit and professed to have been moved upon by the same spirit of God that led him to do us justice by vindicating our characters, moved upon him to come here and have us organize ourselves in a church capacity; but it must come through him, which would give a sanction to all that he had done, which would give a more speedy rise to the cause than anything else could. . . . But we had not as yet come to an understanding, but consented to the organization after three days of successive entreaties. Now we acknowledge that the organization was not in accordance with the order of the Gospel Church. As we observed that we had not come to an understanding, it infers that we now have, or we think we have come to understanding, and the understanding which we have received is as follows…

Hiram Page then enumerated the criteria by which the church should be governed, among which were:

1. That the office of High Priest does not belong to the church of Christ under the gospel dispensation, and that all offices filled exclusively by High Priests are null and void.

2. The office of a Seer is not, nor never has been the means by which the Lord intended his church should be governed. . . .

3. That the gathering dispensation has not come, and every effort of men to bring about the gathering of the saints into bodies, is only sowing the seeds of discord, and is heaping upon the innocent many calamities which might be avoided.

At the conclusion of his declaration, Hiram Page observed, “It is evident that the way is not opened for us to organize as we should; but when the way is opened, we shall organize according to the Apostolic order. (Shipps, McLellin, Man of Diversity 345).

This incarnation of “The Church of Christ” quickly fell apart, and Cowdery began writing letters to Phineas Young and got rebaptized into the Utah branch of the Church right before his death in 1849. Whitmer was strongly opposed to the ordination of High Priests in 1847/1848, and affirmed that forty years later in 1887. He organized his own Church of Christ in the 1870’s without High Priests. In 1885, Whitmer answered some questions by Zenos Gurley and three dealt with the priesthood:

12Q Do you repudiate the High Priests quorum or that order, and can you give its origin and occasion of it in the church?
12A Yes I do – as not an order in Christ. It originated in the church because of desire to obtain greater power than what had been given – over anxiety with the leaders, leading to it.
13Q Were you present when Joseph Smith received the revelation commanding him and Oliver Cowdery to ordain each other to the Melchisedek Priesthood, if so, where was it and how?
13A No I was not – neither did I ever hear of such a thing as an angel ordaining them until I got into Ohio about the year 1834 – or later.
14Q Can you tell why that Joseph and Oliver were ordained to the lesser Priesthood by the hand of an Angel but in receiving the Higher they ordained each other?
14A I moved Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to my fathers house in Fayette Seneca County New York, from Harmony, Penn. in the year 1829, on our way I conversed freely with them upon this great work they were bringing about, and Oliver stated to me in Joseph’s presence that they had baptized each other seeking by that to fulfill the command – And after our arrival at fathers sometime in June 1829, Joseph ordained Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder, and Oliver ordained Joseph to be an Elder in the church of Christ and during that year Joseph both baptized and ordained me an elder in the church of Christ. Also, during this year the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, and we preached preached, baptized and ordained some as Elders, And upon the Sixth day of April 1830, six Elders together with some fifty or sixty (as near as I recollect) of the members met together to effect an organization.
I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic priesthood until the year 1834, 5, or 6 – in Ohio. My information from Joseph and Oliver upon this matter being as I have stated, and that they were commanded so to do by revealment through Joseph. I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some, I regard that as an error, a misconception. (Zenas H. Gurley Interview, 14 January 1885, Richmond, Missouri)

For anyone to claim that Whitmer all of a sudden reversed himself in 1861 on the basis of ONE 50+ year recollection is simply desperate or uninformed about David Whitmer. For being so well read, it is obvious Christensen knows little about David Whitmer or he would not have presented this “evidence”.  But because I didn’t mention this unreliable apologetic recollection buried in an apologist book, I’m the one who is incorrect.

As Gregory Prince writes, (again the Book of Mormon angel paradigm):

Visions surrounding the gold plates of the Book of Mormon provided the earliest confirmation of Joseph Smith’s divine calling. Within weeks of Smith’s obtaining the plates in September 1827, neighbor Martin Harris “became convinced of the visions and gave [Smith] fifty Dollars to bare my expences and because of his faith and the righteous deed the Lord appeared unto him in a vision and showed unto him his marvilous work which he was about to do.” A similar manifestation in 1829 converted a man whose role in Latter-day Saint priesthood would be second only to Smith’s: “[The] Lord appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdry and shewed unto him the plates in a vision and also the truth of the work and what the Lord was about to do through me his unworthy servant therefore he was desirous to come and write for me to translate.”

While it was apparent that Smith had a calling, the basis of his authority was implicit in his work, not the result of any “hands-on” ordination. Prior to 1829 neither Smith nor his followers claimed to have received the type of divine authorization which ultimately would become known as “priesthood.”

Smith’s primary concerns during this time were his own status with God and the translation of the gold plates. He expressed no intent to organize a church or to confer authority or ordinances on others. Three revelations date from this period, none of which addressed these issues. In the first, from July 1828, Smith was chastised for having lost part of the Book of Mormon manuscript and was told that he would be allowed to resume translating, but no authority was mentioned. In the second, dated February 1829, a ministry extending beyond publication of the Book of Mormon was implied. The qualifications for that ministry were listed: “Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (BC III:1). Formal authority evidently was not required. The third revelation, given to Joseph Smith one month later in behalf of Harris, described for the first time the establishment of a church, “like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old” (BC IV:5), but stipulated not prerequisites (Gregory A. Prince, Power From On High, Ch.1, p.3)

Christensen gets his basis of “facts” from an original compilation of quotes by Brian Q. Cannon (strangely called “Priesthood Restoration Documents”) the majority of these quotes made long after 1834, and that for the most part have nothing to do with priesthood “restoration” and only mention angels – which seems to be the only criteria for including them. For example, here is one:

The Painesville Telegraph (December 7, 1830)

THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON

Those who are the friends and advocates of this wonderful book, state that Mr. Oliver Cowdry has his commission directly from the God of Heaven, and that he has credentials, written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ, with whom he has personally conversed, and as such, said Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name. By this authority, they proclaim to the world, that all who do not believe their testimony, and be baptized by them for the remission of sins, and come under the imposition of their hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and stand in readiness to go to some unknown region, where God will provide a place of refuge for his people, called the “New Jerusalem,” must be forever miserable, let their life have been what it may. If these things are true, God has certainly changed his order of commission. When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, he gave them power against all unclean spirits, to cast them out, to heal all manner of diseases, and to raise the dead. But these newly commissioned disciples have totally failed thus far in their attempts to heal, and as far as can be ascertained, their prophecies have also failed. Jesus Christ has forewarned us not to believe them: “There shall arise false Christs and false Prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect behold — I have told you before, we give too much credit to these men.” — Let us follow the example of the church at Ephesus: “Thou hast tried them which say they are Apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.” We ought to believe God, though it should prove all men to be liars.

No mention of angels at all. In 1830 they were claiming that the authority to baptize came from Jesus Christ, not angelic ordinations or some priesthood,

26 . . . behold, there are others who are called to declare my gospel, both unto Gentile and unto Jew; 27 Yea, even twelve; and the Twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the Twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart. 28 And if they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature. 29 And they are they who are ordained of me to baptize in my name, according to that which is written . . .31 And now I speak unto you, the Twelve—Behold, my grace is sufficient for you; you must walk uprightly before me and sin not. 32 And, behold, you are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers; to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men; 33 And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it . . .37 And now, behold, I give unto you, Oliver Cowdery, and also unto David Whitmer, that you shall search out the Twelve, who shall have the desires of which I have spoken; 38 And by their desires and their works you shall know them. 39 And when you have found them you shall show these things unto them. (Revelation, Book of Commandments, 1833

This is the commission the Telegraph report is speaking about. There is nothing here about angelic visitations, only about authority to preach. The book also quotes the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, written originally by Oliver Cowdery in 1829:

A commandment from God unto Oliver [Cowdery] how he should build up his Church & the manner thereof——Saying Oliver listen to the voice of Christ your Lord & your God & your  Redeemer & write the words which I shall command you concerning my Church my Gospel my Rock & my Salvation. Behold the world is ripening in in iquity & it must needs be that the children of men are stirred up unto repentance both the Gentiles & also the House of Israel for behold I command all men everywhere to repent & I speak unto you even as unto Paul mine apostle for ye are called even with that same calling with which he was called Now therefore whoso ever repenteth & humbleth himself before me & desireth to be baptized in my name shall ye baptize them And after this manner did he command me that  I should baptize them Behold ye shall go down & stand in the water & in my  name shall ye baptize them And now behold these are the words which ye shall say calling them by name saying Having authority given me of Jesus Christ I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost Amen  And then shall ye immerse them in the water & come forth again out of the water  & after this manner shall ye baptize in my name For behold verily I say unto you  that the Father & the Son & the Holy Ghost are one & I am in the Father & the Father in me & the Father & I are one

There is nothing here that mentions angelic ordinations. Joseph later rewrote those articles,

The articles and covenants of the Church of Christ agreeable to the will and commandments of God. The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one 1830 years since the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God in the 4th month, and on the 6th day of the same, which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, jun. who was called of God and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church, and also to Oliver, who was called of God an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church, and ordained under his hand, and this according to the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory both now and ever — amen.

For, after that it truly was manifested unto the first elder that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness, and gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high, and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book; which book contains a record of a fallen people, and also the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and also to the Jews, proving unto them that the holy scriptures be true, and also that God doth inspire men and call them to his holy work in these last days as well as in days of old, that he might be the same God forever — amen.

This is supposedly where there is some “cryptic allusion” to a claimed 1820 vision. Notice that Christensen does not address the problems that I mentioned about this, in his article. He only claims that I “wrestled” with it. Why doesn’t he address those specific problems I mentioned? Because he ignores the obvious paradigm in favor of one supported by only an anonymous synopsis and the faulty comparisons of a Mormon Apologist.

XIII. Book of Mormon Vagaries 

As Gregory Prince (who is also a scientist with a P.H.D.) writes,

In April 1829 itinerant schoolteacher Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania, to serve as Joseph Smith’s new scribe. Within days their work on the Book of Mormon produced passages dealing with baptism. The first of these was from “The Book of Mosiah”:

And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying, O Lord, pour out thy spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart. And when he had said these words, the spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said, Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead, as to the mortal body; and may the spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, which he hath prepared from the foundation of the world. And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam was [sic] buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the spirit. And again, Alma took another, and went forth a second time into the water, and baptized him according to the first, only he did not bury himself again in the water.

Of particular importance is the idea that before Alma baptized he received authorization simply from “the spirit of the Lord.” There is no mention of angelic appearance, laying on of hands, or ordained office. Alma baptized himself and Helam simultaneously.

Cowdery received the following communication from God at about this time:

Now therefore whosoever repenteth & humbleth himself before me & desireth to be baptized in my name shall ye baptize them. And after this manner did he [the Lord] command me that I should baptize them[.] Behold ye shall go down & stand in the water & in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold these are the words which ye shall say calling them by name saying[,] Having authority given me of Jesus Christ I baptize you in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Ghost Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water & come forth again out of the water & after this manner shall ye baptize in my name.

Smith’s and Cowdery’s baptisms in the Susquehanna River in May 1829 were thus divinely authorized, though not as a prerogative based on the duties of any office. Later accounts described additional elements such as authority from an angel conferred by the laying on of hands and tandem rather than simultaneous baptism, in contrast to the Book of Mormon model. (Gregory A. Prince, Power From On High, Ch.1, p.4 – p.5).

In other words, as Prince writes,

The status of Mormon authority in 1829 was as follows. Motivated by passages in the Book of Mormon, Smith and Cowdery had sought and received authorization to baptize. Later they encountered additional Book of Mormon passages describing a higher authority which was needed to confer the Holy Ghost and ordain to offices, which they subsequently received. Neither level of authority had yet been called “priesthood.” Prior to 1831 the only use of the term was in the Book of Mormon, where it was used synonymously with the office of high priest (BM, 1830, 258-60), an office which did not exist in Mormonism until late 1831. Prior to then men acted by virtue of the office to which they had been ordained, either elder, priest, or teacher. In performing ordinances they sometimes referred to their authority explicitly, as in the baptismal prayer, though without using the term “priesthood.” Authority was generally implied, as in the blessing of the bread and wine (BM, 1830, 575-76) and in the ordination of priests and teachers (BM, 1830, 575).30 It was not until several months after the June 1831 general conference, when the “high priesthood” was conferred, that the term “priesthood” entered Mormon usage at all.

I guess I’m not the only one whose “grasp of the textual data is lacking”. Gregory Prince makes the same observation about High Priests in the Book of Mormon.

Margaret Barker has her opinions. There are many other credible Biblical Historians who take a different view on the subject. To claim that I am simply “unaware” of her arguments, or about the role of High Priests in the Bible is disingenuous of Christensen.

Photos of David Whitmer by Jacob Hicks. Left Photo taken in 1867 when David was 62 years old, Right Photo taken in 1882 when David was 77 years old.

Photos of David Whitmer by Jacob Hicks. Left Photo taken in 1867 when David was 62 years old, Right Photo taken in 1882 when David was 77 years old.

David Whitmer’s views on High Priests were more Protestant, (a Priesthood of all believers) which are not the views that Barker holds. She is also quoting late accounts claiming that James and John were ordained High Priests. There is no evidence in the Bible that this ever happened, only later writings that mention that James went into the holy of holies. Tenuous evidence, at best.  Paul writes,

11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is A CHANGE OF THE PRIESTHOOD, there must also BE A CHANGE OF THE LAW. 13He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest LIKE MELCHISEDEK appears, 16 one WHO HAS BECOME A PRIEST not on the basis OF A REGULATION as to his ancestry BUT ON THE BASIS OF THE POWER OF AN INDESTRUCTIBLE LIFE. 

17 For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 18 The former regulation [LAW OR PRIESTHOOD] is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’ 22 Because of this oath, JESUS has become the GUARANTEE OF A BETTER COVENANT. (Hebrews 7:17-22)

Jesus became a ‘priest’ on the basis of his indestructible life, not on a regulation or an ordination. Paul says we draw near to God because of an Oath which God made ‘that you are a priest forever’ and because of this Jesus became the guarantor of a better covenant. How did he do that? Not by ancestry, or regulation, but by the power of his indestructible life. In Romans, the writer makes this observation:

13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, BUT THROUGH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (Romans 4:13-15)

Abraham needed no law, (or Priesthood) because he had faith, as explained in Romans:

21 But now a righteousness from God, APART FROM LAW, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST to ALL who BELIEVE. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a SACRIFICE OF ATONEMENT through faith IN HIS BLOOD. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice AT THE PRESENT TIME, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

Righteousness from God comes from Faith in Jesus Christ to ALL who BELIEVE, and this cannot be conferred by ordinance.  That is why Paul says in Hebrews:

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, ONCE MADE PERFECT, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was DESIGNATED BY GOD to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10)

Jesus was designated by God, once he was made perfect to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus indestructible life “is the basis of Jesus Priesthood, the only one that could officiate in that position over the entire world, once for all mankind, affirmed by God by His Oath. Again:

17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary beyond the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)

Who would go ‘into the sanctuary? One High Priest. He did this for all Israel. In similitude, Jesus did this in heaven as High Priest for the entire world, on mankind’s behalf, because he was the only one who could.

We are justified by faith apart from law, as quoted above. But the Mormon Priesthood is a set of laws, as Brigham Young explained:

“When we talk of the celestial law which is revealed from heaven, that is, the priesthood, we are talking about the principle of salvation, a perfect system of government, of laws and ordinances, by which we can be prepared to pass from one gate to another, and from one sentinel to another, until we go into the presence of our Father and God.” (DBY,130)

But Peter says:

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This is how Christians carry on the work without the High Priests. They take upon them the name of Christ and become living stones and offer “spiritual sacrifices”. A priesthood of all believers, as David Whitmer explained:

Some of the brethren have misunderstood the Old Testament part of the Book of Mormon concerning High Priests, and refer to Alma 9-6: Alma says, “This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world: or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things.” Here it is speaking of the order of the High Priests before Christ: their order being after the order of the Son of God, and this order being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity. This being Christ’s order, He being from eternity to all eternity, has held this holy order of priesthood from eternity and will hold it to all eternity. Those High Priests before Christ came into the world, held this holy order of priesthood as a type of Christ‘s order; but when Christ came into the world, he then claimed his own holy order of priesthood and power on earth, doing away with all types and shadows under the old law, himself alone being our great and last High Priest unto whom we can go to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Brethren, I am constrained to say as Alma says at his conclusion of this matter: He ends his writing in the tenth chapter, 2d paragraph, by these words: “Now I need not rehearse the matter; what I have said, may suffice. Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction.” (An Address to All Believers In Christ, 66-67)

Christensen can claim that Whitmer is wrong, or that I am for relating what he said and believed, but quoting Margaret Barker doesn’t prove there were High Priests in the Book of Mormon after Jesus visited them, (not any good ones, only leftovers of the Mosaic Law) nor how early Mormons interpreted it. Her later interpretations of the Bible are not contemporary with Joseph Smith’s time (the 1830’s). I consider Gregory Prince far more informed than Margaret Barker when it comes to the Mormon Priesthood. And Christensen’s interpretation of “beyond the mark” is beyond the pale. Here is a Mormon Apostle who explains it:

This Athenian response to Paul was not unlike that of the people described by the prophet Jacob during an even earlier period: “But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came bylooking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble” (Jacob 4:14; emphasis added).

Today there is a tendency among some of us to “look beyond the mark” rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths, engage in gospel extremism, seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration, or elevate rules over doctrine. Avoiding these behaviors will help us avoid the theological blindness and stumbling that Jacob described. (Elder Quentin L. Cook, Ensign, March, 2003)

Even Mormon scholars claim that this is the correct interpretation of the phrase,

To summarize the literary context, the phrase “which blindness came by looking beyond the mark” comes in the middle of a declaration that the Jews had largely rejected the testimonies of the prophets concerning their Lord and their God and would therefore reject Him again at His coming. Specifically, verse 14 explains that the Jews of Jacob’s day wanted things they could not understand and that God had granted them their unwise wish, thereby leading them to reject Christ as their sure foundation. (Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Looking Beyond the Mark,” in A Witness for the Restoration: Essays in Honor of Robert J. Matthews, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Andrew C. Skinner (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2007), 149–64).

Christensen can read anything he wants into the Book of Mormon and claim parallels and ties to obscure literature all he wants. This doesn’t change that fact that this is his own interpretation of the Book of Mormon and is only his opinion. Therefore, claiming that he is correct and David Whitmer is wrong is simply humorous.  He doesn’t use any contemporary witnesses or evidence to bolster his argument, (he simply makes connections to anything that catches his fancy about High Priests that seems to support his apologetic interpretations).  Christensen writes,

When he was anointed, the high priest was marked with the sign of the Name, described by the rabbis as a chi (b. Hirayoth 12a), but in the time of Ezekiel described as a tau (Ezek. 9.4) in each case, a diagonal cross. [Compare Jacob 4:14 on “the mark” and remember that Jacob is a consecrated temple priest contemporary with Ezekiel.]

Except Jacob was not a high priest like Alma, he was a simple priest. In the Book of Mormon it says,

And it came to pass that Alma, [the one High Priest] having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every fifty of their number did he ordain to preach unto them, and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (The Book of Mormon, 1830, p.193-p.194).

And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted unto Alma, that he might establish Churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla; and gave him power to ordain priests and teachers over every Church. Now this was done because there was so many people that they could not all be governed by one teacher; neither could they all hear the word of God in one assembly; therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called Churches; every Church having their priests and their teachers, and every priest preaching the word according as it was delivered to him by the mouth of Alma: and thus, notwithstanding there being many Churches, they were all one Church; yea, even the Church of God: for there was nothing preached in all the Churches except it were repentance and faith in God. (The Book of Mormon, 1830, p.209).

RameumptomIt was Nephi who “consecrated Jacob and Joseph as “priests”:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people. And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem. And I, Nephi, had kept the record upon my plates, which I had made of my people thus far. (The Book of Mormon, 1830, p.73)

Jacob claims that he is still a “priest and teacher” after Nephi dies:

For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph, had been consecrated priests, and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi. (The Book of Mormon, 1830, p.124)

As David Whitmer later explained,

When Christ came into the world upon this land, Nephi was a great High Priest who had done many mighty works. Now Nephi had to lay down his robe of a High Priest just outside the door and come into the Church of Christ by baptism, to the office of an Elder, and not once after that is Nephi called a High Priest. At this time the Church of Christ was established upon this land. Christ comes into the world and preaches to them as he had to those at Jerusalem, giving them instructions concerning his Church and the New Covenant which he made with them, as he had with those on the eastern continent, telling them they were no longer under the old law of Moses, but from that time were under him. He chooses twelve disciples who were called Elders, [Moroni III, p. 575] to minister unto that people, and after giving them full instructions concerning the establishing of his church, he ascends into heaven. Elders, Priests and Teachers were ordained in his church, [p. 575] and full instructions given concerning their duties. Christ told his disciples to write his teachings, for they were to be hid up to come down to us as his teachings to us. Now this being the case, why are not some instructions given in the new covenant of that book concerning the office of High Priests? Of course there was no such an office in the Church of Christ upon this land, nor in the Church of Christ upon the eastern continent, nor should there be such an office in the Church to-day. It is a grievous sin to have such an office in the church. As well might you add to the teachings of Christ–circumcision–offering up the sacrifice of animals–or break the ordinances of Christ in any other way by going back to the old law of Moses. (An Address, 63).

So how is Jacob one of Margaret Barker’s “high priest[s] marked with the sign of the Name”? Only in Christensen’s imagination. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon to support these speculations by Christensen. I suppose if one read it like Mormon Apologists, this all would become clear and apparent, but it is not clear and apparent to Mormon “Authorities” who have a completely different interpretation.

As Gregory Prince writes about the office of High Priest in the Church,

The office of high priest is unique, for it is the only office mentioned in the Book of Mormon not incorporated in the church at its inception. Within the “pre-Christian” portion of the Book of Mormon high priest was an important and benevolent figure: “And now, Alma was their high priest, he being the founder of their church. And it came to pass that none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him, from God. Therefore he consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men” (BM, LDS, Mosiah 23:16-17).

In the Christian portion of the Book of Mormon, the office of high priest had degenerated to the point where its holders became antagonists of those who spoke of Christ: “Now there were many of the people who were exceeding angry because of those who testified of these things; and those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers” (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 6:21).

Whether Joseph Smith’s initial failure to ordain high priests was due to this passage, or to a desire to emulate the organization described in the Christian portion of the book, is not clear. What is clear, however, is that one of Smith’s closest associates credited Sidney Rigdon with successfully proposing to Smith that high priests be added in 1831:

As you know, the teachings of Christ are the same at Jerusalem and upon this land; but on account of the plain and precious things being taken from the Bible, there is room therein for disputation on some points; but the teachings of Christ in the Book of Mormon are pure, plain, simple, and full. Christ chose “twelve” and called them disciples, or Elders,–not apostles, and the “twelve” ordained elders, priests, and teachers. These are all the spiritual offices in the Church of Christ, and their duties are plainly given. . . .

But they did not rely upon the Book of Mormon in building up the church; but Joseph “went on in the persuasion of men,” as he did while translating, and heeded Rigdon who expounded the old scriptures to him and showed him that high priests and other offices should be added to “elders, priests and teachers.”

While Smith’s and Rigdon’s silence on the subject disallows verification of David Whitmer’s assertions, they are consistent with the historical record, for there was no known mention of high priests prior to Rigdon’s arrival in New York, and the first Restoration document mentioning the office was Smith’s revision of Genesis written late in the winter of 1830-31, for which Rigdon served as scribe. (Gregory A. Prince, Power From On High, Ch.2, p.70-71)

Christensen’s defense of the supposed angelic “restoration” of the Priesthood is woefully inadequate, disingenuous and typical of a FAIRMORMON Apologist who constantly misconstrue evidence, omit crucial details, and offer up their own interpretations that are not borne out by the evidence.

Conclusion

Christensen’s conclusion is a wonderful example of the tactic of Mormon Apologists to denigrate all Ex-Mormons as disillusioned hypocrites who feel betrayed — who only have “scripts to learn, and roles to play.” He then claims that “a different approach to the same discoveries can lead to a sense of enlightenment and faith. The narrative in which the information is placed decisively colors how it is experienced…” And of course, Christensen’s way is better, because he has “superior” information at his disposal with Mormon Apologetic offerings.

So really, all Ex-Mormons are simply complainers (one of Christensen’s favorite words) who calculatingly script their exit stories to fit into whatever community they wish to belong to. And the information they share is, of course based on the premise that “everything my teachers and formal leaders say is absolutely correct and unchanging and all I have to do is sit and listen to approved thoughts.”

This absolutely misconstrues Jeremy’s argument. Neither he, nor I have ever claimed this. It is simply a caricature of the Tanners concerns, and of Jeremy’s. This is how Christensen interprets Rosemary Avance’s FAIRMORMON presentation that he references. I didn’t get that out of it at all. It was all about taking seriously those who interpret Mormonism differently, so Mormon Apologists could improve their approaches to their arguments. Christensen even admits (as I quoted above) that he will not, could not do that with Jeremy Runnells. He credits him nothing. He didn’t do his “homework”.

It is obvious from the above, that Christensen does not understand Ex-Mormons at all, he simply wants to denigrate them to promote himself and his formulas for staying “faithful”. This is made abundantly clear with how he portrays me, as the “man behind the curtain”. I’m simply a hypocrite who only “creates” images “in my own mind” based on “partial knowledge”. Time after time I have shortcomings because I don’t reference various and sundry Apologist arguments that Christensen pulls out of his apologetic hat and doesn’t quote at all. I’m fully expected to address all of this in a blog article and therefore I’m a hypocrite because I do not.

doublethinkBut who has presented only partial knowledge here, that deals with David Whitmer, the Priesthood Restoration and the claimed 1820 vision? Christensen and FAIRMORMON Apologists. Christensen only disclosed a full account of the evidence (the Correspondent section of the Reflector article – the only time Christensen does so) because he wanted to score rhetorical points instead of presenting that evidence in full in the first place. Time after time he writes his own opinion and footnotes it with whole books, articles and chapters of the Bible or Book of Mormon. The only evidence he really consistently cites are quotes to back up his esoteric nonsense in an attempt to psychoanalyze and denigrate Jeremy Runnells. And he is still denigrating Jeremy. He writes in the comment section of the Essay:

Actually, I don’t think that the questions that Runnells asks are difficult to answer. It’s a simple matter of seeking, where the effort expended and the sources used also turn out to be a good measure of desire and intent on the part of the seeker.

Again, his “desire” and “intent” makes it easy for Christensen, implying that Jeremy had neither. This kind of arrogance is astounding. Christensen’s approach is more reminiscent of the practices of Big Brother with his DoubleThink, than a real effort to understand Jeremy and why he wrote the CES Letter in the first place. Perhaps some desire and intent on his part to really do so might change his perspective, but I doubt it.

Phoney Maroney & FairMormon’s New Scapegoat

Stephen Smoot 2

Phoney maroney,
Pony before the cart. …

Gentlemen mark your opponents
Fire into your own ranks.
Pick the weakest as strategic
Move. Square off. To
Meet your enemy.
For each and every gathering
A scapegoat falls to climb. ~R.E.M.

This guy:

Stephen O. Smoot is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and German Studies. He is a writer for the Student Review, an independent BYU student newspaper, a volunteer with FairMormon, and an Editorial Consultant for Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. He blogs at the FairMormon Blog and Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog.

Is one of many from FAIRMORMON’s ranks who are obsessed with attacking and scapegoating Jeremy Runnells. They have even devoted a whole website to doing so. (Yes Mormons, that is what your donations to FAIRMORMON are being used for). Even Daniel C. Peterson and Michael Ash have jumped on this bandwagon. This has troubled other Mormons, like David Bokovoy who wrote:

But what about attacking people directly like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin? Does this strengthen faith? It may, but I’m not convinced. I don’t like it, and it feels wrong to me. More importantly, that type of apologetic seems inappropriate from my perspective for a serious academic venue, especially one sponsored by the LDS Church.

I’m not going to cite the emails because they’re personal exchanges, and to do so would be highly inappropriate. But I will give a personal example. In the not-too-distant past, my name was attached to an apologetic email list that was discussing how the group should respond to an article that appeared in the news. Several of the emails discussed openly the type of “digging” that could be done into this person’s past in an effort to provide an effective apologetic response. It made me feel very, very uncomfortable.

I responded, asking the group to please reconsider their approach, stating, “placing the blame on [name omitted] for his struggles is not an effective apologetic and I personally don’t think it will help [your] cause.”

And this is what this entire unfortunate public confrontation comes down to: What is the most effective type of apologetics, and what style of academics should an LDS sponsored institution engage in? I don’t believe in aggressive attack style apologetics. Some people do. I believe in critical thinking, listening to alternative views, and open friendly exchanges.

Smoot has had Jeremy in his sights ever since the wildly popular CES Letter was made public by Jeremy in 2013. In one of his blog articles written in June of this year, Smoot advised his fellow Mormons about the dangers of the Internet:

…Church leaders … have urged the importance of using the Internet to both stem the tide of misinformation and deception about the Church found online as well as preach the gospel. But they are not alone. Elder Quinten L. Cook lamented in the October 2012 General Conference, “Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf likewise reminded us of the following in 2013:

For those who already embrace the truth, [Satan’s] primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.

If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.

You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat, that the moon is a hologram, and that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind, just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.

Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder, gave this counsel in the June 2013 issue of the New Era (which was subsequently reposted on the Church’s website for youth).

Certainly, the world has changed in the last generation or two. The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips—good, bad, truthful, untruthful—including information on Church history. You can read a great deal about our history, but it’s important to read about it and understand it in context. The difficulty with some information online is that it’s out of context and you don’t really see the whole picture.

Information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.

Instead of leaving it at that, Smoot adds:

The tantrums of Jeremy Runnells notwithstanding, what these brethren have taught is absolutely true. It’s college-level critical thinking 101. Don’t default to Wikipedia or reddit for your information. Don’t default to meme-think. Don’t default to snarky YouTube videos. Steven C. Harper said it best, “Googling is not a synonym for seeking.” Take the time and make the honest effort to acquaint yourself with “the best books” (D&C 88:118) you can find on Mormon history, scripture, and doctrine. (For our purposes here, “the best books” include academic journal articles, academic and popular press publications, Internet websites, multimedia, etc.) It will ultimately be much better for you intellectually and spiritually.

The only one that seems to be throwing tantrums is Stephen Smoot. In this piece Smoot sets up a strawman by turning Jeremy’s comment about Hales being an amateur Historian into his claiming that he triumphantly announced “that one cannot possibly maintain faith in Joseph Smith after learning the “real” history of plural marriage.”

Of course Jeremy said no such thing and you can search in vain for that quote.  Smoot goes on and on about Hales how is not an amateur historian, but Hales himself claimed that he was:

“Runnells is correct that I am an amateur historian…” (Brian Hales,  Facebook, Mormon Historians, July 17, 2014, 3:38pm).

I actually took part in that conversation, and can verify that it is an accurate quote and that Brian was not being sarcastic. So if Hales is calling himself an amateur; then why is Stephen Smoot even bringing this up? To scapegoat Jeremy Runnells, of course.

So what is wrong with Wikipedia or reddit? Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia using wiki software. The entries are compiled by anonymous editors who have to footnote their entries.  Anyone can edit entries and it is basically self policed.  One Mormon apologist, Roger Nicholson lamented about Wikipedia in The Mormon Interpreter:

According to Wikipedia,

The Wikipedia model allows anyone to edit, and relies on a large number of well-intentioned editors to overcome issues raised by a smaller number of problematic editors. It is inherent in Wikipedia’s editing model that misleading information can be added, but over time quality is anticipated to improve in a form of group learning as editors reach consensus, so that substandard edits will very rapidly be removed.

In general, this philosophy tends to be effective as regards many Wikipedia articles. Errors that bring an article out of balance tend to be corrected given sufficient time, and the article progresses toward a stable and “neutral” state. However, articles dealing with highly controversial subjects, such as Joseph Smith’s first vision or polygamy, do not tend to stabilize themselves over time. These types of articles become magnets for editors who have an agenda to push. Wikipedia becomes an attractive way for such editors to “publish” their opinions with immediate worldwide visibility and considerable credibility.

He then writes,

Wikipedia articles are required to rely “mainly on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary source material by Wikipedia editors.”  Wikipedia is intended to summarize the work of others rather than act as a forum for creating original work. In the case of contentious articles such as “First Vision” or “Golden Plates,” it is extremely tempting to take advantage of the “immediate publication” of material in order to create new interpretive material. The “no original research” rule is often ignored. This can lead to situations in which the wiki editor’s own thinking is reflected in the article. Consider this example, which appears in the wiki article “First Vision” as of 18 October 2011: “However, when in October 1830 the author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a religious book he was writing, he said Smith was unable to recount a ‘Christian experience.’ ”

There are several issues with the above statement. It does correctly represent the source, which was an interview between Peter Bauder and Joseph Smith. Bauder was attempting to expose false religions, and he notes that “among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.”  The wiki editor introduces the quotation with the word however, thus implying that this statement is a possible disqualifier for the validity of the first vision. Nowhere in the wiki article is it noted that Bauder was a strong critic of Joseph Smith and that Joseph may not have desired to share the experience of his vision with such an interviewer. The earliest known extant attempt by Joseph to put the vision in writing occurred two years later. In 2009, however, the LDS wiki editor added his own interpretation of this interview by drawing the conclusion that “either Smith did not view this early remission of sins or vision as a ‘Christian experience,’ he forgot about the experience when asked by Bauder, or Smith and Bauder somehow miscommunicated.”?

Not only did this blatantly violate Wikipedia’s “no original research” rule, it was also an absurd interpretation. How would Joseph not view a remission of his sins as a “Christian experience”? Would he truly have “forgotten” about his theophany? The simplest and most obvious explanation was completely ignored: Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church. The wiki editor eventually recognized that the original research could not remain and removed the paragraph. The unqualified statement about Joseph not recounting a “Christian experience,” however, remains in the wiki article as of September 2011.

There are several things wrong with this analysis. First, the Peter Bauder interview with Joseph Smith was published in 1834, not 1830, so we do not know the exact circumstances that led Bauder to Joseph Smith, other than what Bauder wrote later. Bauder wrote,

However … we find him [anti-Christ] in various other places. For instance, view him in the Mahometan system, and a variety of other imposters, who have drawn disciples after them, who had no Theological Seminaries among them; but if you will observe their manner of increasing their numbers, you will find it is done without a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter, 1, 8—because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them according to Romans, 5, 5.

Among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr. who commenced his system of church government in this state, (New York) in the year 1830. His followers are commonly called Mormonites, sometimes New Jerusalemites, or Golden Bible society; they call themselves the true followers of Christ. I conceive it my duty to expose this diabolical system for two special reasons—first, because I have had an opportunity with Smith, in his first setting out, to discover his plan; secondly, because I learn since they were broke up in New York State, they have gone to the western States, and are deceiving themselves and the people, and are increasing very fast.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834, 36-37.

I will name some of the particular discoveries which through Divine Providence I was favored with in an interview with Joseph Smith, Jr. at the house of Peter Whitmer, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, state of New York, in October, 1830. I called at P[eter]. Whitmer’s house, for the purpose of seeing Smith, and searching into the mystery of his system of religion, and had the privilege of conversing with him alone, several hours, and of investigating his writings, church records, &c. I improved near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers: he could give me no christian experience, but told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family. He went, and after the third or fourth time, which was repeated once a year, he obtained a parcel of plate resembling gold, on which were engraved what he did not understand, only by the aid of a glass which he also obtained with the plate, by which means he was enabled to translate the characters on the plate into English. He says he was not allowed to let the plate be seen only by a few individuals named by the angel, and after he had a part translated, the angel conmanded him to carry the plate into a certain piece of woods, which he did:—the angel took them and carried them to parts unknown to him. The part translated he had published, and it is before the public, entitled the Book of Mormon: a horrid blasphemy, but not so wicked as another manuscript which he was then preparing for publication, which I also saw. He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles: the publication intended was to be the Bible!!! The manner in which it was written is as follows:—he commenced at the first chapter of Genesis, he wrote a few verses of scripture, then added delusion, which he added every [p.18] few verses of scripture, and so making a compound of scripture and delusion. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. I will now give the public my fears on this subject, (unless God prevents) when he gets his work ready for the press. He will pretend that the angel has brought the plate, and his new Bible will be a translation of the remaining plate, which were not put into the Book of Mormon, and the public will have this diabolical invention imposed on them. (See also, Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 16-18).

It is obvious that this is written from an 1834 perspective. We do not know how Bauder felt in 1830 when he visited Smith. He may not have been antagonistic at all. Nicholson assumes this of Bauder, and then concludes that “Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church.” Yet, Joseph shared his claimed 1820 vision with Robert Matthews in 1835, who Smith speculated was a murderer and claimed his “God was the devil”.  In the light of Smith sharing his supposed vision with one such as Matthews, Nicolson’s argument doesn’t make much sense.

What is interesting is that Bauder got all of the details right about Smith’s claimed visit with Moroni. He also got the details right about Smith’s “translation” of the Bible, although his later speculation that Smith might claim it came from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon never came to pass. If Bauder was simply making it up about Smith’s lack of Christian experience in 1830, why did he correctly claim that Smith told him he was later translating the Bible with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? This is not about Joseph joining any church; Bauder describes what “Christian experience” is, in an earlier paragraph:

“…a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory…because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them…”

That is not about joining a church. The fact that Bauder claims that Joseph did not speak of any Christian experience before his supposed encounter with the angel Moroni in 1830, is borne out by what Mormon Missionaries were teaching in 1832; and what Smith and Cowdery wrote themselves in 1834. Smith made an attempt to rewrite his history in 1832, but left it unfinished and abandoned it in the back of a letterbook and did not include his supposed vision of Christ in the 1834 history. In that version of his history they claim that Joseph prayed in 1823 to see “if a Supreme Being did exist” and was answered by an angel who told him about some gold plates.

The wiki article today (2015) reads:

In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni.[73] At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Smith recounted his early history, noting

“For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel … and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book.”[74]

No further explanation of this “manifestation” is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision,[75] its original hearers could have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven.[76] On the other hand, when in October 1830, non-Mormon critic and author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a book, Bauder was writing about false religions, Smith apparently declined to share his experience. Bauder thus stated that Smith was unable to recount a “Christian experience.”[77]

So it appears that Nicholson’s objections of a few years ago are groundless, since Bauder is described as a “non-Mormon Critic” in the current wiki article.  Now, these changes may have come about with the persistence of Mormon editors, but that is the way it is supposed to work, right?. It appears that this wiki article has “stabilized itself over time,” at least in this instance.

So why the current objections to wiki? Because FAIRMORMON can’t totally control the flow of information there as they can at their own site. But what is almost comical is that FAIRMORMON has its own version of wiki. And what do they have on their own wiki page? This:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Notice there is little difference from the current “First Vision” Wikipedia page. FAIRMORMON uses this quote to try and prove that Joseph Smith didn’t join any Churches. On another page, they write the same thing:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Bauder absolutely did not mean that, as he himself explains above. The Wikipedia article is still wrong though, because Bauder did not say that Smith declined to share his experience, Smith could not give him one, as defined by Bauder. And Bauder did not just spend an hour or two with Smith, he claimed that he spent “near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers,” and spoke to Smith alone for “several hours”, so neither Smith nor any who followed him could give Bauder a “Christian experience” for Joseph Smith in his youth.

Mormon_reddit

Reddit is simply a discussion forum. So why doesn’t Smoot want Mormons to visit these places on the internet? Does Smoot think Mormons will go to reddit specifically to find out about Mormon History? I’ll leave that up to you, readers, to figure out.

Smoot also talks about memes. Yet, FAIRMORMON takes the memes from Jeremy’s CES Letter and employs them to foist their own agenda on the public! Here is a screenshot of one of the pages on their new website devoted to demonizing Jeremy and his work:

Hales CES 36

Notice their own “selected details” and the claim that Hales makes about Ruth Vose Sayers which I’ve shown to be riddled with problems here. Jeremy is simply boiled down to a thrower of tantrums by Smoot.  And of course, “Satan” is behind it all! Now here we are four months later and Smoot is at it again here.

So why is Smoot bringing this up again and again ad nauseum? It seems that Brian Hales has a few pages of contribution included in a new book published by the John Whitmer Historical Association in addition to his other many books and articles on the subject. Well, we all know that Hales has published a lot on polygamy. We know that he considers himself an amateur historian. So what is Smoot’s point here? Simply to use any excuse to scapegoat Jeremy:

Readers of my blog will recall that some time ago Jeremy Runnells amusingly accused Brian C. Hales (undoubtedly one of the finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage) of being a “Mormon amateur apologist.” At the time I responded by mentioning the number of respected academic peer reviewed venues Brian’s work had appeared in… I’m sure that if Jeremy ever decides to take a sabbatical from teaching at the prestigious University of Reddit (I hear UoR is almost as high as the University of Phoenix in Princeton’s ranking) and venture forth into academia he can be invited by Brian to present his work at next year’s JWHA conference. ~Stephen Smoot

Again, all of the publications listed by Smoot don’t change that fact that Brian Hales himself admitted to being an amateur historian.  What is interesting is Smoot’s defense of Hales in the comments to this article:

Finally, is Brian an apologist as well? Sure he is, in that he is defending a specific interpretation of the historical data. Scholars do this all the time, and the rhetorical tricks of Runnells and his followers notwithstanding, there’s nothing inherently shameful in being an “apologist” for a position or idea if you’re being such in good faith.

Now we are getting to it.  I think Jeremy could have chosen his words more wisely in giving Hales amateur status, (even though Hales calls himself one) but Jeremy has a point about Hales being an “expert”, because some of the claims that Hales does make are amateurish. He jumps to conclusions, makes outlandish assumptions, and presents the evidence in a one sided way. This is not good apologia, nor good scholarship.  Here are some of the many problems that Mike Quinn detailed about Hales’ methods:

Quinn accuses Hales of “citing an easily refutable claim” (pg. 6), quotes secondary sources over primary sources (page 6), Quinn also writes that “The best evidence is the original record of sealing, not someone’s century later commentary about it” which Hales quoted instead of the original record. He states that Hales “brushes off the significance of some of the evidence he has cited,” (page 11), makes contradictory assertions (page 11), conveniently shifts his standards of evidentiary analysis in his own direction (page 18), that Hales “apologetical observations contradict evidence (page 23), uses a red herring, (page 25), makes claims that have no basis whatever (page 27), strains credulity (page 27), uses “presentist bias” (page 33), of “misrepresentation” (page 64), of not consulting original sources (page 66), that Hales had an “academic obligation” to reveal certain information which he did not (page 66), of using a “vacuous red-herring when Hales does not quote a single exception from the “original records” about which he writes” (page 69), that Hales would not acknowledge crucial evidence that undermined his narrative (page 70 n. 46), which was that Joseph Smith forbid the practice of polygamy in Oct. 1843, (ibid), citing a source critical to his argument without a page number (page 72), uses flawed methodology and closed system of logic (page 73), worse (Quinn’s word) he has failed to acknowledge several of the contrary evidences in publications he has cited, (ibid), he makes “perplexing gaffes” in his use of evidence (page 73-74), he repeatedly questions the memory/accuracy of faithful Mormon witnesses that Hales disagrees with (page 74), does not use equal standards for evidence (page 74), of making “apologetical claims” knowing they were “improbable” (page 75), that he did not acknowledge critical evidence until forced to by Quinn (page 78), gave “anachronistic assessment”, and “a fallacy of irrelevant proof”, and “chronologically false” assessments (page 80), he overstates problem in proving a negative, (Hales – “You can’t prove a negative”) to which Quinn writes, “for example it is possible to prove that someone didn’t die on a particular date” (page 82), falsely accusing Quinn of stealing documents (84), another red herring (87), absurdity (87), claimed that Quinn said something he did not say (90), of another fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 90), that Hales wrongly corrected an accurate page citation by Quinn (page 91), of knowing of evidence but ignoring it to support his conclusions (page 94), claimed no documentation existed when it did (page 95), of not acknowledging evidence (page 98)making claims that were wrong (page 98), raising an apologetical smoke-screen by questioning well known facts (page 101), making ridiculous assertions about conspiracies (page 101), of fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 102), that Hales is an unreasonable researcher (page 102), of using “multiple fallacies” (page 104), the purposeful absence of references (page 105), purposeful non-inclusion of first-person sources that contradict his argument (page 108), using “imprecise and less detailed” evidence to support his argument (page 108), exclusion of evidence (page 108), claims there is no “specific documentation” when Quinn provided it (page 110), wrongly stated something Quinn did not say (page 113) which was a “Stunning gaffe”, again a red herring (page 113), another red herring (page 115), irrelevant statements (page 115) “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes” (page 115), On page 118 Quinn writes, “NOTHING (Caps in original) can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time” [This speaks for itself], Also includes Hales in using the “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities” (page 118), of denying and ignoring evidence (pg. 123), using a closed system of logic (God knew Smith would be obedient so he was), On page 124, Quinn compares Hales to Joseph Smith III, who refused to believe evidence he did not like, (page 124), accuses Hales of playing “a skillful shell game in which premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same” (page 125), ignores contradictions and other problems in evidence (page 126), omits significant facts (page 127), another wrong claim (page 127), does not cite sources he knows of (page 128), makes unqualified conclusions (page 128). (“Evidence for the Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”, D. Michael Quinn, (expanded-finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013), pages cited in text).

Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn in the comments of his hit piece on Jeremy by stating,

I appreciate the references to Mike Quinn’s work. Most historians at some time have benefited from his research and footnotes. However, I would feel much better about your criticism if you instead were not quoting Quinn, but quoting some Nauvoo polygamist or other historical figure who was there. Quoting secondary sources may create the illusion that some scholarly opinion is documented history. (This applies to me as well as Mike.) (Comment made on July 15, 2014).

The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others (like Mike Quinn and Richard Bushman) disagreed with Hales’ conclusions. He did not “quote” anyone. Quinn’s (and Richard Bushman’s) conclusions are based on the evidence that they quote in their various books and articles. This seems lost on Hales who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a quotation and a general statement. Hales also does not keep his own advice about “secondary sources” as Mike Quinn documents above.

I would say that I’m pretty much as familiar with all of the documents that Hales is, and I’m an amateur historian at this point, because I’m still learning the trade of being a historian even though I’ve been at it non stop for about 8 years and have been on research trips with Historians like Mike Marquardt.

One Mormon  (an Oxford grad) called me a “Hobbyist” historian in an effort to denigrate me, and I don’t take exception to him doing so. You have to learn, don’t you? Why be embarrassed about that? I’m not and neither is Jeremy Runnells. A better question might be why do those who call others these names do so, and can they back up their claims with evidence? Is this just a diversion from the real issues? Why are all the “experts” and “scholars” at FAIRMORMON so concerned about the hobbyist Jeremy Runnells? Why would Brian Hales claim that Jeremy indicated in some way that he was an “expert” on Mormon Polyamy, when he knew that Jeremy made no such claim?

We all learn and make mistakes. I know, Jeremy and I spent a year together on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and traded literally thousands of emails discussing it and we have an Essay finished about it. In Jeremy’s case his claim was in response to Hales’ false assertion that Jeremy claimed he was an expert. Funny thing is, it was Hales that started all this, not Jeremy. How would you react to being called a sock puppet of Satan and a liar who claims expertise when you absolutely didn’t do so? Jeremy is none of these things and didn’t claim to be an expert, but Stephen Smoot doesn’t address those issues, only Jeremy’s angry retort at Hales which was factually correct. Even Hales admitted it was and that:

I am an apologist at heart, but had hoped to be more of an “objective researcher” in my writings. While I’m not big on labels, “believer” could be applied so perhaps “apologist” is unavoidable.

As we have seen from Mike Quinn’s critique of Hales work above, he has failed miserably at being an “objective researcher”.

I don’t mind being called a “Hobbyist”, but you had better be prepared to back up your assertions (if you think that it matters) with evidence when it comes to the topics at hand or you could look pretty stupid being debunked by those you are calling amateurs or hobbyists. Jeremy presented evidence, good evidence that he can now back up with Hales’ own research, as can I.  Notice that Stephen Smoot doesn’t address any of that, he simply plays his one string banjo over and over again. Banjo_Cartoon

Does it take a degree to make one a professional Historian? Perhaps, (to be factually correct) but there are those like Mike Marquardt and Dan Vogel who I would call professionals who don’t have degrees in Historical studies. Mike and Dan (same as Hales) have been writing books about Mormon History for decades. But that is about all they do. Brian doesn’t do this full time, he is a dentist. Therefore, the moniker hobbyist could apply to him as well. In the case of Dan and Mike, would the validation of a degree make a bit of difference? No. They are masters at their trade here. A piece of paper isn’t going to add much to that. They have done the research, put in the time, and have a body of work to rival any thesis that would give them a doctorate. So why all the fuss and bother about Hales? Because Mormon apologists don’t like the fact that Jeremy deigned to criticize Hales with his own words. Get over it.

The difference between Mike M., Dan Vogel and Hales though, is that Mike and Dan don’t have an agenda either way concerning Joseph Smith while Hales does, and Hales lets that agenda dictate his conclusions. Their conclusions challenge the “faithful Mormon” historical narrative that Hales embraces and often invents. Mike M. is on the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History where Hales has published and even helped Hales with his Fanny Alger article. Even Mike Quinn said that Hales used questionable methods though he strangely called Hales an “honest” historian. I can show that he is not when it comes to the way he uses polygamy sources.

What really matters, is what you produce and can it stand up to scrutiny. I recently wrote an article on Sylvia Lyon and the 1869 Utah Affidavits where I go through many of Hales’ foundational claims in relation to sexual polyandry and some of his methods in arriving at the conclusions he does.

See for example the problem that Hales had with the evidence that Hales claims is about Ruth Vose Sayers that Don Bradley gave him, that Hales never presented to the public in his books, his articles, or on his website (He only presented small out of context snippets from the document, never displayed the document, and never fully explained it even when Don (he told me so) gave him a copy of the document and Mike Quinn (in 2012) gave him the info about it): (Note 14)

I even do a handwriting analysis that shows that Mike’s initial conclusion that it is not “sayers” but “sagers” was correct. Hales also manipulates evidence in the case of Eliza Snow and her letter to Daniel Munns which I discuss here.

Hales manipulation of the evidence here is astounding. He also looks quite foolish when he questions Alex Beam’s use of a “cast of characters” in the beginning of his book. Hales claimed that ,

The book begins with a “Cast of Characters” similar to what you would find in a play, which is a departure from what you would typically find in a scholarly work of historical nonfiction. In fact, listing a “Cast of Characters” may intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question simply because nonfiction is about real people and real events not characters.

Yet I show that one of the most famous historical non fiction books of all time, “All The President’s Men” used the same literary device at the beginning of that book and Woodward and Bernstein were lauded for doing so. Did it call any of the nonfiction element of their book into question? I think history has answered that. Is that an amateurish claim? Would a professional make that claim? And why could a mere “hobbyist” quickly find a case where other authors did so successfully and Hales could not? So what the hell is an “expert”? This is a silly argument started by Hales himself when he sarcastically called Jeremy the “new expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”.

Remember too, that Stephen Smoot is a FAIRMORMON employee/volunteer? and they have a vested interest in propping up Hales and his point of view. The recent website they created to attack Jeremy and try to rebut the CES Letter is just another example of the shoddy scholarship they employ. See my thread here for examples.

Addendum: Smoot explains his modus operandi:

Stephen Smoot Comments Oct. 2015

Show each other respect and courtesy? Who attacked who first, Jeremy or Smoot? Did Jeremy ever attack Smoot, or simply defend himself against FAIRMORMON attacks?

He shows us his true colors with this line,

“It’s a troll or be trolled world out there…”

Very Christlike, indeed. Justification of his trolling people. Nice. And for all his disparagement of Reddit, seems like Smoot can’t get enough of it. This stuff is just hilarious. If he wasn’t so vindictive, I might just feel sorry for him.

Does being called an “expert” or having familiarity with documents or published material about polygamy make one a good historian or one of the “finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage” when presenting on the subject? Time will tell in relation to Brian Hales, and the clock is ticking.

Brian Hales’ Polygamy: Sylvia Lyon & The 1869 Utah Affidavits

Affidavit Book Banner Cinema

Introduction: Verifying The Historical Narrative
I. “…And They Are Living In Adultery”
II. The Affidavit Books Speculation
III. More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation
IV. The Temple Lot Testimony Speculation
V. Still More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation
VI. Conclusion: “A Panorama Of Disagreeable Pictures”
Notes

Introduction: Verifying the Historical Narrative

I have been pretty much exclusively researching the Mormon Spiritual Wife[1] System of Joseph Smith (polygamy) for the last two years now, except when I’ve taken short breaks now and then to work on other areas of Mormon History that interest me. I’ve read over two dozen books and many more articles written by various authors, perused affidavits, diaries, family histories, church records, minutes, letters and anything else that I could get my hands on to try and understand the practice that was called in the 19th century one of the “twin relics of barbarism”, or a “pure and holy principle”, depending on who you might ask. Just recently I was highly pleased to find a letter written by Eliza Partridge from 1881, just so I could see what her handwriting and signature looked like so I could compare it with her affidavits from 1869.

Joseph Smith with Nauvoo Women_1843With all of that research behind me now, the conclusion in front of me is that Mormon polygamy was just a complete and utter mess. It was nurtured in secrecy and kept alive with lies. It was a direct cause of the death of the two most powerful men in the Mormon Hierarchy in Nauvoo in the 1840’s, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. It destroyed lives; it shattered the faith of many; and turned many honest and upright people into liars and fanatics that clung to the belief that someday this principle would be adopted by the citizens of the United States even as they defiantly watched their own prophets abandon it and command them to follow suit.[2]

I have also found that many of the authors of works dealing with the subject of polygamy have crafted a narrative about certain events that is taken for granted as fact, when the evidence to support those narratives is at best weak, sometimes apologetic, and often contradictory.

I’m referring here to a series of statements, certificates and affidavits that were collected from various men and women living in Utah who were involved in or knowledgeable about the practice in the Nauvoo era of the Church.  The collection of these affidavits began in the Spring of 1869 and continued until shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.

Now, the collection of these affidavits in and of itself is not a bad thing, and the information they contain can be a valuable resource in reconstructing the events that took place in Nauvoo during the life of Joseph Smith–if they have credible corroboration. But what I have found is that many modern historians have been using these affidavits almost exclusively to craft parts of the historical narrative, and as they portray those events, they do so without any caveat to the public reading them.

For example, in 2014 the Mormon Church published an Essay called “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, we read:

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household.[3]

This claim is based on an affidavit made by Emily Partridge in May of 1869, another identical affidavit by her sister in July of that year, (with the same bogus date that Emily gives for the supposed second “mock” marriage) and a third “certificate” made in June by Lovina Smith Walker, the daughter of Hyrum Smith and sister of Joseph Fielding Smith; who instigated the collection of these affidavits to combat the claims of his cousin Joseph Smith III.

There is no contemporary evidence to corroborate this claim about Emma, (and only  a few others later repeating it) but there is contemporary evidence that seriously challenges it. What is ironic is that the evidence that challenges this claim can be found in William Clayton’s Journal from 1843, an entry that was also made into an affidavit by Joseph F. Smith and therefore could have easily been used as a basis for those claims. I will not go into details here at this time; I have another forthcoming article that will deal with this matter in depth.

What is important is that the existing narrative is not set in stone and should be presented with far more caution and questions. We need more researchers to study the original documents and we need them to be presented in their entirety whenever possible, even if it takes large appendixes with full pictures to show context. The availability of many of those documents to the public at large will make this possible and help to dispel the speculation and assumptions that are prevalent in that narrative and taken virtually as fact today.

I. “…And They Are Living In Adultery”

What I wish to focus on at this time, is a few claims made by Brian Hales, who is considered by many to be an expert on Mormon polygamy. He has written numerous books and has a massive website about this practice during the Nauvoo era.

Hales interpretation of the evidence leads him to claim that Sylvia Sessions Lyon did not have sex (really could not have had it because of supposed theological teachings) with Joseph Smith and her husband Windsor Lyon while “married” to them both, even though she admitted to conceiving a daughter by Joseph Smith and later two children by Windsor Lyon–all the while never separating from Lyon while being simultaneously “married” to Joseph Smith. Here is Brian Hales speaking on this, taken from a FAIRMORMON Presentation from 2012, (bracketed comments by me):

Historical evidence shows that legally married women could be sealed for “eternity only” to someone other than their civil husband. [Hales “evidence” is all his own conjectures, based on faulty readings of late statements, some of which are inaccurate] The sealed marriage covenant would not apply until the next life. If you’ve read Compton, if you’ve read Quinn, they both say “no, these never happened, there’s none recorded in the nineteenth century.” [Actually, in Nauvoo, I’m aware of only one that took place in the 1880’s or so, and it was a rare occurrence according to Joseph F. Smith and Angus Cannon] …

The women [Chosen by Hales if there was a possible sexual polyandry conflict] who were sealed just for the next life, [What Hales calls non sexual eternity only sealings] like Ruth Vose Sayers, are on Joseph’s list of wives, but technically they don’t belong there until we get into the next realm. [Because Hales believes that the ceremonies for these women did not cover “time” on earth]. But we have to deal with it today. So, were all fourteen of these women sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity only? No. It’s not that easy[.] [There is no credible evidence that any of them were] At least three of the sealings were for time and eternity and in a covenant that superseded the legal covenant. In other words, after the sealing to Joseph, the legal husband was not going to be able to experience conjugality with her. [According to Hales alone] They are special cases and there are not a lot of parallels between the three. We’re going to talk about all three of them.

Hales Polyandry Graphic

Hales Polyandry Graphic

The first one is Sylvia Sessions Lyon. If you’ve read Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Loneliness” you know that he elaborately unfolds a plausible case. But new evidence [Notes by Andrew Jenson from an unknown source that give selective and misleading details about Sylvia and Windsor Lyon] suggests that he is in error. I talked to him, I emailed him this past week about it and he still defended it at Sunstone when we presented this just a week ago. [I don’t blame him] He was the respondent. But you just can’t do it [Of course one can, he did do it] and you will see why here in a minute. Sylvia married Windsor Lyon on April 21, 1838 in a legal [“Priesthood”] ceremony performed by Joseph Smith. [Remember this, it is important] “In Sacred Loneliness uses the date February 8, 1842 as their [Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions] sealing date. That’s the first problem. [Only for Hales] The daughter was conceived over a year later, on May 18 1843. [How does Hales get an exact date for conception when this can vary up to 5 weeks?] And this daughter I believe is Joseph Smith’s actual daughter. [So this was a “marriage” for “time” and “eternity”] The assumption is that Sylvia experienced sexual relations with both Windsor and Joseph Smith during this period.[It’s a valid assumption to make] Now, there’s no evidence for that, [There is no evidence that she didn’t have sex with them both during this period] for either one of them during the period up until Josephine was conceived, but the willingness of people to assume these things is very high, [Because the evidence (Both still married to her at the same time and no legal divorce of Windsor] supports that assumption] as we’ll talk about in a minute.

But the problem is that Todd uses this date here, of 1842, but in the same set of documents, and Todd didn’t know this when he wrote his book because he didn’t have time to get to this, but there is an 1843 date. They’re equally valid or invalid. They are not signed. They talk about this marriage, but we don’t know how close Sylvia Sessions Lyon was to the creation of these documents, and they just cancel each other out. [Perhaps] The whole timeline presented by Todd, I would argue, is not reliable.[It is if the 1842 date is correct and it is a strong possibility based on other evidence that Hales won’t give credence to]

But there is one other evidence that Todd will cite, to say that Sylvia Sessions was sealed to Joseph early, and that is that she witnessed the sealing of her mother in March of 1942. [sic] Now that clearly indicates that Sylvia was a polygamy insider. But the problem is that I’ve identified seventeen other men and women who are not polygamous who did witness these marriages. (They are: Fanny Huntington, Cornelius Lott, Permelia Lott, Joseph Lott, Amanda Lott, Benjamin F. Johnson, Elizabeth Whitney, Sarah Godshall Phillips, Julia Stone, Hettie Stone, Mary Ellen Harris Able, James Adams, Joseph B. Noble, Dimick B. Huntington, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and Newel K. Whitney.) It’s just not strong evidence. [In his opinion because he doesn’t believe there was sexual polyandry] So the whole timeline that Todd presents, which is more or less a plausible course of sexual polyandry, just falls apart. [It doesn’t, for reasons I’ll share below]

Windsor was excommunicated in November of 1842. We have three evidences [if you want to call them that] that the sealing occurred after this, and that the excommunication of Windsor cause [sic] him and Sylvia to part. [Based on what? There is no statement that his excommunication caused marital problems and the one statement that Hales uses to prove this is an error filled recollection from over a hundred years later] They were already separated. [Hales’ opinion based on faulty interpretation of evidence]  So they are legally married but they separate. [No, legally married but him disfellowshipped] And then Joseph is sealed to Sylvia after the excommunication. [Which doesn’t make a bit of difference for the first and only legal marriage was still valid as it was and so Joseph and Sylvia committed adultery] In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 historical record article on plural marriage, Andrew Judson [sic] wrote “Sylvia Sessions was married to Mr. Lyon. When he left the church she was sealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.” [This does not say they separated] Elsewhere he refers to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyon.” [Untrue, she never legally divorced him and had two children by him after Joseph died so she was never the “former” Mrs. Lyon – she was even called “Mrs. Lyon” by Willard Richards in 1844 when he visited them both at their house]

In 1915, Josephine, the child, related that back in 1882, just months before her mother died, she told Josephine in a very dramatic fashion, that she had “been sealed to the prophet at the time that her husband, Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church”, and that Josephine was actually Joseph Smith’s daughter. [Again, how does that change anything? That could simply have been a time period marker and she also claimed that she was married at the time of Zina Huntington and Eliza Snow which was between 1841 and 1842] Josephine married a guy named Fisher and there’s a whole Fisher family in Bountiful that descend from this. And I have been in contact with some of the descendants, and they are starting to say maybe we need to make a claim that we’re actually coming from Joseph and not from Windsor Lyon. [Irrelevant] From my research there are only 2 children from the plural wives. This is one. The other is Olive Frost’s daughter, or son, we don’t even know the gender, as both Olive Frost and the child died before they left Nauvoo. And that’s all. [It’s enough] There are references to a third, but we don’t know. Maybe some new evidence will come up and we will find out. [This is actually evidence that Joseph did have sex with his already married plural wives – so what Hales’ point is here is unclear unless he is trying to claim that everyone conceives after every sexual encounter which would be a groundbreaking new discovery]

Looking at the timeline, we find that Windsor and Sylvia married in 1838. She conceives three children, then he’s excommunicated [disfellowshipped] and that’s when they separate. [Sylvia never claims that they separate and there is no convincing evidence that they did] It’s not a legal divorce, but she is then sealed to Joseph in a marriage that I argue [Based on speculation] would have superseded the legal marriage anyway, which would curtail any conjugality between Sylvia and Windsor. [It would not according to an 1842 First Presidency Address to the Church] Josephine is conceived. Joseph Smith is killed. Windsor is rebaptized and then they come back together and the legal marriage is still intact. [Speculation by Hales–and it was always intact since there is no credible evidence at all they ever divorced or separated. And how did the marriage “stay intact” when Hales tries to claim Joseph dissolved it with a wave of his Priesthood or Mayoral powers? Where and when was the remarriage ceremony?]

Now, is this weird? Yeah, this is weird. Is it sexual polyandry? [Perhaps] Is it immoral? [Yes, according to Joseph Smith himself] Is it breaking the law of chastity that Joseph taught? No it isn’t. [Yes it is. According to Joseph himself it was adultery as we shall see][4]

Is it immoral to try and get between a husband and his wife by convincing the wife that it is God’s wish for you to “marry” her, and then have sex with her; especially when you yourself forbid women to separate from their husbands for any reason, particularly if the husband was a non believer (or I assume out of the church) and if they are not legally divorced–if they “marry” or are with another man–it is adultery? Some might think this is immoral.

But according to Hales because Windsor and Sylvia had some marital difficulties (if they truly did which the evidence doesn’t bear out) it is just fine for Smith to move right in on the mans’ wife. Or because the man was disfellowshipped it also gave Joseph that right, even when Joseph himself forbid anyone in the Church from doing this. Windsor committed no “evil” towards Sylvia. Hales himself admits this. So how could Joseph simply wave away their marriage? He could not do so and have sex with her without committing adultery.

Joseph Smith is then justified in “marrying” her because after all, their marriage (performed by Joseph Smith himself by his priesthood power) was now somehow illegal and Smith was able to “void” it with a wave of his Mayoral or Priesthood powers. This is a scenario that Hales takes pages to develop but simply makes up out of whole cloth.[5] Again, where is the evidence this took place and where is the evidence of a remarriage ceremony of the Lyons? There isn’t any. And why doesn’t Hales feel the same way about the supposed Fanny Alger “marriage”? He writes,

It is clear that Joseph Smith believed that the priesthood authority he possessed in 1835 could solemnize a marriage that would stand for the duration of mortal life, so long as that union was approved of God. That priesthood authority could be bestowed upon others who would be similarly empowered to perform a matrimonial ceremony that would be valid according to God’s laws even if “gentile law” would not allow it.[6]

Joseph himself never added the caveat that the marriage had to be “approved by God” to stay valid. To prove this, on June 12, 1842 Joseph Smith dictated to Hyrum Smith a binding Address from the First Presidency which contained specific commands to the Church concerning marriage:

Nauvoo.

To our well beloved brother, Parley P. Pratt, and to the elders of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, and scattered abroad throughout all Europe, and to the Saints,Greeting:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands and children behind; and such as women leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceeding we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever, nor any woman to leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church, or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in haste nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes.

Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world. And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceives him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever: and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband, and there are several instances where women have left their husbands, and [pg. 2] come to this place,& in a few weeks, or months, they have found themselves new husbands, and they are living in adultery; and we are obliged to cut them off from the church. I presume There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. We are KNOWING to their having taken wives HERE and are CREDIBLY informed that they have wives in England. [Words in caps underlined in original]

 The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.  [Not in original]Address Millennial Star 1842 Husbands Wives

There is another evil which exists. There are poor men who come here and leave their families behind in a destitute situation, and beg for assistance to send back after their families. Every man should tarry with his family until providence provides for the whole, for there is no means here to be obtained to send back. Money is scarce and hard to be obtained. The people that gather to this place are generally poor, the gathering being attended with a great sacrifice; and money cannot be obtained by labour, but all kinds of produce is plentiful and can be obtained by labour; therefore the poor man that leaves his family in England, cannot get means, which must be silver and gold, to send for his family; but must remain under the painful sensation, that his family must be cast upon the mercy of the people, and separated and put into the poorhouse.

Therefore, to remedy the evil, we forbid a man to leave his family behind because he has no means to bring them. If the church is not able to bring them, and the parish will not send them, let the man tarry with his family—live with them—and die with them, and not leave them until providence shall open a way for them to come all together. And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i. e. the unbeliever) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if she be a bad woman, there is law to remedy that evil. And if the law will divorce them, then they are at liberty; [p. 3] otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

These things we have written in plainness, and we desire that they should be publicly known, and request this to be published in the Millennial Star.

May the Lord bestow his blessing upon all the Saints richly, and hasten the gathering, and bring about the fulness of the everlasting covenant are the prayers of your brethren.[7]

First Presidency Message, June 12, 1842.

First Presidency Message, June 12, 1842. (Click to enlarge)

The above states that Joseph Smith himself came “under condemnation” for the “evil” of “marrying” a woman that had a legal husband. Did Sylvia go before the High Council in Nauvoo and ask for a divorce? Where is the evidence for this? Where was Joseph’s authority to disobey this Address? Why write it and make it binding on the “Saints”, if he himself could disobey it at will?

Hales claims that it was all right for Smith to annul the Lyon marriage because he was disfellowshipped, but this Message from the First Presidency says that he could not, and that if he “married” her, or slept with her it was adultery. Smith specifically states that they could not usurp legal marriages, and that if they did, they would fall under condemnation. This cannot be superseded by polygamy, it was written right at the time Smith was practicing it, and I believe that after this Address was published Joseph started “marrying” only single women.

Windsor & Sylvia Lyon

Windsor & Sylvia Lyon

Joseph Smith himself married Windsor and Sylvia Lyon by the “Priesthood” in 1838, yet in contradiction to his own First Presidency Address four years later, he “married” Sylvia for time and all eternity in February, 1843? (This date according to Hales, I believe it was most likely a year earlier, but still wouldn’t matter since what Smith did prior to this Address was still adultery). He would have also continued to contradict his own First Presidency Address in marrying Ruth Vose Sayers during the same month.[8] 

I searched through all of Hales’ three Books on polygamy but could find no reference at all to this letter. A search of his website also didn’t turn anything up. I could have missed it on his website, (I really don’t think so) but this is a crucial First Presidency Address that should be included in any serious study on polygamy. Yet Hales claims that,

Hence, three documents support a physical separation or effectual divorce between Windsor and Sylvia, with two of them placing it after his excommunication.[9]

No, they don’t. And what right did Sylvia have to “effectually” divorce Windsor when Joseph’s First Presidency Message specifically states that she was absolutely forbidden to do so? By what right then, did Joseph have to “marry” her? The First Presidency Message expressly states,

…and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband, and there are several instances where women have left their husbands, and [pg. 2] come to this place,& in a few weeks, or months, they have found themselves new husbands, and they are living in adultery; and we are obliged to cut them off from the church.[10]

So by Joseph’s own First Presidency Message, he was living in adultery with any woman that he “married”, because he didn’t have the authority to break up their marriage or their family when they weren’t legally divorced. There are no legal divorces in either of these cases, only Hales’ speculations. On his website, Hales writes,

Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: “Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.” Todd Compton agreed, “Joseph regarded marriages performed without Mormon priesthood authority as invalid, just as he regarded baptisms performed without Mormon priesthood authority as invalid.”[11]

Joseph Smith’s Address to the Church specifically forbids religious law to trump legal proceedings. And the Lyon marriage was performed with priesthood authority. They were married by Joseph Smith himself! The quotes Hales employs are about marriages performed by non-Mormons, so why they are being applied here is baffling. Regardless, this is all Hales’ speculation, since he cannot point to any policy in Nauvoo where it was stated that such marriages were considered invalid.  Everything official says the opposite. (See also 1835 Doctrine and Covenants) Smith wrote in the above First Presidency Proclamation in 1842 which nullifies this whole argument by Hales:

And if THE LAW divorce them, THEN they are at liberty; OTHERWISE THEY ARE BOUND AS LONG AS THEY TWO SHALL LIVE, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this … [12]

This slams the door on Hales’ speculations.[13] Joseph meant secular law. Hales’ argument that speaks of “effectual” divorces has no merit here. Joseph was living in adultery by his own words. Smith claims above that it wasn’t his right to go beyond the law. This is why it is so important for Hales to promote his invented “non sexual eternity only sealings”, but he cannot in the case of Sylvia Lyon because she admitted to having sex with Smith. Joseph here, is flat out caught in an adulterous relationship by his own words. There is no other interpretation of this. There is no loophole. It is what it is and all the apologetics in the world cannot change it.

Sylvia Sessions Bio informationHales claims that there is evidence that there were non sexual, eternity only “sealings” because of some notes written by Andrew Jenson in the 1880’s:

He’s interviewing one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. We don’t know which one, and this is occurring in early 1887. He is interviewing this wife and it’s probably Eliza Snow, but we don’t know. “While the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers,” Mr. Sayers is the legal husband of Ruth Vose Sayers, one of Joseph’s plural wives, “the latter [Mr. Sayers], not attaching much importance to the theory of a future life, insisted that his wife, Ruth, should be sealed to the prophet for eternity, that he himself should only claim her in this life. She was accordingly sealed to the prophet in Emma Smith’s presence, and thus became numbered among the Prophets plural wives.”[14]

First, Hales doesn’t know where this information came from. It could be hearsay. It could be made up for all we know. But there is something that throws doubt on this account. This statement claims that Emma Smith was present at the sealing of Ruth Vose Sayers in February, 1843. This is even more confusing when one reads the affidavit that Ruth Vose signed in 1869:

Be it remembered that on this first day of May, A.D. 1869, personally appeared before me, Elias Smith, Probate Judge for Said County, Ruth Vose Sayers who was by me Sworn in due form of law and upon her oath Saith that on [blank] day of February A.D. 1843 at the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock, State of Illinois, She was married or Sealed to Joseph Smith President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by Hyrum Smith, Presiding Patriarch of Said Church, according to the laws of the Same, regulating Marriage; in the presence of.[15]

Ruth Vose Sayers Affidavit

Why is there no mention of Emma Smith? Because there is good evidence that Emma Smith never participated in any of her husband’s “marriages”. So the evidence for a “non sexual eternity only sealing” that Hales touts here, is more than likely a mistaken remembrance or garbled hearsay. Hyrum Smith and Emma Smith both participating in a plural marriage together? Where do we find any contemporary evidence for that in February, 1843. Hyrum tried to convince Emma of the validity of the polygamy “revelation” in July, 1843 and admitted defeat to his brother. If she had already participated in a “marriage” with Hyrum in February, why would he be so concerned with convincing her in July?

Sayers claims she was sealed by Hyrum Smith, but he didn’t accept polygamy until months later. So how can we trust Hales interpretation of the evidence as credible? Even though Eliza R. Snow knew many of those women very well and more than likely traded information with them about their marriages; even Hales cannot claim that Jenson got the information from her. Also, Hales will use this information from an anonymous source, but then will claim that Sylvia Sessions daughter Josephine (whose mother Sylvia was friends with Eliza Snow) couldn’t have known the time frame of Eliza’s own marriage before it was published in the 1880’s.[16]  There are other problems with Jenson’s notes that I will address later in this Article.

And notice the language of the affidavit. It says, “She was married or sealed to Joseph Smith…” And what did that entail? Lorenzo Snow answered that in his Temple Lot testimony:

229. Q. Now you have stated that Joseph Smith took your sister for a wife when he had a wife already?
A. Yes sir.
230. Q. Prior to the giving of this revelation?
A. Yes sir.
231. Q. Well what kind of a position did it put your sister and Joseph Smith in?
A. It put them in a first rate, splendid position for time and eternity.
232. Q. Was not that act simply sealing instead of marriage?
A. Well, IT WAS ALL THE SAME.
233. Q. Sealing for eternity, and marriage, are they all one and the same thing?
A. Well it is getting the female with the male the same as it is in the marriage ceremony.[17]

That is why these affidavits say “married or sealed”. It was the same thing. A marriage for time and eternity. Malissa Lott Willes also testified that “marriage” and “sealing” were the same, meaning “for time and all eternity,” and she did not know of any of those “marriages” that were different.

Malissa Lott Willes Temple Lot Testimony, "Marriage and Sealing" the same

Malissa Lott Willes Temple Lot Testimony, “Marriage and Sealing” the same

Hales, in an effort to give credence for his later 1843 date for the “marriage” of Lyon to Smith writes,

The 1842 date for Sylvia Sessions sealing comes from [Affidavit] Book 1 and the 1843 date from Book 4. Book 4 is also unique because it contains two additional unfinished affidavits, one for Vienna Jacques, and a second started on Jun 26, 1869, but never completed. Book 1 does not contain those who [two] aborted affidavit attempts.

Accordingly, it appears that since Book 4 contains more documents than Book 1, it was in fact the primary of the two and was the first to receive entries, at least in those two instances. This observation suggests that the 1843 date could well be the more accurate, or at least the first recorded, even though it is found in a book currently referred to a [sic] Book 4. Either way, it is a date with at least as much validity as the date (1842) written in Book 1 and should not be dismissed on the inaccurate assumption that it was simply a coypist error that occurred as the contents of Book 1 were being duplicated in Book 4. In light of these observations, the best conclusion seems to be that the year of the sealing is entirely unsubstantiated in these documents.[18]

II. The Affidavit Books Speculation

There is more ground to cover here readers, which I will get to in due time. But first I would like to address Hales’ claims about the Affidavit Books. I won’t go into a history of the Affidavit Books, that will be in a forthcoming article that I’ll publish at a later time.[19]

When I first heard of these Affidavit Books, my first thought was where can I see them? Fortunately, someone put them all on archive.org, so they are easy now to access and study and this is crucial to understanding and (in this case), addressing Hales’ claim here.

One thing that immediately becomes evident when one reads what Hales wrote is his forceful language. He writes,

  • It was in fact the primary of the two
  • It is a date with at least as much validity as the date…in book 1
  • the inaccurate assumption that it was simply a copyist error

There is good evidence to challenge all of Hales’ assumptions here. And that is where having copies of the Affidavit Books comes in handy. I feel that Mr. Hales has made some critical mistakes from not studying the Affidavit Books more closely. His conclusions therefore, are made from a faulty analysis of the evidence, which I present below.

First, let’s take a look at the covers of all the Affidavit Books. These are in order of their current designation (1-4) from left to right:

1869 Utah Affidavit Book Covers

To get an idea of what is in these Affidavit Books, I present the following graphic from the folks at Mormon Bookshelf:

Affidavits on Celestial Marriage List

Mormon Bookshelf Graphic, which may be found here.

The information in Affidavit Books 1 & 4 is virtually identical, as are Affidavit Books 2 & 3. Hales is almost correct that there are two additional unfinished affidavits in Book 4. There is actually only one; the other was started and crossed out because of a copy error. In looking at these books, it is obvious that they are out of order. Books 3 and 4 should be reversed:

1869 Utah Affidavit Book Covers (Proper Order)

The reason why is that Books 1 & 2 are the originals (one set), and Books 3 & 4 are the copies (another set). You have Book 1 with the label and Book 2 without one. This was how they made the copies, The first copy (Book 4, actually 3) with a label, and the second (Book 3, actually 4) without one. They even use the same types of books for  the first and second copies.

Now, how do we know which are the copies? There is evidence in the Books! First, notice what the folks at Mormon Bookshelf say in a comment about the Bathsheba Smith Affidavit. They tell us:

Book 4 was located in the Church Historian’s Office along with book 3, whereas Joseph F. Smith kept Books 1 and 2 in his personal possession.[20]

Why would he do that? Because they were the original copies, and were made first:

Affidavit Books 1-4 First Page

Joseph F. Smith’s name is embossed in Books 1 & 2 along with the identifiers, “Du Book No. 1” and “Du Book No. 2”. Smith’s name is also embossed on the last page of Books 1 & 2. Books 3 & 4 (the copies) do not have this. The label on the front of each of the first books (Books 1 & 4) identifies them as the First Affidavit Books of each set. That is why Books 3 & 4 should be reversed. The chronological order of the affidavits also bears this out.

Hales writes,

At some point since 1869, an unidentified person penciled in identifying marks in two of the books, namely Book 1 and Book 2. It is unclear why those numbers were assigned specifically to those two books.[21]

Actually, it is very clear why those numbers were assigned to those Books, because they were designated this way when they were donated to the Church Historians Office. Why would this be “unclear”? The originals though, were initially kept by Smith, and there is other evidence that determines that this is what happened. (See Note 21 for more on this, and of course below for the additional evidence).

Now that we have the order correct, and which books are probably the originals and the copies, is there further evidence to support that Books 3 & 4 were copies of Books 1 & 2? Yes.

First there are the Joseph Noble affidavits that are the first to appear in Books 1 & 4 (actually 3). First, it is important to note that all of these Books have the first affidavit appearing on page 3 except for Book 4 (actually 3). Why? Because of a copy error. This is one of the affidavits that Hales mentions as “unfinished”, but it really isn’t. Here is what they look like:

Joseph B. Noble, Book 1& 4, pg. 3

You will notice that the copy on the right was scrapped because whoever (I believe this was Robert L. Campbell) was copying the affidavit from Book 1 wrote the wrong name in the affidavit. It should have been James Jack, but he wrote “Elias Smith, Probate Judge”. James Jack was a Notary Public, not a Probate Judge. So what did Joseph Fielding Smith do? He copied the Noble affidavit in Book 4 (actually 3) on to page 1:

Joseph B. Noble, Book 4, pg. 1

This is the only Book where an affidavit appears on page 1. In all the other Books, the affidavits start on page 3. If this were the first book, then all of the others should follow the same pattern and start on page 1. But they don’t. All the rest start on page 3.

It is unclear why Smith wanted to leave the first two pages blank, perhaps he was going to put the contents there, but opted for the back of the Books because there were so many affidavits they would not have had enough room to list the contents on just two pages.

This explains the first of Hales’ affidavits. Hales misses this obvious mistake and claims:

The affidavit reads: “Be it remembered that on this twenty-sixth day of June, A. D. 1869, personally appeared before me Elias Smith, Probate Judge for said county,” and has one big “X” crossed through the entirety. Smith, Affidavit Books, 4:3. There is no hint regarding for whom the document was to be written or the information it was going to contain.[22]

I disagree. It is obvious what happened if one simply looks at the entry. It was written on page 3 (same as the Noble affidavit from Book 1), it has the same date as the Noble affidavit, (June 26, 1869), and the reason it was crossed out: the wrong name.Robert L. Campbell, Handwriting Comparison

Joseph F. Smith apparently briefly made use of Robert L. Campbell (a well known scribe that worked on the Manuscript History of the Church) as a copyist. Two affidavits at the end of Book 1 are in his handwriting. He was obviously tasked to make a copy of Book 1, and he began it on page 3 (following the pattern in Book 1) but then made the mistake which forced him to abandon copying that affidavit. He then continued on with his copying until page 21 (completing ten more affidavits) before he stopped. At that point Joseph F. Smith resumed the copying, and placed the Noble affidavit on page 1, and then resumed copying the rest of the affidavits where Campbell left off.Joseph F. Smith Handwriting Comparison Affidavit Book Titles

Smith then later made the Titles for Books 1 & 4, as they are also in his handwriting. (I will have more on this in a future article).

Mormon Bookshelf has also noted that the unfinished affidavit is “Dated June 6th, 1869”, but this is an error, it is dated the 26 of June, the same as the Noble affidavit.

But what about the second, the Vienna Jaques affidavit? I believe it was originally in Affidavit Book 1, but was torn out. Here is the page between the Affidavits of Charles C. Rich (Apostle) and John Pack where the incomplete Jaques affidavit appears in Book 4 (actually Book 3), taken from from Book 1:

Vienna Jaques, Book 1, Torn PageNotice that there is a page torn out of the Book. This likely accounts for why there is no unfinished Vienna Jaques Affidavit in Book 1. What is curious is that the page numbers don’t reflect that this was done after the next affidavit was written into the book. It (the page tearing) was probably done before. Smith copied the unfinished Jaques affidavit at the same time into Book 4 (actually 3) that was written in Book 1, and then before he took the next affidavit (John Pack) someone (probably Smith) ripped out the Jaques affidavit in Book 1, and then it was only crossed it out in Book 4 (actually 3).

The cross out is in different ink, so this supports that it was probably done at a later time. The Rich affidavit was taken on the 12th of July, the Jaques affidavit has a date of the 20th of July, and the Pack affidavit the 22nd of July. So both affidavits were likely written in the two Books on the 20th of July, and then on the 22nd when Smith was numbering the pages for the next affidavit (John Pack) he ripped it (Jaques Affidavit) out of Book 1, but it was only crossed out of Book 4 (actually 3)–if they were taken chronologically at this time–which is strengthened by the progressive dates.

Right after these affidavits appears the Sylvia Sessions affidavit which is also not dated, unsigned and left as it is. So why rip out and cross out the Jaques affidavit and not the Sessions affidavit? Could Smith have been more confident in the 1842 marriage date? Perhaps.

So Hales’ conjecture that there are two extra affidavits in Book 4 (actually 3) is mistaken. There is though, an extra affidavit in Book 2 that is not found in Book 3 (actually 4), the affidavit of Bathsheba W. Smith.  So, to use Hales argument, this helps to strengthen the case that Books 1 & 2 are the originals, right?

Is there other evidence? Yes, I believe so, and it is in the affidavit of Malissa Willes. Notice the year of her marriage in both affidavits (Book 1 on the left and Book 4 (actually 3) on the right:

Malissa Willes, Book 1 & 4In Book 1 it is obvious that it was first written “1842” but corrected to read “1843”:

Malissa Willes, Book 1 Year 1843

But in Book 4 (actually 3) we find an 1842 with a question mark!

Malissa Willes, Book 4 Year 1842

It seems then, that when Smith wrote the affidavit he didn’t know what the date was, because it could have been either one. But how could this happen if Malissa signed them both? I had to think about that. Then I remembered the Vienna Jaques affidavit. Notice that it has the name and no dates:

Vienna Jaques, Book 4, pg. 56, Unfinished

Here is the signed affidavit of Mary Kimball with incomplete dates:

Mary Ellen Kimball

It could easily be that Malissa signed the copies before the dates were put in. She obviously was not present when Smith put the date in for the copy, or she would have corrected the dates as was done with the first affidavit in Book 1.

I think I can confidently state that Book 1 and 2 are the “primary” Volumes, and that it is far more likely (considering the mistake made with the Malissa Lott affidavit) that in the case of Sylvia Lyons the first date “1842” was the original year put on the affidavit and that the “1843” is most likely a copyist error.

III. More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation

Most of the Affidavits found in these Books are very late recollections and are being used in many cases as a basis for actual dates and events with little or no other evidence. But I do have problems with Hales interpretation of the evidence, even this evidence.  If Hales had just taken a closer look at both of the Sylvia Lyon affidavits I believe he would have seen a few things which indicate that the affidavit in Book 4 was probably written after the affidavit in Book 1.

sylvia lyon, comparison

If you study the two affidavits of Sylvia Sessions, you will notice that the affidavit with the 1843 date was rewritten without the last sentence in the middle of the page. And not only that, but that they rearranged the wording in the affidavit that appears in Book 4 (Actually 3).

Book 1:

on the eighth day of February, A.D. 1842, in the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock State of Illinois she was married or sealed to President Joseph Smith by [   ] in the presence of (Date, Place, Person)

Book 4 (actually 3):

on the eighth day of February A. D. 1843 she was married or sealed to President Joseph Smith, in the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock, State of Illinois, by (Date, Person, Place) in the presence of

These affidavits of others who were “sealed or married” to Joseph Smith all have the same order that appears in Book 1: Date, Place, Person:

Zina Huntington Young, Presenda Huntington Kimball, Ruth Vose Sayers, Emily Partridge Young, Marinda Nancy Hyde, Rhoda Richards, Malissa Lott Willes, Eliza R. Snow, Desdemona Fullmer, Sarah Ann Kimball, Lucy Walker, Elvira A. C. Holmes, (also has “at Heber C. Kimball’s house), Eliza Partridge, Martha McBride.

All of these affidavits have the same format as the first (1842) affidavit of Sylvia Sessions, except for the one with the 1843 date. For some reason, they changed that order and the date of the second affidavit. How could this be the original, when it doesn’t follow the format of every other affidavit cited above (all the other affidavits of Joseph’s “marriages”)? This indicates to me that the copy with the 1843 date is an anomaly, and therefore most likely a copy.  Even Eliza Partridge’s loose Affidavits have the same format as the rest.

We know that some of these affidavits were previously prepared because there are templates in some of the books with blank spaces for names and dates like this affidavit of Mary Ann Young:MS 3423_5_1_29s Mary Ann Young p. 46

Notice date, place, person format. As Hales notes, the Sessions Affidavits are also unsigned so we don’t know where the dates came from. All anyone can do is speculate about this. My argument here, is that there is evidence for the the 1842 date being written first, that is all. Yet, for some, Brian Hales’ unfounded speculations are enough to doubt the evidence that supports the 1842 date, as in the case of Gregory L. Smith:

I initially believed that sexual polyandry best explained the historical data. The “poster child” for this perspective was Sylvia Sessions Lyon, whose sealing to Joseph in 1842 seemed to clearly precede her separation from her civil husband. Since Sylvia’s daughter is the best candidate for a child conceived by Joseph in plurality, this marriage has consequently been treated as the paradigmatic case for polyandry. If one such marriage included marital intimacy, ran the argument, it was reasonable to presume that the others either did or could have.

This reasoning struck me as sound, and for several years I accepted a model of full sexual polyandry. Over time, however, as I puzzled over the other data, I began (with, I confess, some reluctance) to wonder if non-conjugal relationships weren’t a much better explanation for the other spotty data. I hesitated to draw that conclusion, however, because of the Sylvia Lyon case. Its cogency seemed sufficient to outweigh my other niggling suspicions.

Hales’ and Don Bradley’s discovery of a second affidavit for Sylvia altered the calculus considerably. Neither affidavit was signed, but crucially the newly discovered document dates their marriage to 1843 — one year later. Significantly, nothing about the documents allows us to privilege one affidavit over the other, and so the later date must be regarded as at least as plausible as the earlier one (TaBU, 71–73).

This might seem a small difference of interest only to pedants, but in context it can be revolutionary. Suddenly, Sylvia’s marriage could no longer be regarded as paradigmatic, since it is entirely possible that her sexual relationship with Joseph followed her separation/divorce from her husband. Thus, Hales and Bradley succeeded in pushing me (with some foot dragging) to favor a non-sexual polyandrous model, which seemed to explain other data points more parsimoniously. Hales’ later discussion of the Temple Lot testimony, and the telling absence of all three living polyandrous wives from those proceedings, despite their availability, increased my confidence in this historical reconstruction [23]

Yet there is evidence that one was probably written before the other. I have shared that above. Remember, the Malissa Lott affidavit had the date corrected in the first affidavit book, but it was not corrected in the second. It only had a question mark. Also, someone, (possibly Joseph F. Smith) thought the affidavit for Vienna Jaques was so irrelevant that it was torn out of the book. The same was not done with the Sylvia Sessions affidavits. This may indicate that Joseph F. Smith had confidence in the date given in the first affidavit, which was 1842.

It is also curious to me that Gregory Smith would be so easily swayed by Hales’ speculations (despite his claim of “foot dragging’). Smith still had sex with Sylvia Sessions while she was legally married to Windsor according to Hales (based on Josephine’s affidavit). It seems as if Gregory Smith is accepting Hales’ argument that they were separated, (an argument mostly based on his being disfellowshipped and one anonymous statement that claims that he was no longer her husband); but that wouldn’t matter according to an 1842 Address by Joseph Smith himself. He could only “marry” Sylvia if she obtained a legal divorce from Windsor (for committing evil in the marriage), something there is absolutely no evidence there was or that she ever did. This means that Joseph Smith and Sylvia were committing adultery.

But Hales isn’t finished with his speculations. He writes,

A second observation also seems to undermine the day and month listed in the affidavits. Both documents list February 8 (either 1842 or 1843), which is also the birth date of Josephine Lyon (1844) and Windsor Lyon (1809). It is possible that Joseph and Sylvia were sealed on Windsor’ birthday, exactly one or two years prior to Josephine’s birth, but the likelihood is small. Accordingly, a rigid insistence on a February 8 sealing date of either year seems unjustified.[24]

How does this “undermine” anything? It is simply Hales’ speculation. He has no idea of the amount of likelihood that Sylvia and Smith would be or not be sealed on Windsor Lyon’s birthday. What are the odds of Josephine having the same birth date as Windsor? Coincidence is coincidence. This doesn’t undermine anything. And it makes perfect sense that Sylvia would have been “married” to Joseph Smith just prior to her mother, since this was a pattern that Joseph Smith followed with women who were closely related, like sisters. Also, what if Windsor was a willing participant in the polyandry? And just who is making a “rigid insistence” on the February 8th date? Certainly I’m not doing so, but I’m not ruling it out based on Hales’ speculations, either.

Hales then writes,

A third observation is that an unsigned affidavit is only slightly better than no affidavit at all. It may or may not reflect genuine beliefs of the scribe, and since it is unsigned, its relationship to the beliefs of the intended signatory are entirely unknown. Taken together, it appears that the affidavits provide little or no reliable information regarding the day or year of Joseph Smith and Sylvia Session’s sealing ceremony.[25]

As I have noted above, if this affidavit was of so little use, why then did Joseph F. Smith not tear it out of the book as he did the Jaques affidavit? I do agree though, that we don’t know the relationship of this affidavit with Sylvia Sessions. This is a valid observation by Hales. But we can use it in connection with other evidence, something that Hales doesn’t want us to do, because he wants the 1843 affidavit to be the correct one.

What we do have is an unsigned affidavit that provides us with an 1842 date; and a second that has a different date that very likely is a copy error. This is not an “inaccurate assumption”, but a valid one based on the evidence I’ve presented here.

All of the other objections that Hales makes are based on faulty observations and speculations based on those faulty observations. Hales motive here is obvious. If he can create doubt about the 1842 date, then he can try and mitigate the other evidence that points towards an 1842 marriage, for he writes,

Without the assistance of the affidavit books, other sources must be consulted to discover the sealing date of Joseph Smith and Sylvia Session.[26]

This should be a rule that is followed with all the affidavits. All of them should be questioned if they do not have credible corroboration. Hales then presents what he feels is his “trump card”, the notes of Andrew Jenson that were rediscovered by Don Bradley:

In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 Historical Record article on plural marriage, Andrew Jenson penned: “Sylvia Sessions . . . became a convert to ‘Mormonism’ and was married to Mr. Lyons. When he left the Church she was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”[27]

Hales writes in his footnote,

Biographical information on Windsor and Sylvia Lyon, undated sheet in Andrew Jenson Collection, Church History Library.[28]

Historian Andrew Jenson

Historian Andrew Jenson

Hales doesn’t bother to explain this document at all here. Elsewhere, he writes,

In 1886 and 1887, Andrew Jenson interviewed several of Joseph Smith plural wives and other Nauvoo polygamists. His handwritten notes refer to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons.” He also penned:

Sessions, Sylvia Porter, wife of Winsor [sic] Palmer Lyon, was bon July 31, 1818, in Bethel, Oxford Co, Maine, the daughter of [blank] Sessions. sister of Perrigrine Sessions Became a convert to ‘Mormonism’ and was married to Mr. Lyons When he left the Church she was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.[29]

First, there is no indication that Jenson had an “interview” with Sylvia Sessions or anyone that knew much about Sylvia Lyon. We have no idea where Jenson got this information from. So how is it more credible than any other anonymous late recollection? It doesn’t even have the name of Sylvia’s mother, which Sylvia would have known, and whom Eliza Snow, Louisa Beaman, Sarah Whitney, Zina Huntington, and most others (of his wives) assuredly knew. Patty Sessions was well known by almost all of Smith’s wives. Many of them knew Sylvia well, and were very close to her mother as indicated by her diary. These notes by Jenson are all but useless as corroborating evidence of anything, let alone being a primary document that gives us accurate information. Of course they would later assume that Sylvia was “married” to Joseph when he was “out of the church”. This makes it easier for them to accept the marriage as something other than polyandry.

Hales then writes,

A second corroboration is found in a 1915 statement from Josephine. She remembered her mother also “told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” Accordingly, these two documents place the sealing after Windsor’s excommunication.[30]

Hales doesn’t quote the relevant portion of the letter in full here. It reads,

She [Sylvia Sessions] then told me [Josephine Fisher] that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of  fellowship with the Church. She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina D. Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.[31]

Instead of putting the quotes together as they were written, Hales separates them and writes later in the article,

Sylvia also reportedly stated “that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina D. Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.” Zina was sealed to Joseph Smith on October 27, 1841, and Eliza on June 29, 1842, thus supporting an 1842 date. However, it is likely that Sylvia chose to compare her sealing to that of Eliza and Zina because she knew Josephine would be familiar with those two women, rather than to specifically define the month of her sealing.[32]

Hales then goes into super speculation mode by claiming that “it is likely that Sylvia chose to compare her sealing to that of Eliza and Zina”. Likely? How so? Where does he get this from? There is no comparison being done here. Sylvia is stating to Josephine that ‘I (Sylvia) was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina and Eliza were.’ Where is the supposed comparison? She isn’t comparing anything. Josephine isn’t commenting or comparing what she herself knew, she is only reporting what she remembered her mother telling her at that time.

This conversation had taken place almost 23 years earlier. Of course she is not expected to get the exact language correct. For all we know, Sylvia could have told Josephine the date in addition to the other information but she didn’t remember it. If Josephine had read the biographies in Jenson’s histories, wouldn’t she remember the dates of their “marriages”? (See, I can speculate too).

But she doesn’t go beyond “about the same time that Zina…and Eliza…were…sealed.” This has the ring of an authentic recollection, not embellished with things she might have read somewhere. To say that Sylvia simply used names that she thought might be “familiar” to Josephine is ridiculous, because Joseph only practiced polygamy for a few years in Nauvoo and there were lots of other well known wives of Joseph, like Helen Mar Kimball, Emily Partridge, etc. who actually were “married” to Joseph in 1843.

In fact, Sylvia and Eliza were friends and Eliza even wrote poetry for Sylvia. Patty Sessions wrote in 1847 (at which time Sylvia was visiting her mother):

“E. R Snow has composed some poetry for Sylvia I will write it here in my book…”[33]

This was during a visit of Sylvia to her mother where she was also able to visit with Eliza R. Snow and other of Smith’s spiritual wives.

Regardless, speculation is not needed because we have what she said, that it was during the time of her husband’s disfellowshipment and the marriages of those two women which would make it in 1842. If Sylvia did not remember the exact year at that time, it is far more likely that she narrowed it down to events that she did remember, when (as she told her daughter) her husband was out of the church (took place in 1842) and when Zina and Eliza were married (late 1841, 1842). Both of these statements must be taken together, that is the context of them. Breaking them up serves no purpose except to further Hales own speculations.

Hales’ claim that Josephine didn’t know when Eliza was married until she later read it has no basis at all in fact. It is simply more speculation on Hales part. Hales also doesn’t consider that Patty Sessions knew Eliza and Zina very well, and that Sylvia could easily have learned of when they were married from her mother (if she didn’t learn it from them herself) who mentions visiting with both women in her diary numerous times and writing frequent letters to her daughter. For example, in 1847 Sylvia’s mother wrote,

“I had a new years party with Eliza Snow, Louisa Beaman, Zina Jacobs &c were here enjoyed myself well…”[34]

Hales would have us think that this mother and daughter never spoke to each other about polygamy and Josephine would have to learn about the marriages from reading them in publications decades later. But this is the only way that he can make his speculations fit his narrative. How is it that Hales’ speculations are the “likely” ones, time after time? Is it really more likely that Josephine learned about those “marriages” from reading them in the Historical Journal, or learning them from Sylvia and her mother’s friends directly? Is this the only time that Sylvia and Josephine spoke about polygamy? About when she was “married” to Joseph Smith? About when her friends were “married” to Joseph Smith? Hales claims that,

Undoubtedly Josephine, like 99 percent of all Church members in 1882, was unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo, since the first publication on the topic was Andrew Jenson’s 1887 article, five years later.[35]

This is absolutely false. For example, in 1879 the Deseret Evening News published many of the Affidavits that Joseph F. Smith had collected about a decade before. This was a big story back then, for it coincided with the death of Emma Smith. To claim that “99 percent of all Church members in 1882” were “unaware of the chronology” of those “marriages” as well as Jenson being the first to publish about the dates is extremely disingenuous of Hales. The sons of Joseph Smith visited Utah during the 1860’s and because of their preaching almost 3000 converts were made by them. Polygamy was a subject they spoke about often, and the dated affidavits had been around for a decade by then.

Unfortunately for Hales, Sylvia Sessions was not part of those that were “unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo”. The Woman’s Exponent also published many articles on Joseph’s wives long before Andrew Jenson did. Hales speculations here seem almost desperate.

Deseret Evening News, October 22, 1879 giving chronology of many of Smith's "marriages".

Deseret News, October 22, 1879, p. 12, giving chronology of many of Smith’s “marriages”.

Joseph the Seer's Plural Marriages, DEN, 13

Deseret News, Oct. 22, 1879, pg. 13

Hales then presents a very late recollection and when I read this I was really shocked that he would use this to try and bolster his argument. To try and prove that there was a separation, he quotes from a letter written in 1945 by one of Josephine’s sons, Irvin F. Fisher. Hales writes,

Windsor had a falling out with Nauvoo Stake President William Marks over a financial negotiation in the fall of 1842. In the end, Windsor sued Marks in the civil courts, and Marks in response brought Windsor up for a Church court. On November 19, 1842, Windsor was cut off. He subsequently “left Nauvoo and went up to Iowa City, making his home there, but leaving his wife in Nauvoo, who apparently did not wish to leave the Church and go with him.”[36]

If one reads the entire letter written by Irvin F. Fisher, one understands how misleading that Hales is being in this instance. Fisher writes,

Dear Brother [Anson] Bowen [Call]:

Concerning the questions you ask concerning my mother and grandmother, I must admit that I don’t know as much as I should really like to know. But the following are the facts as known to me:

My mother’s mother was Sylvia Porter Sessions – younger sister of Perrigrin Sessions and the wife of Winsor Palmer Lyon, who died in Iowa City in 1849, where he had been residing for the past 5 or 6 or 7 years before his death. He and his wife were living in Nauvoo during the early years of that city. Their first 4 children were born there – I think. The first three died there – young. The eldest – Myriano – [Marian S.] died there and her funeral is mentioned in Vol. 4 of the Church history by B. H. Roberts (about page 454 I think.) It says there that the service was held across the road from the temple (then building) in a bowery, on Sunday March 20, 1842; and that the Prophet Joseph was the speaker. My mother – Josephine – their fourth child was born in Nauvoo Feb. 8, 1844, and the Prophet was martyred in June of that year, as you know. However, sometime previous to my mother’s birth, Bro. Winsor P. Lyon (along with many others) became out of harmony with the Prophet and Church leaders, and he left Nauvoo and went up to Iowa City, making his home there, but leaving his wife in Nauvoo (who apparently did not wish to leave the Church and go with him.[)] Now, it must have been at this time that she was sealed to the Prophet (thinking, no doubt, that her husband had apostatised [sic] from the church for good.)

For at least two good reasons, I feel sure she was sealed to the Prophet sometime during this period (from 42 to 44).[37]

Restored Lyon Drugstore, Nauvoo, Illinois

Restored Lyon Drugstore, Nauvoo, Illinois

First, there is no evidence that Windsor Lyon ever left Nauvoo before the general exodus in 1846-7, but there is plenty of evidence that he did not. He did not apostatize; he was disfellowshipped by William Marks for suing Marks over a debt in a secular court. He was not “out of harmony” with the Prophet, he stayed Joseph’s friend and loaned him money and supported him in other endeavors. He was visited by Willard Richards in his home with Sylvia in 1844. This is obviously a garbled account about Windsor Lyon, made without first hand knowledge of any specific facts of what really happened between Windsor and Sylvia, which was more than likely gleaned from reading inaccurate accounts like those found in the Historical Record. (Fisher even spells the name of the Lyon’s daughter Marian wrong). The Lyons moved to Iowa together, in the summer of 1846, (therefore only living there for three years) and she gave birth to two of his children before Windsor died in 1849. Sylvia went with him voluntarily, and Windsor was a member of the Church when they moved there. Fisher is simply wrong about many crucial events in their lives. For Hales to use this as evidence that they separated in 1842 (implying that he apostatized and went to Iowa City that year) is extremely disingenuous.

IV. The Temple Lot Testimony Speculation

Gregory L. Smith made this comment (above) which I think is worth addressing here:

Hales’ later discussion of the Temple Lot testimony, and the telling absence of all three living polyandrous wives from those proceedings, despite their availability, increased my confidence in this historical reconstruction.

Hales argument from his FAIRMORMON presentation is this:

…in 1892, the RLDS Church claimed to be the successor to Joseph Smith’s true church and sued the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) to gain possession of the Independence, Missouri temple site. This is the stone church of the RLDS church and the temple lot. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) sought to show that Joseph Smith taught and practiced full sexual polygamy and since the RLDS did not, they were not the actual successors. The Utah LDS Church supported the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and arranged for witnesses to testify of their polygamous relationships with the Prophet. The issue of sexual relations was paramount. Spiritual marriages, “eternity only” sealings, and unconsummated plural unions would have played right into the RLDS attorneys’ hands.

When you go through, there were nine of Joseph Smith’s plural wives still alive in 1892. Three had been polyandrous wives. The first wife that they called was not a polyandrous wife. It was Melissa Lott who lived 30 miles south in Lehi. She testified of carnal intercourse with Joseph. The second plural wife called was Emily Partridge who lived in Salt Lake City. She was not a polyandrous wife, and she too testified of having sexual relations with Joseph. The RLDS attorneys were very direct. If you read it, it’s remarkable testimony.

What’s interesting is that after this, they skipped all three of the polyandrous wives. Yet they were very available. Zina Huntington was the church’s general Relief Society president. She lived blocks away from where the depositions were being taken in Salt Lake. They also skipped Patty Bartlett, but she was 97. They also skipped Mary Elizabeth Rollins, who lived 38 miles north in Ogden. She was well-known to the brethren. These women were available, if they had wanted to call them.

Instead, they called Lucy Walker who lived 82 miles north in Logan. She also testified of sexual relations with Joseph. Just as a sidebar, Helen Mar Kimball was not called even though she lived in Salt Lake City, had written two books defending plural marriage, and would have been an excellent witness. If you read her diary, which was transcribed by Todd Compton, she knew that these people were in town. Her daughter went to hear them speak the Sunday night before the depositions were taken. She was totally available. They didn’t call Helen Mar Kimball to testify of her sexual relations as a plural wife of Joseph Smith. She was only 14 when she was sealed to Joseph and it’s still debated whether there was conjugality in that union. This is strong evidence that it was not.[38]

Hales also argues (as quoted above):

The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) sought to show that Joseph Smith taught and practiced full sexual polygamy and since the RLDS did not, they were not the actual successors. The Utah LDS Church supported the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and arranged for witnesses to testify of their polygamous relationships with the Prophet. The issue of sexual relations was paramount. Spiritual marriages, “eternity only” sealings, and unconsummated plural unions would have played right into the RLDS attorneys’ hands.

Where is he getting this from? First of all, what the Church of Christ wanted to prove was that the Hedrickites and the Utah Church (“the power behind the throne” as the judge called them), had a legitimate claim to the property because they were doctrinally the same church. Hales wants us to believe that the testimony of a few of Smith’s wives about their having sex with Smith would sway the case or was of paramount importance. If one only reads the judge’s ruling in the case, one can see that it made not a bit of difference. It in fact worked against them. Judge Phillips in his ruling stated:

It is charged by the Respondents, as an echo of the Utah Church, that Joseph Smith, “the Martyr,” secretly taught and practiced polygamy; and the Utah contingent furnishes the evidence, and two of the women, to prove this fact. It perhaps would be uncharitable to say of these women that they have borne false testimony as to their connection with Joseph Smith; but, in view of all the evidence and circumstances surrounding the alleged intercourse, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that at most they were but sports in “nest hiding.” In view of the contention of the Salt Lake party, that polygamy obtained at Nauvoo as early as 1841, it must be a little embarrassing to President Woodruff of that organization when he is confronted, as he was in the evidence in this case, with a published card in the church organ at Nauvoo in October, 1843, certifying that he knew of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and that the “secret wife system,” charged against the church, was a creature of invention by one Doctor Bennett, and that they knew of no such society. That certificate was signed by the leading members of the church, including John Taylor the former President of the Utah Church. And a similar certificate was published by the Ladies’ Relief Society of the same place, signed by Emma Smith, the wife of Jospeh Smith, and Phoebe Woodruff, wife of the present President Woodruff. No such marriage ever occurred under the rules of the church, and no offspring came from the imputed illicit intercourse, although Joseph Smith was in the full vigor of young manhood, and his wife Emma, was giving birth to healthy children in regular order, and was enciente at the time of Joseph’s death.Judge Phillips Temple Lot Decision p. 42-43.

But if it were conceded that Joseph Smith, and Hyrum, his brother, did secretly practice concubinage, is the church to be charged with those liaisons, and the doctrine of polygamy to be predicated thereon of the church? If so, I suspect the doctrine of polygamy might be imputed to many of the Gentile churches. Certainly it was never promulgated, taught, nor recognized, as a doctrine of the church prior to the assumption of Brigham Young.[39]

Joseph Smith obfuscated his participation in polygamy all too well. He had covered his tracks and no amount of women admitting to sexual intercourse with him was enough to sway the judge in this case. The way to prove that they were the rightful successors was doctrinally. In other words proving that polygamy was a valid doctrine, taught and practiced by Joseph Smith and the Church. But the secrecy with which Smith engaged in it, worked against him. The judge actually thought that what Smith and  the others did was “nest hiding”, or illicit intercourse. (Henry Ward Beecher) Secrecy and sex doesn’t prove a marriage or a doctrine. Legality and openness does, either secular or religious; and everything Joseph said in public worked against that as did the Article on Marriage, statements in the Times and Seasons, and the Book of Mormon verses that call polygamy an abomination.

Why were his “wives” who testified insulted and shocked at the line of questioning? They thought they would only have to testify that they were Joseph’s wives. They were unprepared for what they had to go through. To say that the Church wanted to prove sexuality in the marriages but not tell the women what the focus of their testimony was to be (sex in the marriages), shows that this was not the focus of their being called. Emily Partridge, after her testimony wrote,

23rd [March, 1892] – I have not hardly got over the ————— I underwent on the witness stand. It has been on me night and day ever since. I can now think of a great many things that seemingly might have been better answers. And I have been asked, why did you not say things and why didn’t you say that. Well, I said there is no use asking these questions now. If I could have thought of them I might have answered them, but as I did not I had to say what came into my mind. I asked God to assist me and if I did not do as well as I might, I did as well as I could.[40]

She answered many questions with details about her sexual unions with Joseph Smith. Why then, would she be bothered about her testimony if that was all she was there for?

As for the living polyandrous wives testifying, there is only speculation about why they did not. Why didn’t Helen Kimball make an affidavit in 1869? Almost everyone else did, but she didn’t. Was that also because she supposedly didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith? Why would that matter in 1869 when they could have easily explained in the affidavit that it was only a “marriage” for eternity and not for time? Notice that not one of those affidavits specifically states any of the “marriages” were eternity only sealings. Why?

Then we have the question of why Helen didn’t testify at the Temple Lot Trial. She was a staunch advocate of polygamy (as Hales notes). Hales would have us believe it was because she didn’t have sex with Smith, so it wasn’t worth her time to do so or would “play right into the ReOrganization’s hands” if it came out that she didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith. But if one reads Helen’s diary it is pretty obvious why she didn’t testify:

Mon. 7th. [March, 1892] Another lovely day—thought I’d go out, but Dr Russel called & gave me a shake with his little battery, & a powder—Antikamnia (opposed to pain). He is much improved in health Gen received a letter from Ed, & a check for $45.00—Phebe Kimball & Mary Whitney called— they had been to Rachel Simmons. Gen gone to town—A man called to see if I wanted my wood cut up—I let him work this afternoon, charges 20 cts an hour—I wrote a letter to Lucy W. Kimball.[41]

Helen Mar Kimball

Helen Mar Kimball

Tues. 8th. Lovely day—Man is sawing wood. I had a touch of deathly spells this forenoon—Gen went downtown afternoon to do some trading—[42]

Wed. 9th…I’d been afflicted all night & the forenoon with deathly spells & felt sick & sad.—had a few after noon— laid down at Lol’s—Hent & baby came up while I was gone & Mame Williams came to see Gen.[43]

Sun. 13th. Breakfast disagreed with me—sick headache all day, & a light chill afternoon—Hent, Lill and children came early & spent the day. This is Gen’s 32nd birthday & she’s feeling real poorly—but we were glad the girls came. George called to see them ^& children^ home. Orson called this morn, to tell me of two brethren who’d come from Jackson County Missouri ^& were to be at the evening meeting^ they had come here to find out whether or no the testimony of Jossephites was true—they being  engaged in the lawsuit with the Smiths, over the land where the Temple is to be built, & believing this to be the true church—had prayed to be led by the spirit to know which was right. Gen went to the meeting—It rained so I could—not if I’d been able. She enjoyed the remarks of Brother Hall who spoke to them after being introduced by Orson—with Bro Hedric the son of the one who organised that little community called “Hedricites”[44]

Mon. 14th. …Gen and I still poorly, but I felt better near night—both of us had sick headache—hers was the worst so she vomited this morning.[45]

Wed. 16th. Had a sick day—lungs painful from coughing, & my head & body also—tried to work & partly made a nightgound for baby—Gen washed & then went to drug store to get me medicine. Was so sick had to go to bed after getting baby to sleep.[46]

Thur. 17th. Slept good & didnt cough all night, but feel the effects of my coldIt’s a great disapointment not to be able to go to the Jubilee at Tabernacle in honor of the organization of the Relief Society, by Joseph Smith, 50 years ago[47]

Helen Kimball was sick for most of the month of March. Hales claimed to have read the diary, why did he miss this obvious reason for her not testifying? Emily Partridge testified on the 14th of March, and then writes that she went to the Jubilee on the 17th after her testimony. If Helen was too sick to go to the Relief Society Jubilee, she was probably too sick to testify in court. Her sickness and “deathly spells” go right through to the end of the month of March. I find it interesting that she wrote to Lucy Walker Kimball on March 7, a week or so before she was to testify in the Temple Lot Suit.

Lucy Walker Kimball

Lucy Walker Kimball

Yet, Lucy Walker refused to answer any specific questions about her sexual activities with Joseph; so it is unlikely that this was the only reason these women were chosen. To go speculating as to why some wives didn’t testify, or make affidavits, etc., is simply a tactic to strengthen a case that it already weak. For all we know, some of these women may have been asked to testify, but refused.

This is all only Hales speculation. Especially the idea that Mormon Authorities wanted women to specifically testify to having sex with Smith in the Temple Lot Trial. If that was so very important, then why have any men testify at all? None of them had sex with Smith, yet they could testify that they saw or participated in the marriages. Hales claims that Lucy Walker testified to having sex with Joseph Smith, but she absolutely did not. She refused to answer any questions about it. She gave one ambiguous answer that Hales accepts as evidence, even though when there is ambiguity in statements having to do with sexual polyandry he does not accept them.  Here is a sample of Lucy Walker’s testimony:

30. Q. Did you live with Joseph Smith as his wife?
A. He was my husband sir.[48] …

328. Q. Was Emma present? [at the “marriage”]
A. She was not.
329 Q. She had consented to the marriage, of course?
A. She did not consent to my marriage.
330. Q. Did she oppose it?
A. She did not know anything about it at all.
331. Q. Then she did not know anything about your marriage to her husband?
A. No sir.
332. Q. What room did you occupy  the night after your marriage, that is, the night of the first day of May, 1843?
A. What room did I occupy?
333. Q. Yes, you and the prophet?
A. Well, that is a matter I shall not answer.
334. Q. You decline to answer it.
A. I do.
335. Q. Did you occupy the same room with Joseph Smith on the night of the first day of May 1843?
A. I decline to answer that question.
336. Q. Did you ever occupy the same room and the same bed with Joseph Smith at any time, particularly on the night of May the first 1843?
A. I decline to answer the question, and there is no law that will permit you to do so, or uphold you in intruding into my private affairs.
337. Q. Do you decline to answer the question I ask you on the ground[s] that your answers might tend to [in]criminate you?
A. No sir.
338. Q. Then why do you decline to answer them?
A. Because I consider them insulting, sir.
339. Q. You do?
A. Yes sir.
340. Q. Your feelings have grown more delicate now then they were forty eight or nine years ago, they grow more mellow and refined with age?
A. I don’t know about that.
341. Q. Your feelings were not so tender when in 1843 you married a man who at that time to your knowledge had four or five other women living with him as wives, according to your statement, and imposed yourself upon his innocent wife, and deceived her, by joining in that kind of an alliance with her husband, that was not insulting, but now when I ask you a question that I have a perfect right under the law to ask you say it is insulting?
A. No sir, not in the light that we accepted it.
342. Q. And it is not insulting at this late date after the man whom you have maligned is dead and cannot be to deny or refute your story for you to come up and tell this tale, which if true would forever dishonor his memory, there is nothing dishonorable or insulting in that, there is nothing dishonorable or insulting in your attempting to palm yourself off as the wife of a man who is dead, and never for a moment in his life did anything to countenance your pretentions [sic]?
A. Yes sir, he would speak if he was here, he would speak in tones of thunder.
343. Q. Well I would like to hear him speak it, for he was careful never to do so in this life, he was careful never to acknowledge you as his wife either in tones of thunder of any other kind of tones.
A. Well he would, he taught that principle, and while you may scoff at us we yet believe the principle, and it is sacred with us.[49] 

463 Q. How many children did you have by virtue of your marriage with Joseph Smith?
A. I decline to answer that question sir.
464 Q. Did you have any?
A. I decline to answer the question.
465 Q. Have you any children by Joseph Smith? Do you decline to answer that question too?
A. I decline to answer the question
466 Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well I think that is my business and none of yours. The principle by which we were married is an eternal principle, and will endure forever. . . .
471 Q. Well did you raise a child by him?
A. I decline to answer the question.
472. Q. Did you ever occupy the same bed with him?
A. I decline to answer the question.
473. Q. You say you will not answer any of these questions.
A. I do, not on that subject.
474. Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew wass Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?
A. I decline to answer that question.
475. Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well it belongs to a secret part of my religion.
476. Q. Is that something that you have taken an oath not to divulge?
A. I don’t consider that any man or any law could compel me to answer such questions.
477. Q. And that is the reason you decline to answer these questions? A. Yes sir, for I don’t think any one has a right to ask such questions with the expectation that I should answer them. [50] …

525. Q. It did  not make any difference to you whether he [Heber C. Kimball] had one wife or a dozen, is that what I understand you do say?
A. Yes sir.
526. Q. That was the way it was?
A. Yes sir.
527. Q. The principle was all you were working for?
A. Yes sir, for I knew it was a true principle.
528. Q. There was not any love in the union between yourself and Kimball?
A. No sir.
529. Q. Was there any courtship?
A. That is my business entirely. …

531. Q. Answer the question, was there any courtship between you and Kimball?
A. It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to [(transcription error) hum?]an race if we had established it. That is what we were trying to establish, a great and glorious and true principle, and if we had established it, it would have been for the benefit of the whole human race, and the race will say so yet.
532. Q. That is your belief?
A. Yes sir, and the day will come when you will doff your hats to the plural wife system, much as you may sneer at it now.
533. Q. You know that?
A. Yes sir, I do, for they have been a noble self sacrifice.
534. Q. Who made a noble sacrifice of self? A. The plural wives.
535. Q. Well when I come to that belief I will apologize to you for what I have been saying.
A. Well you will need to, for if you live long enough you will do that sir. I am proud sir of my associations in that regard, and have nothing to fear or be ashamed of either in this world or the world to come. That principle is sacred, as holy and as divine as God himself, and you will see the day when you will acknowledge it.
536. Q. You know that also?
A. I do.
537. Q. Well I very much fear that is a prediction that will never come to pass.
A. Well, it will.
538. Q. And that you will swear to also?
A. I know it will as well as I know I live.
539. Q. Well then if that principle is as true and as holy as God himself, how is it that the church went back on it and said that the Lord did not command it at all?
A. Well the church will see the day when it will apologize for that sir.
540. Q. Did you not consent to that manifesto with the rest of the church.
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff.
541. Q. You acknowledged it to President Woodruff?
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff, sir, much to my regret I did.
542. Q. And are you going to acknowledge it again?
A. Not much. When the time comes for that principle to rule, it is going to rule, and that time will surely come. …
546. Q. You had children by Kimball?
A. Yes sir.[51]

Lucy Walker’s fanaticism towards this principle is self evident here. Yet that wasn’t enough to get her to testify about having sexual relations with Joseph Smith. Asked if she ever occupied the same bed with Smith, she refused to answer. Her ambiguous answer (Hales words) that “he was my husband” doesn’t answer the question about whether she had sexual relations with Smith. If she was chosen to testify specifically to answer if she had sex with Smith, (as Hales claims) she did a poor job of fulfilling the wishes of those that supposedly chose her for that reason.  If this was so very important, then why not have the women include having sex with Joseph Smith in the affidavits they produced on polygamy? This line of reasoning by Hales is bizarre and speculative. In fact, this question (about what was more important) was addressed in her testimony:

584 Q. Who called you here?
A. President Woodruff told me that I was wanted here, and when I came here I supposed all you wanted to know was that Joseph Smith had more wives than one.
585. Q. Well that is not what we are specifically interested in, what he taught you is what we want to know.
A. Well, what he taught me is what I will not tell you. I testified that I was his wife, and that is the truth, and I know that I am to be eternally his wife.
586. Q. And you know you did not have any children by him?
A. Well now that is something that that I did not tell you anything about at all. It is none of your business if we had twenty sons or children, and it is none of your business if we did not have any.
587. Q. What did you consider Joseph Smith to be?
A. I considered him to be a man of God sir, a great, good and holy man of God.
588. And you consider the present Joseph Smith to be your son, by virtue of the fact that you married his father, don’t you.
A. I do not.
589. But you married his father?
A. Yes sir.
590. Q. Then why do you not consider him to be your son?
A. If he will acknowledge me as his mother, and acknowledge his error and believe as I do, I shall be very happy to consider him as my son.[52] 

Obviously, the sex was not as important as having these women admit they were his wives, something that all of the women that testified thought they were there for. Even though some of them answered questions about conjugal relations frankly, they were all indignant and argumentative about answering such personal questions; (even Malissa Willes got frustrated after a time) and we see that Lucy Walker Kimball refused to do so. What is ironic is that Hales will accept the ambiguous “he was my husband” as evidence of sexuality in this “marriage”, yet he will not accept any such evidence when it challenges his assumptions about Smith’s polyandrous “marriages”.

This speculation by Hales and Gregory L. Smith is a red herring. To not take into account that the Mormon Hierarchy did not want the polyandrous wives to testify because of what that would imply (women being “married” to two husbands at the same time) to the world is disingenuous. (If they even knew which wives actually had sex with Smith). Two men “married” to the same woman and both possibly having sexual relations with her? Would they want to reveal or promote this? To be embarrassed by what this might imply? These women were also asked if their “marriages” to Smith were for time and eternity. They may not have wanted the polyandrous wives to answer this question.

With embarrassing or conflicting doctrines, the hierarchy was apt to lie or obfuscate them. Lorenzo Snow perjured himself when he was asked if he knew about the Law of Adoption.[53] Joseph F. Smith also perjured himself on multiple occasions during the Reed Smoot Hearings.[54]

V. Still More Sylvia Lyon Speculation

Hales writes (quoted above):

But there is one other evidence that Todd will cite, to say that Sylvia Sessions was sealed to Joseph early, and that is that she witnessed the sealing of her mother in March of 1942. [sic] Now that clearly indicates that Sylvia was a polygamy insider. But the problem is that I’ve identified seventeen other men and women who are not polygamous who did witness these marriages. (They are: Fanny Huntington, Cornelius Lott, Permelia Lott, Joseph Lott, Amanda Lott, Benjamin F. Johnson, Elizabeth Whitney, Sarah Godshall Phillips, Julia Stone, Hettie Stone, Mary Ellen Harris Able, James Adams, Joseph B. Noble, Dimick B. Huntington, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and Newel K. Whitney.) It’s just not strong evidence. So the whole timeline that Todd presents, which is more or less a plausible course of sexual polyandry, just falls apart.

Hales tries to infer that because some of those who participated in plural marriages were not polygamists, but only “insiders”, that this somehow nullifies Compton’s timeline for the “marriage”. There were obviously some who helped Joseph to “marry” women that he wanted for spiritual wives who were not polygamous, but were still “insiders”. For example:

Fanny Huntington was the wife of Dimick B. Huntington, sister in law to Zina and Prescinda and was a witness to Zina’s “marriage” to Joseph Smith. (Polygamy insider).

Cornelius Lott was the father of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Permilia Darrow Lott was the mother of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Joseph Darrow Lott was the brother of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Harriet Amanda Lott was the sister of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives.  (Polygamy insider)

Benjamin F. Johnson was the brother of Almera and Delcena Johnson, both of whom “married” Joseph Smith. (Polygamy insider).

Joseph Bates Nobel was married to Mary Beaman, a sister of Louisa Beaman, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Sarah Godshall Phillips was the mother of Catherine Phillips Smith who was one of Hyrum Smith’s plural wives. (Polygamy insider)

Julia Stone was the wife of Robert Stone who was a member of the Nauvoo High Council which had the polygamy “revelation” presented to them in May of 1843. She was a member of the Relief Society.  (Polygamy insider)

Hettie Stone was the daughter of Julia and Robert Stone who was a member of the Nauvoo High Council. (Polygamy insider)

Mary Ellen Harris Abel was the spiritual wife of Heber C. Kimball who he married in 1843. (Polygamy insider)

Dimick B. Huntington was the brother of Zina D. Huntington, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives and helped Smith win her over to Smith. (Polygamy insider)

Brigham Young : As soon as he got back from England he was informed about polygamy. He also claimed later that he got a testimony about it while in England. (Polygamy insider).

Willard Richards: He was living with Marinda Hyde in the Times and Seasons building while Orson Hyde was on his mission. (Polygamy insider).

James Adams was another polygamy insider who supposedly “married” Smith to some of his spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider).

All of these people were polygamy “insiders” and some became polygamists during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Compton’s point was that Sylvia Sessions was a polygamy insider, having witnessed her mother’s “marriage” to Joseph—therefore she knew about the spiritual wife doctrine and so could easily have been “married” to Joseph a month before her mother was. Is it the only evidence that supports this date? No, but Hales acts like it is, after trying to disqualify the 1842 date in Affidavit Book 1.

Patty_Bartlett_Sessions

Patty Bartlett Sessions

Sylvia was present at her mother’s marriage in 1842, and gave the time of her “marriage” as during the same period that Zina Young and Eliza Snow were “married” to Smith (1841-2), and her husband’s disfellowshipment from the Church, (1842). Smith therefore would have “married” Sylvia and Patty within a short time of each other (February/March 1842) and there is evidence that he did so with the Partridge Sisters, (Both in March, 1843) and the Lawrence Sisters (Both in May, 1843). He also “married” Zina and Prescinda Huntington within a month of each other (October/December 1841). So when it came to related pairs of women, Joseph had a penchant for “marrying” them very close together. If this did  not happen with Sylvia and Patty, it would be the only exception.[55] I exclude the two Johnson sisters Delcena and Almera who were supposedly “married” a year apart, because the date of Delcena’s “marriage” to Smith is not known and only a year (sometime in 1842) was given by her brother Benjamin with no other details, who gives conflicting accounts about polygamy in his various statements. So an 1842 “marriage” date for Delcena is very questionable.[56]

If you can truly understand what happened between Joseph Smith and the Lyons and make a competent analysis from Hales’ disjointed and scattered FAIRMORMON Presentation above, you did better than I could.  So to make this very clear and easy to comprehend, let’s look at a timeline of events:

April 21, 1838— Joseph Smith marries 19 year old Sylvia Sessions to Windsor P. Lyon.[57]

c. 1840-1841—Windsor P. Lyon built a drug and variety store on Hotchkiss Street between Main and Hyde streets. …Within in a year of his arrival in Nauvoo, Lyon had opened his store, which sold “Dry Goods, Groceries, Crockery, Glass, and Hardwares. Books and Stationery [sic]. Drugs and Medicines, Paints and Dye stuffs, Boots, Shoes, Military Goods; and a thousand other articles too numerous to mention”[58]

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

February 8, 1842—Smith and Sylvia are “married”, but Sylvia and Windsor continue to live together as man and wife.[59]

March 9, 1842—Patty Bartlett Sessions writes in her journal, “I was sealed to Joseph Smith by Willard Richards March 9 1842 in Newel K Whitney’s chamber Nauvoo, for time and all eternity…Sylvia my daughter was presant when I was sealed”[60]

March 20, 1842—Joseph Smith preaches to a large assembly in the grove, but seeing the dead child of Windsor P. Lyon causes him to change his remarks.[61]

1842-1844—Joseph Smith III writes in 1894: “There was a scandal about Mrs. Lyons, while yet in Nauvoo, but on inquiry was either fruitless of results; it was hushed up, whitewashed. But she was then a married woman, her husband a storekeeper, his store known as the “Lion Store” because of a painted lion used as a sign.”[62]

June 1842—Windsor Lyon appointed aide-de-camp to major general in Nauvoo Legion, June 1842.[63]

August 12, 1842—Patty Sessions records in her diary that she was making shirts for Joseph Smith.[64]

October 9 1842—Emmeline Wells writes, “”Windsor Lyon, her [Patty Sessions] daughter’s husband, went to St. Louis to purchase goods.” [65]

November 7, 1842—Windsor Lyon is disfellowshipped by William Marks, President of the Nauvoo Stake, for trying to collect a debt from Marks , but there is no evidence that he moved out of his house, or that his wife did either.

William Marks against Windsor P. Lyon.

“To the High Council of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I prefer a charge against Windsor P. Lyon for instituting a suit at law against me on the 4th of November, and for other acts derogatory to the character of a christian

Nauvoo Nov. 7th 1842.

William Marks, complainant”

Defendant said that the suit was instituted by him, in another man’s name, therefore, did not think he was in fault &c. Two were appointed to speak on the case, viz;  [Newel] Knight and [William] Huntington [Sr.].

The charge was fully sustained. The president then decided that, unless he humble himself and repent, the hand of fellowship be with drawn from him, which decision was unanimously sanctioned by the Councillors[66] 

November 8, 1842—Tuesday, 8.—This afternoon [Joseph Smith] called upon Windsor P. Lyon and others to make affidavits concerning the frauds and irregularities practiced in the post office in Nauvoo. A petition was drawn and signed by many, and sent by Squire Warren to Judge Young, [U.S. senator from Illinois] with a request that the latter should present the same to the postmaster general, and use his influence to have the present postmaster removed, and a new one appointed. I was recommended for the appointment. In the afternoon officiated in court as mayor at my house.[67]

December 24, 1842—24[th] P.M. Read and revised history. [Joseph] Walked with Sec[retary Richards] to see Sister [Sylvia] Lyon who was sick. Her babe died 30 minutes before he arrived. Thence to Bro[ther] Sabin[‘s] to get some money for expences to [go to] Springfield, having just borrowed $100 of Nehemiah Hatch.[68]

Asa W. Lyon, son of Windsor and Sylvia Lyon, was twelve hours old when he died. His gravestone gives 25 December 1842 as the date of his death.[69]

February 8, 1843—An alternate date (most likely a copy error) for the Sylvia Lyon “marriage” to Smith.[70]

February 12, 1843—Lyon loans Joseph Smith $500, even though he is disfellowshipped.[71] Emmeline B Wells wrote for the Woman’s Exponent in 1884:

On the 12th of February she [Patty Sessions] says Bro. Joseph was at her house, and Mr. Lyons, Sylvia’s husband, lent him five hundred dollars.[72]  Why would Joseph not meet Windsor at his own house if they were separated?

September 18, 1843. Monday.—A.M. at President Joseph’s …Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyon. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyon and paid it to D. D. Yearsley.[73]

January 11, 1844—Windsor P. Lyon—still disfellowshipped, and Sylvia, living as man and wife, host the marriage of William H. Kimball, son of Heber C. Kimball, to Mary Davenport. Helen Mar Kimball wrote,

On the 11th of May [1844] following, my brother William H. and Mary Davenport were joined in wedlock by father at the house of Winsor P. Lyon…[74]

September 10 Tuesday—I was sick. Went to B. Young. He and my self went to the foot of Main St. The Ospra[y] Landed thare. Elder Hide left fore Ohio, Elder Ri[g]don left. We held a council at B. Young. Judg Demming met with us. Went Br. Lyons. Elder Limon sick. From thence went to Br. Geens, then to Br. Cheaces [Ezra Chase?]. They ware sealled. All wright. Held a council at B. Youngs concerning Legion & Arsnal.[75]

September 21 Saturday—Went to Br. Haltons and Sealled Him to his dead wife, and gave the family council. From thence went to Winser Lyons [Windsor P. Lyons], found B. Young, A. Limon, had a smart chat.[76]

Tuesday, September 24.—I attended council at Winsor P. Lyons. Six of the brethren of the Twelve were present, and Elder Joseph Young [senior President of the Seventy]. We selected seventy [p.xxix] presidents to preside over the seventies—over the ten quorums of the seventies then in contemplation, and fifty high priests to preside over different sections of the country.[77]

Willard & Jennetta Richards with son Heber John

Willard & Jennetta Richards with son Heber John

December 20, 1844—Willard Richards writes in his journal, “I went out with her [his wife Jennetta] as far as Mr. Lyons where we called and drank a glass of wine were very kindly entertained by Mrs. Lyon.”[78]

3 February 1845—I would remark that on the eighteenth of January that my brother in law Winsor P. Lyon and my cosen Enock B. Tripp were baptized under the hand of brother Heber C. Kimball one of the Twelve this give the connection a time of rejoicing to see them Obey the truth on the twentieth after receiving my indewments in the house of the Lord with Lucina my wife.”[79]

Friday, Aug. 5, 1845—About 6 p.m. Dr. [Franklin Richards] returned and at sundown drove me [Thomas Bullock] to [Windsor] Lyons to get 12 grains of quinine…” [60 grains is about a teaspoon full][80]

Saturday, Oct. 25, 1845—Copying Baptisms for the dead nearly all day. Doing errands the remainder. That mean little fellow, [Windsor] Lyons, refused to trust Dr. Willard Richards five cents on my [Thomas Bullock] buying some quinine saying “I will not trust Dr. Willard Richards or any one else &c.” when the poor simpelton will have to sacrifice his all at the Drs. feet in a few months. Such is the effect of a grasping avaricious disposition, which proves “it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven”.[81]

This may be a reason that Windsor did not travel west with the “Saints”, but rather chose to settle in Iowa City. From the account above, he would have had to “sacrifice his all” to the Twelve if he chose to move west with the “Saints”. Also, Windsor had been burned twice loaning money to Mormon “Authorities” and he was probably not keen on giving out any more credit to others.

Thomas Bullock

Thomas Bullock

1 February, 1846—On Sunday morning, February 1, 1846, Heber C. Kimball came to the house of Mr. Windsor P. Lyon in order to rebaptize him into the church and they sent up to the temple and got a large bath tub. The mob violence was so strong, Heber C. Kimball did not dare to do it in public.”[82]

January 26, 1846, Windsor Lyon, now restored to High Priest, accompanied Sylvia to the Nauvoo Temple where she was sealed to the now deceased Joseph Smith for eternity and also sealed to Heber Kimball for time. Sylvia, now married to Smith for eternity, and Kimball and Lyon for time, continued to live with Lyon as man and wife.[83]

January or February 1846—Windsor, living with Sylvia, is sealed to Susanne Eliza Gee for eternity.  By February, Sylvia is simultaneously married for time to Kimball and Lyon is married to Gee for eternity.  But the evidence is that even with this complex polyandrous arrangement, Sylvia and Lyon lived together as man and wife as shown by the fact that Windsor and Sylvia (also still married for time to Kimball) had two more children.[84]

If this behavior is acceptable then, why was it not during Joseph Smith’s lifetime? Why would Sylvia even be married to Kimball for “time” and why would Sylvia agree to it when she was married to Windsor and moved with him to Iowa City a few months later?

April 19, 1846—Patty Sessions receives a letter from “Windsor and Sylvia” from Nauvoo[85]

June 1, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from Windsor “Lyon stating he was not coming but going to Iowa city.”[86]

June 23, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from “Sylvia Dated June 3d said she was going to Iowa in a week.”[87]

The above entries could be taken to mean that they went separately, but we know they did not.

April 21, 1847—Sylvia and Josephine visit Patty Sessions at Winter Quarters[88]

May 1, 1847—Patty Sessions writes, Sylvia and I went to a meeting to Sister Leonards none but females there we had a good metting I presided it was got up by E R Snow they spoke in toungues I interpreted some prophesied it was a feast.”[89]

May 5, 1847, Sylvia gets ready to leave Winter Quarters to return to Iowa City, and Eliza Snow writes her a poem which Patty records in her diary[90]  Snow writes of Sylvia’s husband Windsor and Josephine,

But thy husband will caress the[e],
And thy sweet angelic child,
With her growng charms will bless thee
Thus the hours will be beguiled, [..]

May 9, 1847—Sylvia leaves Winter Quarters.[91]

September 4, 1847—Byron Windsor Lyon was born to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.[92]

August 8, 1848—David Carlos Lyon was born in Iowa City to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.[93]

January, 1849—Windsor Lyon dies in Iowa City, Slyvia remarries Gentile, Ezekiel Clark on January 1, 1850. In July 1849, Heber received a letter from Sylvia requesting her family to come and get her. In October her older brother Perrigrine came to get her. His trip from the west (600 miles through snow) was very difficult and he arrived to find Sylvia getting married to a well to do Gentile: Ezekiel Clark. Perrigrine was upset and returned to Utah with David Jr.[94] In Sacred Loneliness, pg 193) She had three children by Ezekiel before deciding to leave him. She “realized that he was very intolerant of her religion and resentful of the fact that she was sealed to the Prophet.” Perregrine came east once again to take her to Utah. Clark cooperated with her wishes to rejoin her family in Utah[95]  Later Clark traveled to Utah to try and convince her to return with him to Iowa with the children, but she refused. In Utah, Sylvia would go to visit her other husband Heber C. Kimball.[96]

What I found interesting is that in her book “Mormon Midwife” Donna Toland Smart writes that,

“Family tradition also records that during the administration of Wilford Woodruff, Sylvia had the sealing to Joseph Smith canceled and was sealed to Windsor P. Lyon.[97]

In his Book Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Hales again uses a source for separation that doesn’t mention it. He writes,

Available documents show that Sylvia rejoined Windsor shortly after his rebaptism on February 1, 1846. The date is recorded by Enoch Tripp, a relative of Patty Sessions, who wrote: “On Sunday morning, February 1, 1846, Heber C. Kimball came to the house of Mr. Windsor P. Lyon in order to rebaptize him into the church and they sent up to the temple and got a large bath tub. The mob violence was so strong, Heber C. Kimball did not dare to do it in public.” Questions concerning the paternity of three-year-old Josephine might have quickly faded after the couple reunited.[98]

This document only mentions that Windsor Lyon was rebaptized on that date. How Hales can claim that this has anything to do with some kind of reunion, or that she “joined him shortly after his baptism,” is baffling.  We find that there is not one credible source that Hales can cite that clearly shows Sylvia and Windsor were ever separated or divorced.

Hales tries to make something out of the fact that when Sylvia or Windsor are mentioned in Journal entries, they are mentioned alone. This is not unusual and isn’t credible evidence to prove a separation. Hales writes,

A couple of accounts refer to the residence of “Sister Lyons,” without including any mention of Windsor. On September 18, William Clayton recorded: “Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyons. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyons and paid it to D. D. Yearsley.” Another example is found when the Partridge sisters, Emily and Eliza, needed new lodgings in the latter half of 1843. Emily wrote: “My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons.” The differentiation between “the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge” and “Sister Sylvia Lyons” suggests again that the Windsor was not sharing the residence of his wife at that time.[99]

Hales cites Andrew Jenson’s Notes (from an anonymous source) which claim that Windsor Lyon “left the church” so that is why Sylvia Sessions “married” Joseph, or that is why it was all right for him to do so. (He seems to be making both of these claims).

But why do Jenson’s Notes fail to mention that Sylvia Sessions moved with Lyon to Iowa in 1846 and had two children with him there? Why the omission? Eliza Snow visited with Sylvia in 1846 at Winter Quarters. She obviously would have known they moved to Iowa together as a married couple. So who did Jenson get his information from? Patty Sessions wrote in her diary in 1847:

Sunday [February] 14 [1847] Went to meeting then in the evening collected Zina ^Jacobs^ Eliza Snow sister Marcum [Markham] ^at^ sister Buels to pray for Sylvia and child that they might be delivered from bondage and Windsor and David come here with them we prayed sung in toungues spoke in toungues and had a good time then went ^to^ put sister Oakley to bed[100]

But as we see from the timeline, there is nothing to support that Sylvia “married” Joseph because Windsor left the Church. And he didn’t leave the Church, he was disfellowshipped by William Marks for suing him. He was still friends with and loaned money to and supported Joseph in his endeavors. According to Brian Hales though:

The question exists whether Windsor, after his excommunication, moved back in with Sylvia and continued conjugal relations with her. Windsor must have returned to Nauvoo within weeks. However, a review of available historical documents from 1842–1844 provides a few references to Sylvia or Windsor in Nauvoo, but they do not describe them as being together. For example, on September 18, William Clayton recorded: “Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyons. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyons and paid it to D.D. Yearsley.” Another example is found with the Partridge daughters, Emily and Eliza, who needed new lodging in the latter half of 1843. Emily wrote: “My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons.” Land records for Nauvoo show that Windsor owned a store with attached living quarters, as well as a house located less than a block away that was later converted to a store. It is possible that the couple was separated but lived close to each other so Windsor could participate in parental responsibilities for their daughter Philofreen (b. June 1841).Without addressing the numerous theological problems associated with theories that Joseph Smith practiced sexual polyandry at any time (see “POLYANDRY” webpage on this website), the available evidence does not support that Windsor Lyon was cohabiting with Sylvia after his excommunication.[101]

Hales claims that Windsor left Nauvoo and went… where? He left his business and his wife simply because he got disfellowshipped? And then he mysteriously “returned within weeks.” From where? And why would he leave? All of his property was in Nauvoo. There is no record that he sold anything. Hales also claims that because Sylvia bought a lot from Joseph for $500, that this is proof of her separation from Windsor. But where did she get the money from? Can Hales prove that they had separate finances at this time? That Windsor did not provide the funds for her? Sylvia was only 24 years old in 1842. Where are the divorce documents that split their property, houses, money, resources? None of this is provided by Hales.Evidence of Religious Divorce Sylvia & Windsor Lyon

So, where is there any credible evidence that Windsor moved out of Nauvoo in 1842? There isn’t any. Windsor had a drug store at this time and it had living quarters in the back of the store where either of them could have lived. Donna Toland Smart writes that Enoch Bartlett Tripp when he arrived in Nauvoo “visited his cousin Sylvia at Lyons Drug Store–a part of which served as her [Sylvia Sessions] home.  She sent for her mother Patty, who was happy to greet her nephew.”[102]

The problem that I see with this is that Hales must think that Windsor had to be living constantly in the same house at all times to be enjoying conjugal relations. Was Joseph Smith living with Sylvia Lyon? Yet Hales allows him to visit her and have conjugal relations; but this is impossible for Windsor?

For all we know Windsor agreed to the relationship and facilitated it by staying at his house and allowing Sylvia to stay at the store. After all, he did believe in Joseph Smith and supported him in his prophetic role. Obviously it didn’t bother Windsor too much that Joseph Smith had a child with his legally married wife (as it did Sylvia’s second husband Elijah) because they stayed together until his death and he fathered two more children with Sylvia. And because Josephine is the only child produced between 1843 and 1847 they did not have sex? What about miscarriages? Does Hales know positively that Sylvia never had one? What is interesting is that they have not proved conclusively that Josephine is even Joseph’s daughter. If this turns out to be true, then Sylvia’s admission still stands and we have her and Joseph committing adultery.

As for Joseph not mentioning Sylvia and Windsor together in Journal entries, that isn’t evidence for anything. He may have drank wine with Sylvia when Windsor wasn’t home, or Windsor may have been staying at another location so Joseph could have private time with Sylvia also. Willard Richards recorded that he and his wife drank wine with both of them in 1844 and he identified her as “his wife”. He was, after all, married to her. This indicates there was no divorce or separation. Hales quotes Emily Partridge, but Emily also wrote when she went to live in Joseph Smith’s home:

While things, with us, were in this condition, Sister Emma (Smith) sent for me to come and live with her and nurse her baby.[103]

Do we assume here, that Emma was living alone without Joseph because she worded the entry this way? We know that wasn’t true because in another version of her history, Emily wrote,

I got a place (or Joseph did for me) with a respectable family.  The lady was very kind to me in some things, and I suppose she meant to be in everything, and I felt very thankful to her, but the work was rather hard.  I had to sleep in the same room with her and her husband in order to be where I could get up nights and tend her baby when it was worrisome.  Some nights I would get up several times and have sat before the fire nodding for hours trying to get the baby to sleep. I made no complaints, but left when I thought I could stand it no longer. (“What I remember,” compiled by Emily Dow Partridge, April 7, 1884, CHL, Ms d 2845 fd 1, approximately 125 page typescript).

Here, Emily explains that Joseph found her a place to live, and that she had to take care of the baby and sleep in the same room with “her and her husband”. This would be Sylvia and Windsor Lyon. Hales is familiar with this evidence, he quotes from it. Why would he leave this out and quote another, more ambiguous statement?

Everything to Hales must be black or white. Windsor couldn’t have shared his wife with Smith, he couldn’t have moved out to accommodate the prophet (if he did), and he couldn’t have been visiting his wife to have sexual relations during the period that Joseph Smith was doing so because? It would be adultery? Well according to Smith’s 1842 Address that is what it was. We already know that according to Joseph E. Johnson, Joseph had committed adultery with his Mother-in-law, Mary Heron Snider.[104] Remember, Joseph Smith taught in 1841 that “some sin is not sin”.[105]

If Smith was willing to break his own First Presidency Address and “marry” and have sex with a woman who had not obtained a legal divorce, why would he worry about committing adultery? After all, the Lord assured Joseph that he never did commit adultery in his July, 1843 “revelation”. But what was Joseph’s definition of adultery? I guess it depends on who you asked. Amanda Cobb (one of Brigham Young’s “wives”, claimed that Joseph could impregnate her and it would all be fine because he could then later “seal” them.[106]

But all this is not credible evidence to Brian Hales. As D. Michael Quinn plainly explains concerning Hales and his closed system of logic,

By contrast, nothing–not co-residence of legally married couples, not saying “I was the wife of another man for time while I continued to live with my legal husband,” not childbirth that the wife attributed to her “other” husband, NOTHING–can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time. For example, Hales, “Joseph Smith and the Puzzlement of `Polyandry,'”  (“Researchers who accept Josephine’s 1915 statement as evidence that she was Joseph’s offspring cannot easily reject … the implication that [her publicly assumed father] Windsor’s church estrangement was interpreted by Josephine as an official separation or divorce … Neither is there any indication that Josephine thought her mother was simultaneously married to two men polyandrously or that Sylvia [her mother] continued to cohabit with Windsor …”),  (“It is true that some later reminiscences [by already-married women] state that their sealings [to Joseph Smith] in Nauvoo were for `time and eternity. ‘However, to assume that the women were remembering the exact language may not be warranted… to presuppose that sexual relations were present based solely on a late memoir that declared a Nauvoo marriage (`polyandrous’ or not) was for `time and eternity’ would be unjustified by the documents alone”),  (“observing that a woman lived under the same roof with a man does not verify a sexual connection between her and her legal husband”).In fact, Hales has acknowledged (105-06) that he makes an evidentiary requirement that is unachievable: “… to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary. … Hence, the women would be essentially declaring themselves to be unchaste. Zina, Lucinda, and Presendia all partook of the conservative Victorian standards of the time and were devout Latter-day Saints. It seems highly unlikely that these women would make such comments.”[107].

Yet, they all entered into polygamy which was just as repulsive to their Victorian standards What would be the difference between sexual polyandry and polygamy? It was all abominable to them, yet Joseph taught that even something that appears abominable, might not be. And they believed him. For Hales, the line gets drawn at polyandry. Can he explain why Joseph stopped “marrying” women that were already married after he dictated the July “revelation”? Dan Vogel, in an exchange with Hales, wrote,

Since he [Joseph Smith] engaged in polyandry before his teachings were given in D&C 132:61, that could be read as repentance. It happens that the verse right before the anti-polyandry passage warns Emma and other followers not to judge JS: “Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, [His polyandrous “marriages”] saith the Lord your God” (v. 60). This just might be the reason no one “set on” JS as you insist should have happened.[108]

This is an astute observation by Dan that Hales rejects. Hales would believe the carefully crafted polygamy narrative that Joseph started practicing polygamy in 1835 after being prodded by an angel, failed with Fanny Alger and then had to be prodded two more times in Nauvoo. He had actually received a “revelation” in 1831, but the Church “wasn’t ready” for it, so Joseph waited and then dictated it again in 1843. This allows for no repentance or adultery from Joseph and therefore he simply didn’t commit any so one must change the nature of the “marriages” that Smith participated in before 1843.

Brian Hales instead presents this timeline of events:

-JS learns of PM in early 1830s

-Angel comes in 1834 directing him to PM

-Alger marriage occurs in 1835 (not 1833) – disastrous for JS and Emma and Alger

-Keys of sealing received in 1836 (section 110)

-Due to bad experience with Alger, JS hesitates to use the keys for five years

-between 1836-1841 the angel comes again with drawn sword requiring not only PM but eternal sealings

-Joseph fulfills the angel’s directive in 1841 with the first sealing to Louisa Beaman

-non-sexual pseudo-polyandry ensue allowing JS to fulfill the letter of the law (the law as the angel demanded) for 8/9 of JS’s next polygamous marriages that occur during the next 15 months

-1842 the angel comes a third time telling JS to practice polygyny rather than pseudo-polyandry[109]

The more balanced Todd Compton writes:

Finally, one wonders why these “first husbands” apparently acquiesced to their wives’ marriages to Joseph. One possibility is that they were promised spiritual rewards in return. Such was the case with the fathers of three “single” plural wives. When Fanny Alger was married to Joseph, her family looked upon the sealing as an honor to them, according to Ann Eliza Webb. In the same way, when Sarah Whitney was sealed to Joseph, he rebaptized her parents and gave special blessings to her father, Newel Whitney. Heber C. Kimball wanted his daughter Helen to marry Joseph so that there would be an eternal connection between the two families, and Joseph himself told her that the marriage to him would ensure her family’s salvation.

If we can apply these phenomena to the polyandrous families, including the husbands, it would explain some of the dynamics of polyandrous marriages: the husbands may have been promised that Joseph’s marriage to their wives would contribute to their own exaltation after this life. “Buckeye’s Lament,” a piece of anti-Joseph doggerel published shortly before his death, supports this interpretation. “But if you yield willingly,/ Your daughters and your wives,/ In spiritual marriage to our POPE,/ He’ll bless you all your lives;/ He’ll seal you up, be damned you can’t, No matter what you do—If that you only stick to him,/ He swears HE’LL take you through.” The phrase “your daughters and your wives” clearly suggests that Joseph offered salvation to “first husbands,” as well as to the fathers of his brides.

It should also be borne in mind that the men and women involved in Nauvoo polygamy and polyandry did not understand it thoroughly; it was new doctrine; it was not preached openly; and though Joseph taught polygamy to his inner circle, practical experience often differed from didactic religious doctrine. So a husband giving his wife to Joseph may not have understood fully what the marriage meant. Helen Mar Kimball, a non-polyandrous wife, found her marriage to Joseph to mean more on an earthly plane than she had expected. Possibly the husbands and wives in polyandrous triangles had the same experience. In Nauvoo-period theological terminology, there was some ambiguity in the terms “sealing” and “marriage,” and it is possible that some men and women did not understand that “sealing” also meant “marriage” and included sexual relations. It is unfortunate that we do not have a full, frank memoir from even one of the polyandrous “first husbands”; we only have two autobiographies from two polyandrous wives, Mary Elizabeth Rollins and Zina Huntington.[110]

As Dan Vogel tried to patiently explain to Brian Hales:

Yes, you have criticize my use of a late source from the daughter of a woman near South Bainbridge who said JS tried to get her to be one of his spiritual wives; yet you use Jenson’s unattributed late note about Ruth Vose Sayers because it serves your purpose.

I’ve told you why the subsequent statements of BY, HCK, and OP on polyandry are not relevant, and it’s not because I don’t like what they say. It was a point of logic.

When I say you (as well as BY, HCK, and OP) have equivocal definitions of polyandry, I mean you use one that is not standard. The idea that one can change partners without a bill of divorcement and not be polyandry is arbitrary. You said JS probably had sex with three women who were legally married to other men—that’s polyandry. It doesn’t matter that the husbands were not present. Remember I said Bennett got in trouble for this very thing?

You say that I “want to tie polygamy to sex” as if that is strange. What is strange is that you want to separate sex from polygamy. You are putting undo emphasis on one aspect and not to the context. There is nothing in D&C 132 that talks about “eternity only” marriage, or even implies it. The revelation doesn’t contemplate such situations. Indeed, as you have discussed, it is anti-polyandry and makes no distinction between sexual and non-sexual situations. You are trying to make it say something that it’s not designed to do. Exaltation and sex are nearly synonyms. The whole point of verses 16-17 is that without exaltation one remains single and unable to “be enlarged”. It’s not just marriage; it’s a “continuation of the seeds” (verse 19). Damnation is the inability to procreate.

Ruth Vose Sayers doesn’t prove your interpretation of D&C 132 right. In fact, it doesn’t prove anything about the general practice of polygamy or JS’s views.

Your analogy doesn’t work, because there is not an assumption that Rigdon would perform human sacrifice. Whereas there is an assumption that marriage includes sex. Rigdon’s performance of human sacrifice would be an extraordinary claim that would naturally arouse skepticism and therefore the burden would be on the one asserting the affirmative. Your assertion for non-sexual polyandry is the one that naturally arouses skepticism because it isn’t what is expected from marriage. Sex in marriages is a warranted assumption. So the burden is on you. You can’t shift that burden and then claim that the proof of your theory is the inability of your opponent to disprove it. That’s argumentum ad ignorantiam, which “consists in arguing that a claim is true (or false) because there is no evidence or proof to the contrary.”[111]

A further problem with the Elizabeth Rollins and Zina Huntington autobiographies is that they are very late, and they are extremely apologetic to Joseph Smith. Compton further explains:

About the same time the doctrine of “sealing” for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so. That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles . . . They were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise or beget children in alienation from each other. There should be an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.

This is a radical, almost utopian rejection of civil, secular, sectarian, non-Mormon marriage. Such “lower” marriage was even a “sin” unless a higher “affinity” cemented the partners together.

Another relevant doctrinal statement comes from an 1861 speech by Brigham Young, which is preserved in two versions:

Also there was another way—in which a woman could leave [a] man—if the woman Preferred—another man higher in authority & he is willing to take her. & her husband gives her up—there is no Bill of divorce required in the case it is right in the sight of God.

The Second Way in which a wife can be seperated from her husband, while he continues to be faithful to his God and his preisthood, I have not revealed, except to a few persons in this Church; and a few have received it from Joseph the prophet as well as myself. If a woman can find a man holding the keys of the preisthood with higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is . . . there is no need for a bill of divorcement . . . To recapitulate. First if a man forfiets his covenants with a wife, or wives, becoming unfaithful to his God, and his preisthood, that wife or wives are free from him without a bill of divorcement. Second. If a woman claimes protection at the hands of a man, possessing more power in the preisthood and higher keys, if he is disposed to rescue her and has obtained the consent of her husband to make her his wife he can do so without a bill of divorcement.

This statement gives two options: (1) if a man apostatizes from the church, his wife can leave him without a formal divorce; (2) if a woman desires to be married to a man with greater priesthood authority than her current husband has, and if both men agree, she may be sealed to the second man without formal divorce. Brigham reports that he learned this from Joseph Smith. In some ways, this principle applies to Joseph’s polyandrous marriages. He clearly was regarded as having more priesthood authority than any other living man, so he would be the most authoritative, spiritually desirable, second husband available.

The emphasis on the woman’s desire is notable. In nineteenth-century Utah there are well-documented cases in which women asked to be married to a general authority. In Nauvoo, however, such cases would not be frequent, as polygamy was still secret. Also interesting is the emphasis on the volition of the first husband. This would be consistent with the suggestion made above, that the first husbands in Joseph’s polyandrous marriages often knew about the marriages and permitted them.

The statement by Jedediah Grant referred to above will now be quoted more fully. My explanations are in brackets:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, “Joseph says all covenants [previous marriages] are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants [marriage by priesthood sealing power]; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?” “I would tell him to go to hell.” This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church [i.e., unwilling to consecrate everything to Joseph as mouthpiece of God] . . . What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? [he would give it all willingly] Or if he came and said, “I want your wife?” “O yes,” he would say, “here she is, there are plenty more” . . . Did the Prophet Joseph want every man’s wife he asked for? He did not . . . the grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. If such a man of God should come to me and say, “I want your gold and silver, or your wives,” I should say, “Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got.” A man who has got the Spirit of God, and the light of eternity in him, has no trouble about such matters.[112]

Joseph Smith certainly did try to destroy women’s reputations. We have the cases of Sarah Pratt, Martha Brotherton, and Nancy Rigdon to name a few.

“In his endeavors to ruin my [Sarah’s] character Joseph went so far as to publish an extra-sheet containing affidavits against my reputation. When this sheet was brought to me I discovered to my astonishment the names of two people on it, man and wife, with whom I had boarded for a certain time…. I went to their house; the man left the house hurriedly when he saw me coming. I found the wife and said to her rather excitedly: ‘What does it all mean?’ She began to sob. ‘It is not my fault’ said she. ‘Hyrum Smith came to our house, with the affidavits all written out, and forced us to sign them. ‘Joseph and the Church must be saved,’ said he. We saw that resistance was useless, they would have ruined us; so we signed the papers.”[113]

William Law claimed that,

“My wife would not speak evil of … anyone … without cause. Joseph is a liar and not she. That Smith admired and lusted after many men’s wives and daughters, is a fact, but they could not help that. They or most of them considered his admiration an insult, and treated him with scorn. In return for this scorn, he generally managed to blacken their reputations – see the case of… Mrs. Pratt, a good, virtuous woman.”[114]

George D. Smith writes that,

Nancy Tracy recalled that Smith taught the “Celestial Order of Marriage” only to “a few that could bear it.” Evidently one such person was Ebenezer Robinson, who recalled that the “doctrine of spiritual wives” was “talked privately in the church in Nauvoo, in 1841” but that he was invited to participate in 1843. Hyrum Smith “instructed me in Nov or Dec 1843 to make a selection of some young woman and he would seal her to me, and I should take her home,” he recalled, “and if she should have an offspring give out word that she had a husband, an Elder, who had gone on a foreign mission.” Possibly referring to a secluded birthplace, or conceivably to abortion, Robinson spoke of “a place appointed in Iowa, 12 or 18 miles from Nauvoo to send female vic[t]ims to his polygamous births.”[115]

Robinson ultimately rejected polygamy, but stayed with the Church during Smith’s lifetime. Michael Quinn writes,

One response of the Mormon hierarchy toward an unwelcome messenger has been character assassination founded on a common assumption about the general public: “If you discredit the messenger, you discredit the message.” The logic is flawed but often effective.  Linked to character assassination has been the use of excommunication and the designation of “apostate,” particularly in response to partisan accounts of Church history.

Character assassination was common in Nauvoo Mormonism.  In 1842, Nancy Rigdon rejected Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal.  She told her family, and her brother went public.  As a result, Joseph Smith published affidavits that she had been sexually impure.  In another example, Martha Brotherton published an affidavit about her rejection of Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal.  As a result, he had her sister Elizabeth publish the answer that her sister was a whore and a liar.  Elizabeth Brotherton later became a plural wife of Apostle Parley P. Pratt.[116]

Orson Hyde used the baseless rumors about Nancy Rigdon in an effort to combat the claims made by Sidney Rigdon in a speech before the High Priests Quorum of Nauvoo in April, 1845:

During my absence to Palestine, the conduct of his [Sidney Rigdon’s] daughter, Nancy, became so notorious in this city, according to common rumor, she was regarded generally, little if any better than a public prostitute. Joseph Smith knowing the conduct she was guilty of, felt anxious to reprove and reclaim her if possible. He, accordingly, requested my wife to invite her down to her house. He wished to speak with her and show her the impropriety of being gallanted about by so many different men, many of whom were comparatively strangers to her. Her own parents could look upon it, and think that all was right; being blind to the faults of their daughter.—There being so many of this kind visiting Mr. Rigdon’s house at the steamboat landing, (for he kept some sort of a tavern or boarding house,) that Mr. Smith did not care to go there to see her. Miss Nancy, I presume, considered her dignity highly insulted at the plain and sharp reproofs she received from this servant of God. She ran home and told her father that Mr. Smith wanted her for a spiritual wife, and that he employed my wife to assist him in obtaining her. This was a good time for Miss Nancy and John C. Bennett to wreak vengeance on the victim of their hatred for his severe admonitions. Mr. Bennett I think, was a boarder at Mr. Rigdon’s at that time, and I am told was all hosey with the whole family. No one like Dr. John C. Bennett.[117]

The claims made here by Orson Hyde against Nancy Rigdon are demonstrably false. We know that Joseph Smith did make a proposal to Nancy Rigdon to become one of his spiritual wives, because we have a letter from Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon written on the 11th of April, 1842, where he tries to justify what many might consider “abominable” behavior [his spiritual wife doctrine] to her.

And why would many women still choose Joseph? It is not hard to understand why when Joseph Smith told them that their salvation and the salvation of their families depended on accepting his proposition.  According to Sarah Kimball,

“Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle.”[118]

Joseph Kingsbury wrote that he served as a surrogate husband for Joseph Smith and that embraced this deception to protect him:

“I according to Pres. Joseph Smith & council & others, I agreed to stand by Sarah Ann Whitney [sealed to Smith 27 July 1843] as though I was supposed to be her husband and a pretended marriage for the purpose of shielding them from the enemy and for the purpose of bringing out the purposes of God.”[119]

Why would they question their “prophet” if they are told, as Joseph Kingsbury was that it was to bring out the purposes of God? Some never did, they just obeyed Smith. That none of the women complained is a weak argument by Hales that he uses over and over again. Of course Joseph didn’t talk about the women who turned him down (how many of them there were we may never know); he was lying in public that he even practiced polygamy. He certainly did not just “let it go” in the case of Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt and Martha Brotherton, because they told other people who made it public and Joseph in turn attacked their characters in an effort to keep his secrets.

Joseph had an ingenuous way to keep the complaints to a minimum. He employed older women to approach the women he wanted to marry and ease them into the idea. He then would work on brothers, fathers and mothers, convincing them that what he did as a “prophet” was right, and that their eternal salvation depended on them helping him to accomplish his goal of multiplying spiritual wives to himself.

Conclusion: “A Panorama of Disagreeable Pictures”

Brian Hales seems to be fixated on inventing scenarios in an effort to try and mitigate the damage the historical sources do to Joseph Smith’s reputation. (Something Joseph warned would happen if anyone did the things that it turned out he was actually doing) To me, it’s all just plain shenanigans. Even if Joseph did not have sex with many of his wives, he still did irreparable damage to many of the women he cajoled into “the principle”. The only saving grace for some of the women was the fact that Smith died and it freed them from him. But others with their blind faith in Joseph and for the principle married other Mormon leaders and lived their lives resigned to the burdens of polygamy while defending it at all costs–because if they did not, what would their sacrifice mean then?

Hales claims that those who are critical of Joseph and his polygamous practices look at these women as mindless automatons. This is simply a shallow accusation that carries no weight. Some of the women who participated in polygamy were highly intelligent, caring individuals. Even though they were asked to do something that went against every tradition they had previously embraced, they stepped up and made “the sacrifice” because of faith and belief in their “prophet”, Joseph Smith.

The results in almost every case were tragic, and they eventually resigned themselves to loveless lives of loneliness and sorrow. Many vacillated between deep resentment and a futuristic hope that their “sacrifice” would see them living in joy in the eternal world to come. Many took solace in their children which seemed to mitigate the regret they felt later in life. Anyone who takes the time to read the histories, diaries and accounts of these women can’t help but be moved by their plight. But there are also those who took up the torch of plural marriage and fanatically defended it with their last breath, even after living through all the hardships that it wrought in their lives. This was their faith, their struggle, and they would not have it be in vain.

Emily Partridge Young with children

Emily Partridge Young with children

In reading the diary of Emily Young I came across these passages that seem to put it all in perspective:

Today I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking. My mind goes back to days gone by. And what do I find, can I find anything so pleasant that I could wish to live it over again or even to dwell upon it in thought, with any degree of satisfaction. No I cannot. My life has been like a panorama of disagreeable pictures. As I scan them over one by one, they bring no joy, and I invariably wind up with tears. I have been heart hungry all my life, always hoping against hope, until the years are nearly spent, and hope is dead for this life but bright for the next. And then I ask myself what great or good thing have I done that I should hope for better things in the next world, or what great trial or exploit can I recount like many others perhaps, that will bring honor and greatness. I can only sum it up in one words, that is I am a ‘woman’ or if that is not enough I am a ‘mother’ and still more I am, as the world calls it, ‘spiritual wife’ of early days, when public opinion was like an avalanche burying all such beneath its oppressive weight. Some will understand what it is to be a woman, mother, or an unloved ‘spiritual wife.[120]

Yet, conversely she wrote two days later,

Yesterday I was in a dark mood. Today I am looking for the bright spots. Although they may be few and far between they should not be over-looked and among my greatest blessings I class the fates that I am a mother, and was a spiritual wife.[121]

Such was the conundrum of polygamy.

NOTES

[1] I began seriously researching Joseph Smith’s polygamy at the request of my friend Jeremy Runnells, who had been attacked by Brian Hales.

As for the term “spiritual wife”, those who were familiar with Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine used this term. The best explanation that I have run across as to why, was given by Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, who was “married” to Joseph Smith. She wrote,

… if “Joseph Smith the younger [Joseph Smith III] was not so young, nor so small, nor so foolish,” etc., as he states, he must have some remembrance of the reports that were afloat not only in the city of the Saints but throughout the country. At that time spiritual wife was the title by which every woman who entered into this order was called, for it was taught and practiced as a spiritual order and not a temporal one, though it was always spoken of sneeringly by those who did not believe in it; but the day will surely come when those who have mocked ad derided this principle and the servants and handmaidens of God who were brave enough to take upon them the cross and bear the stigmas which have been heaped upon them without measure will be among those whom the Savior meant when saying, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Plural Marriage as taught by the Prophet Jospeh Smith, 1882, 15).

Emily Partridge wrote,

Mrs. Durfee invited my sister Eliza and I to her house, to spend the afternoon. She introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in those days.  She wondered if there was any truth in the report we heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to, so I kept my own council and said nothing, but going home I felt impressed to tell Eliza. I knew she would not betray me. She felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed to her soon after….. I learned afterward that Mrs. D. was a friend to plurality and knew all about it…“ (Emily Partridge, Undated Statement, Ms d 2845 fd 1, CHL, added emphasis).

At the Nauvoo City Council in 1844 Joseph Smith himself called it that:

[Eli] Norton said Bro[ther] Law knew about the Spiritual wife system. I never intimated that Bro[ther] Law[’s] life was in danger. I intimated that Bro[ther] Law might be the doe head, previously Bro[ther] Law and me had [a] conversation about stories afloat on spiritual wifes. He thought it was from the devil — and we must put it down[,] that he knew such a thing was in existence & [was] breaking up of families &c.

By Law[:] Did I said not say we have a good foundation [for believing so] because Joseph blowed it all up before the [Nauvoo Stake] High Council & Hyrum before the Elders Quorum? Yes said Cairns, [confirming that] Law did not[,] [in their conversation][,] speak disrespectfully of Joseph or of the Church. [Cairns said he] had no secret conversation with [the] Mayor. Nor [had he received a] charge except before the council [and people had] never heard any thing from me to endanger the life of any man.

[The] Mayor spoke on [the] Spiritual wife system and explained, The man who promises to keep a secret and does not keep it he is a liar and not to be trusted. (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 6312-6347).

In 1845 Brigham Young addressed the “Saints” on Joseph’s “spiritual wife system” as he called it:

I would now call your attention to some of the saying[s] of the apostle Paul. I hope you will not stumble at them. Paul says, “nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman. neither the woman without the man, in the Lord, for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the women, but all things of God.” The same Apostle also says, “The woman is the glory of the man.” Now brethren, these are Paul’s sayings, not Joseph Smith’s spiritual wife system sayings. And I would say, as no man can be perfect without the woman, so no woman can be perfect without a man to lead her, I tell you the truth as it is in the bosom of eternity; and I say so to every man upon the face of the earth; if he wishes to be saved he cannot be saved without a woman by his side. This is spiritual wifeism, that is, the doctrine of spiritual wives. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 78, April 6, 1845, added emphasis)

In 1847 Young was still referring to plurality of wives as the spiritual wife doctrine”:

There is a general feeling in this church with regard to the doctrine called spiritual wife doctrine. The Lord is [-] in the last struggle between [-]. God the Father will put forth his hand and conquer a [-] of [-] a godly people. The wicked and rebellious will be swallowed by the earth and the substance will be given to the [-] the [-] of staying at home will carry thousands to the devil. I’ve done as I was told, there is not a man have twenty to twenty-five but I can get five wives to his one, who gave me that power, I got it by being faithful, there is not a girl[,] etc[.] [T]ake all you can get and see what you can do go a preach[ing]? that I may gather thousands they want to give? that [-] of [-] they must take what’s behind because they have gone? [-] have brought? it in when my train and his train filled the temple, they want to drive and command and tell me its the duty to be sealed to me and then they can come trailing behind you, its your works will follow you to glory or misery – let the word come now, I never was more willing to go than tonight. I’m going right into the world and deal unrightly. I cant do this because I have a wife the Lord will raise up a hold seed. is it right? wait, that’s enough for me when a man has proved himself.  (ibid., 230 18 June, 1847, Greasewood Creek, Wyoming).

In 1849 Young reminisced about when he first learned of the spiritual wife doctrine, as it was then called:

The spiritual wife doctrine came upon me while abroad, in such a manner that I never forget. Particular things belong to one blood, but, after all, we are of one blood and one flesh, all the nations of the earth. Joseph said to me—“I command you to go and get another wife.” I felt as if the grave was better for me than anything, but I was filled with the Holy Ghost, so that my wife and BrotherKimball’s wife would upbraid me for lightness in those days. I could jump up and hollow. [holler] My blood was as clear as West India rum, and my flesh was clear. I said to Joseph, “Suppose I should apostatize, after taking another wife, would not my family be worse off?” Joseph answered—“There are certain bounds set to men, and if a man is faithful and pure to these bounds, God will take him out of the world; if he sees him falter, he will take him to himself. You are past these bounds, Brigham, and you have this consolation.” But I never had any fears of not being saved. Then I said to Joseph, I was ready to go ahead. He passed certain bounds before certain revelations were given. (Richard S. VanWagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 321, February 16, 1849).

Still, Brian Hales claims,

Contradictory evidence exists concerning Don Carlos’ feelings toward plural marriage. An 1892 account from Mary Ann West, who lived with Agnes in Nauvoo after Don Carlos’ death, states: “She [Agnes] told me herself she was [married to Joseph Smith]. . . . She said it was the wish of her husband, Don Carlos that she should marry him [Joseph].”  However, in 1890, Ebenezer Robinson quoted him saying: “Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of spiritual wifery will go to hell, I don’t care if it is my brother Joseph.” Robinson added: “He was a bitter opposer of the ‘spiritual wife’ doctrine.” The recollection is problematic because there is no contemporary evidence that anyone was using the term “spiritual wifery” in 1841.

Hales repeats these lines when he lambastes Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”:

Beam quotes Don Carlos Smith as saying: “Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of spiritual wifery will go to hell: I don’t care if it is my brother Joseph” (89). The quote is from a 1890 recollection from apostate Ebenezer Robinson and contradicts an account from Mary Ann West, who lived with Don Carlos’ wife Agnes after his August 7, 1841, death in Nauvoo. West recalled in 1892: “She [Agnes] told me herself she was [married to Joseph Smith]. . . . She said it was the wish of her husband Don Carlos that she should marry him [Joseph].” Either Beam’s research was inadequate to uncover this additional credible and pertinent evidence, or he knew of it and his biases prompted him to not include it. Regardless, “spiritual wifery” was not a term Joseph used to refer to plural marriage. http://mormonhistoryguy.com/2014/06/17/guest-post-review-alex-beams-treatment-polygamy-brian-hales/

Notice how Ebenezer Robinson turns into “apostate” Robinson. (That’s code for Mormons to not trust the source). Hales then amends his first statement, where he claimed that there is no contemporary evidence that anyone was using the term “spiritual wifery”, to “spiritual wifery was not a term that Joseph used to refer to plural marriage.”

Of course, Hales gives more credence to a second hand faithful Mormon’s quote then Ebenezer Robinson’s recollection.  As Richard Van Wagoner wrote,

Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841, Joseph confided to his friend that he was smitten by the “amiable and accomplished” Sarah Pratt and wanted her for “one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness”. Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett’s sewing to Sarah’s house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, “Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me.” “And is that the great secret that I am not to utter,” Sarah replied. “Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will.” She added, “I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.” But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, “Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it.” “Sister Pratt,” the Prophet responded, “I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?” “If you will never insult me again,” Sarah replied, “I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it.” “If you should tell,” the Prophet added, “I will ruin your reputation, remember that” (Bennett 1842a, 228-31; emphasis in original) . (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 72-73, Summer 1986).

We know from all of the quotes above, that Bennett here was right. It was called Spiritual Wifery or Wifeism, because the women were referred to as spiritual wives,  and the term came from Joseph Smith in 1840 or 1841. Joseph even mockingly used the term in 1844 in an effort to pin it on others, like Bennett or William Law when he knew very well that the term came from him, just as he had coined the name Danites. (This he admitted in an 1844 City Council meeting).

To claim that Don Carlos could not have used the term is disingenuous, given the evidence.

[2] An example of this fanaticism is the testimony of Lucy Walker Kimball given at the Temple Lot Trial in 1892:

474. Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew was Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?
A. I decline to answer that question.
475. Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well it belongs to a secret part of my religion.
476. Q. Is that something that you have taken an oath not to divulge?
A. I don’t consider that any man or any law could compel me to answer such questions.
477. Q. And that is the reason you decline to answer these questions? A. Yes sir, for I don’t think any one has a right to ask such questions with the expectation that I should answer them. …
525. Q. It did not make any difference to you whether he [Heber C. Kimball] had one wife or a dozen, is that what I understand you do say?
A. Yes sir.
526. Q. That was the way it was?
A. Yes sir.
527. Q. The principle was all you were working for?
A. Yes sir, for I knew it was a true principle.
528. Q. There was not any love in the union between yourself and Kimball?
A. No sir.
529. Q. Was there any courtship?
A. That is my business entirely. …
531. Q. Answer the question, was there any courtship between you and Kimball?
A. It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to [(transcription error) hum?]an race if we had established it. That is what we were trying to establish, a great and glorious and true principle, and if we had established it, it would have been for the benefit of the whole human race, and the race will say so yet.
532. Q. That is your belief?
A. Yes sir, and the day will come when you will doff your hats to the plural wife system, much as you may sneer at it now.
533. Q. You know that?
A. Yes sir, I do, for they have been a noble self sacrifice.
534. Q. Who made a noble sacrifice of self? A. The plural wives.
535. Q. Well when I come to that belief I will apologize to you for what I have been saying.
A. Well you will need to, for if you live long enough you will do that sir. I am proud sir of my associations in that regard, and have nothing to fear or be ashamed of either in this world or the world to come. That principle is sacred, as holy and as divine as God himself, and you will see the day when you will acknowledge it.
536. Q. You know that also?
A. I do.
537. Q. Well I very much fear that is a prediction that will never come to pass.
A. Well, it will.
538. Q. And that you will swear to also?
A. I know it will as well as I know I live.
539. Q. Well then if that principle is as true and as holy as God himself, how is it that the church went back on it and said that the Lord did not command it at all?
A. Well the church will see the day when it will apologize for that sir.
540. Q. Did you not consent to that manifesto with the rest of the church.
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff.
541. Q. You acknowledged it to President Woodruff?
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff, sir, much to my regret I did.
542. Q. And are you going to acknowledge it again?
A. Not much. When the time comes for that principle to rule, it is going to rule, and that time will surely come. … (Lucy Walker, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Part 3, Questions, 474-477, 525-542).

[3] Anonymous, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, Online here, accessed September 15, 2015. An example of accepting the narrative with little questioning of Emily Partridge’s statements is from the new book by Merina Smith, who writes in her Chapter “Emma Smith Capitulates”:

Todd Compton states that Emma chose the young women who lived in her household, the Partridge sisters, and another set of sisters who were actually the wards of the Smith, Sarah and Maria Lawrence. Joseph convinced the Partridge sisters to submit to another secret ceremony, since he did not want to roil the waters by admitting he had married them already. The remarriage took place on May 23, 1843, with Emma as a witness. The Lawrence sisters also married Joseph that month. Five days after the remarriage to the Partridge sisters, Emma was sealed to Joseph for eternity. (Merina Smith, Revelation, Resistance & Mormon Polygamy, The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830-1853, Merina Smith, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2013, Kindle Edition,  3955-3960).

The only reference that Merina Smith uses here, is from Todd Compton, who gets the May 23, date from Richard Van Wagoner. This date was based on Emily’s recollections, which began with the 1869 Affidavits. Van Wagoner debunks the original date given in the 1869 affidavits by both women (May 11) and suggests May 23, when James Adams was in Nauvoo. But that date also has problems.

Van Wagoner quotes the August 16, 1843 Journal entry of William Clayton, but still gives credence to Emily’s later recollections. Compton compounds this with his rewrite of the entry,

“Emma apparently told Joseph that she would allow him to keep “E and E P” (Emily and Eliza Partridge), but Joseph felt if he even kept these two, Emma would use it as an excuse to divorce him. Though he told Emma that he would relinquish his wives, he told Clayton that “he should not relinquish anything.” (Compton, In sacred Loneliness, 732).

The entry actually reads,

“…since E[mma] came back from St. Louis she had resisted the P[riesthood] in toto & he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake. She said she would [have] given him E[mily] and E[liza] P[artridge] but he knew if he took them she would pitch on him & obtain a divorce & leave him. He however told me he should not relinquish any thing.”

If Emma had already given Joseph the Partridge sisters in May, why is Joseph claiming on August 16 that Emma told him  that “she would have given him” the sisters, and then Joseph telling Clayton that “if he took them…she would pitch on him & obtain a divorce and leave him.”?

By this time Judge Adams was dead. So how could there have been a second mock marriage in May of 1843 or after this date? (I will have more on this in my forthcoming Essay, “Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits”).

For a prime example of the misuse of sources, see my Article: A Few thoughts on Brian Hales’ Review of Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”.

[4] Brian Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes”, Online here, accessed September 15, 2015. (Hereafter, Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes“)

[5] See, Brian C. Hales, The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny? Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008), PDF, 47-51, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. (Hereafter, Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“). Hales writes,

Currently no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found.

This is the actual truth of the matter, but it doesn’t stop Hales from inventing four pages of scenarios that he feels are “likely” to have happened to overturn the truth. He first claims that Smith “possibly” had “defacto authority to annul that same relationship” (the marriage of Sylvia and Windsor. (pp. 47-48). As we see though, from the 1842 Proclamation, he did not. Hales then tries a different tack. He writes,

More likely, however, Joseph may have seen himself as capable of single-handedly granting a divorce based on his position as mayor of Nauvoo. (p. 48)

Again, he did not according to Smith’s own First Presidency Proclamation. There would have had to be legal proceedings, and it could not have been simply because Windsor was an “unbeliever”. (Which would be difficult to class him as, since he was disfellowshipped not for apostasy, but for “UnChristianlike conduct”. No one would ever claim that Windsor was an “evil” man. The only thing that Windsor ever did wrong was try to recoup money loaned to William Marks and lost his fellowship over it.

Hales then wastes the reader’s time by listing a host of reasons that Smith could have granted a divorce for, but then claims that “Obviously, Sylvia’s case did not justify a divorce from Windsor based on those criteria.” (p. 48)

In another wasted effort Hales then claims that “the Illinois Supreme Court would grant circuit courts the right to act as courts of chancery.” He then admits though, that “The Nauvoo Municipal Court was never so designated.” (ibid.)

Then Hales starts listing possibilities, like Joseph could have “assumed authority as chief justice of the Nauvoo Municipal Court to deal with a divorce proceeding within the boundaries of the city” and therefore “might have proceeded in granting a quasi-legal divorce to Sylvia.” He then concludes that “Most likely, given their religious beliefs, neither of them worried about the associated legalities.” (pp. 48-49)

Considering Joseph’s 1842 First Presidency Address to the Church, maybe they should have, because what they did was adultery according to this address. Hales then wastes more pages in trying to explain his reasons why “Sylvia considered herself divorced from Windsor after his excommunication.” (Rather disfellowshipment, which was close to the same thing in the 1840’s; but Hales uses the harsher term for obvious reasons). But Hales himself writes,

[The view that]…accepting Mormonism made a person “suddenly unmarried” represents an extreme interpretation of Joseph Smith’s teachings on civil marriage, not otherwise substantiated. (pg. 50)

The 1842 Address affirms this, so why Hales brings this up is baffling. He then writes,

Joseph and Sylvia may have viewed the sealing authority so superior as to trump any marriage ceremony sanctioned only by civil powers, thus negating the need for a legal divorce. (ibid.)

But Sylvia and Windsor were married by Joseph Smith in a priesthood ceremony not by any civil power. And again there is that 1842 Address which completely destroys this argument because Smith himself claimed (after taking spiritual wives with the “sealing authority”) that he could not “go beyond” and break up civil marriages for any reason. If the participants agreed to have a legal divorce, it must be for grounds of evil, (like physical violence, etc.) and there is absolutely no evidence that this took place in the Lyon marriage. Hales even affirms this himself. But Hales plugs on and writes,

Under Church law, a religious divorce may have been included or implied with excommunication.(ibid.)

Again, not in Nauvoo. Hales has to cite examples from after the “Saints” had accepted polygamy and Young’s theocratic rule in Utah Territory. If you are to cite such examples, they must be consistent with events from earlier years. In this case, they are not because the Spiritual Wife System was secret, was not church law, and therefore could not supersede the First Presidency Address from 1842 or the binding Article on Marriage from the Doctrine and Covenants until it was voted upon by the entire Church. Presenting a “revelation” to a divided High Council (which still kept it quasi secret) does not qualify. This is one reason why the Judge in the Temple Lot Case ruled against the Hedrikites. Hales then quotes Kathryn Danes, who writes,

If Sessions knew that Fisher was Joseph Smith’s biological child . . . she could have been having sexual relations only with Smith, not with Windsor Lyon. That is, her marriages were polyandrous in name only because she could be certain of her child’s paternity only if she restricted her sexual relationship to one husband at a time. (ibid., 51)

At last, a good point. How could Sylvia know that Josephine was Joseph’s daughter if she was having sex with two men at the same time? Well, I don’t know about others, but I’m not claiming that she had them both over on the same nights or even during the same week, or that the sex with the two men was frequent. We just have no way of knowing. Joseph had other wives to which he apparently devoted some of his time. And this is an observation made (obviously) without including the criteria that Windsor may have been facilitating the relationship between his wife and Joseph. (This is affirmed by Windsor’s later willing participation in the sealing of Sylvia to Joseph (again) and Heber C. Kimball for “time” in 1846). They may have agreed that Windsor take a break for awhile because Smith wanted her for his “wife” for a time. After all, what was Joseph’s motivation for “marrying” and having sex with another man’s legal wife when he had so many single women to choose from? But what difference does this really make? It was still adultery because Windsor and Sylvia were still legally married.

What would any faithful person do when their prophet asks him to give up his wife for eternity to him, and then claim that this includes having sexual relations with her for “time” also? It was easier for Joseph (so he thought) for these women to have husbands already so that his activities stayed secret. (We know this because he had men become “front husbands” later when he wanted to keep the secrecy scenario going with single women).

In all of Hales posturing on polygamy, he gives us no real good reason for polyandry, whether it included multiple partner sex or not (which he denies even the possibility of happening). The fact is though, that Windsor never divorced his wife, continued to live and work in Nauvoo, and stayed with her before and after Joseph died. (I noticed that Hales doesn’t mention the 1844 Journal entry of Willard Richards in this article where he wrote that he and his wife Jenetta were over at Windsor’s house and “Mrs. Lyons” was also there).

Also, Sylvia and Windsor didn’t have much luck with their children. Having a child that was fathered by Smith may have been welcomed by her and since this was the only child that survived out of both of those relationships she may have later concluded that it was Smith’s child. The fact is, we don’t know why she thought Josephine was Smith’s child. We can speculate, but that is all we can do at present. The DNA isn’t even conclusive.

This whole situation is strange and bizarre, and to speculate as one can only do, doesn’t prove much. The fact is all Hales can do is claim that “this is really weird”, and a “hard commandment” and that it was all the women’s fault, because they “chose” Joseph Smith over their husbands. So they all came to Joseph and wanted to be sealed to him? What a ridiculous assertion, and one that we know is not true. Sarah Pratt did not choose Smith, nor many others.

To rule out coercion by Smith is an idealistic fallacy. And to claim that none of them complained is factually incorrect and does not take into account the concerns of these people for their spiritual welfare which depended on Smith’s prophetic claims. We have modern day examples in David Koresh, Warren Jeffs and others. Brigham Young would later claim that when he heard about polygamy he “desired the grave”, but then also attested that he had earlier (in England) gotten his own testimony about it and was therefore fine with it. So which was true? Lorenzo Snow later claimed that he threw a “cloak of charity” over Smith when he did “improper” things.

And of course these women did not think that any of this was adultery, because they thought it spiritual, hence the “spiritual wife system” that they could admit to being involved in and still be “pure”. See my article on Eliza Snow and why she thought so, here. The only difference between Joseph’s “marriage” ceremony and what John C. Bennett, William Smith, Lyman Littlefield and others did was Joseph’s claim that only he had the authority to authorize and delegate, so what he did was valid and what they did was not.

Evidence of this is that Emily Partridge later claimed that Joseph was willing to end their “marriage” (both her’s and Eliza’s) with a “handshake” because it was causing him too much difficulty. Was that really a valid marriage or something that could easily be discarded when the going got tough, or when it was found out? So what then, was the difference between what Joseph did, and what John C. Bennett and William Smith did in 1842 Nauvoo? Joseph claimed a higher authority, that is all. This is especially troubling when one factors in the account by William Marks that Joseph was considering abandoning polygamy in 1844.

For an excellent treatment on William Marks last days in Nauvoo, see John S. Dinger’s, “A Mean Conspirator” or “The Noblest of Men”: William Marks’s Expulsion from Nauvoo, in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, Fall/Winter 2014, Vol. 34, No. 2, 12-38. Dinger’s work here, is (as with all of his writing) exemplary.

What one finds in reading about Marks and those who were truly repulsed by polygamy was the tenaciousness those who practiced it employed in protecting the practice among themselves while continuing to deny that had anything to do with it. For all their supposed recalcitrance to the idea of polygamy, they embraced it enthusiastically and fanatically held on to it as long as they could; that is, until the Government of the United States finally outlawed the practice in the 1880’s and they were forced to choose between polygamy and Statehood/Worldly possessions.

What is ironic is that Brigham Young himself prophesied that if that happened, (Choosing Statehood & their possessions over polygamy) then the Church had lost its way.

[6] Brian Hales, “Fanny Alger?” Online here, accessed September 15, 2015.

[7]  “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star 3 [November 1842]: 115; emphasis added, Online here, Accessed October 30, 2014, original letter online here accessed July 13, 2015, emphasis mine. Thanks to Brent Metcalfe for the link and H. Michael Marquardt for bringing the original letter to my attention.

Even today, this would be classed as official doctrine of the Church:

With divine inspiration, the First Presidency(the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. (LDS Newsroom, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” 4 May, 2007, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015).

Joseph Smith spoke of “Craftiness” in his 1842 Address. I always wondered about that when I read this quote by him:

Again the doctrin or sealing power of Elijah is as follows: If you have power to seal on earth & in heaven then we should be crafty. The first thing you do go & seal on earth your sons & daughters unto yourself & yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory & go ahead and not go back but use a little Craftiness & seal all you can & when you get to heaven tell your father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven. I will walk through the gate of heaven and Claim what I seal & those that follow me & my Council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.365, March 10, 1844, added emphasis. This quote was drastically changed when it was put into the History of the Church (without ellipsis or any notification) and is still used today in its edited form. See quote at Note 8 here , Accessed September 15, 2015).

What are we to make of Joseph Smith craftily using the “sealing power” to multiply “wives” unto himself that had living husbands? Did he misuse this power? The timing of this “Address” is interesting, because it is a breaking point for Joseph “marrying” women that already had living husbands. There are two “marriages” that take place after this Address where Joseph “marries” women that are already married, Ruth Vose and Elvira Cowles. Both of these “marriages” to Joseph have dating problems and I believe they were both “married” to Joseph before 1843.

I believe that Joseph “repented” of his polyandrous “marriages” in the fall of 1842 and then started “marrying” only single women. His repentance is documented in the July, 1843 “revelation”. This is only my personal belief based on study of the “marriages”. I would like to thank Dan Vogel for his insights into D&C 132:60-63 that lead to my belief here. The verses read (emphasis mine),

60 Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God.

 61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

 62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

 63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

These verses echo the language of the 1842 Address:

…and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband, and there are several instances where women have left their husbands, and [pg. 2] come to this place,&in a few weeks, or months, they have found themselves new husbands, and they are living in adultery; and we are obliged to cut them off from the church.There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. …And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i. e. the unbeliever) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if she be a bad woman, there is law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

[8] Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith, Affidavit Books, 1:9; see also 4:9. See also, “Ruth Vose”, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. Hales claims that this was an “eternity only sealing” but he bases this on an anonymous quote in Andrew Jenson’s notes. We have no idea where Jenson got this information from. Was it first hand knowledge? Second hand? Contemporary? Late recollection? We just don’t know. All of Hales “evidence” of “Eternity only, non-sexual sealings” is based on this kind of unverifiable, questionable evidence. To make my point one simply has to look at the back up evidence that Hales presents here:

Another document corroborated that concerning Joseph’s plural sealing to Ruth Sayers: “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.”

Hales writes in his footnotes,

“Recorded by D. Michael Quinn Papers, Yale University, Addition—Uncat WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c) bx 1. I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation. (Note 8)

An anonymous recollection and an unverifiable quote. This is Hales evidence? See Note #14.

[9] Hales, “Polyandry?“, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. See Note #5.

[10] “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star, added emphasisop. cited above.

[11] Brian Hales, “Sylvia Sessions“, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015, added emphasis.

[12] “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star, op. cited above.

[13] See Note 5. There is absolutely no legal or religious argument that can be made to overturn Joseph’s First Presidency Address of 1842. Smith himself successfully defeats such arguments in that Address. The only way that Smith could have “married” Sylvia Sessions was if she was legally divorced from Windsor Lyon for reasons of unlawfulness. She would have had to go to the law, and then legally divorce him. Where is Hales evidence (besides his speculations) that this ever happened? There isn’t any.  His being disfellowshipped was not a sufficient reason for them to divorce. Joseph expressly affirms this in his Address. Hales’ four page speculation can be read using the link above, pages 47-51.

What is interesting is that in 1844 when the Mormon Hierarchy was in denial mode about polygamy they published this in the Times and Seasons:

The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney [Rigdon] and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the “dreadful splendor” of “spiritual wifery,” which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney’s  revelation, just because he wanted “to go to Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] and live.” Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully [willfully] lie to injure an innocent people! The law of the land and the rules of the church do not allow one man to have more than one wife alive at once, but if any man’s wife die, he has a right to marry another, and to be sealed to both for eternity; to the living and the dead! there is no law of God or man against it! This is all the spiritual wife system that ever was tolerated in the church, and they know it. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, Nov. 15, 1844, 715, emphasis mine, Online here, Accessed November 14, 2014).

Once again, we see the term spiritual wive system, and that “the law of the land and the rules of the church” do not allow one man to have “more than one wife alive at once”. This also claims that the law of the land does not allow “a plurality of wives”, that it was “fiendish” to claim so and that the only spiritual wife system (plurality of wives) tolerated in the Church was if a man’s wife died and he married another.

Joseph Smith violated his 1842 Proclamation, and so did every other polygamist who “married” the wife of another in the Church until it was supplanted in 1852. By this statement in the Times and Seasons, they also violated the laws of the land and the rules of the Church by taking any plural wife until the Polygamy “revelation” was accepted by the Church in 1852. This applies to Joseph Smith as well.

[14] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes”, added emphasis, op. cited. It is fascinating to go through Brian Hales document dump at his mormonpolygamydocuments.org site because one can check the very sources that Hales claims he is being so open and fair with in his books and on his website. I have found in many cases that he is neither. For example there is the quote that he uses in this instance. In his book Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Volume 1b, he discusses Ruth Vose Sayers and uses the same quote:

Another somewhat garbled document apparently dating to 1843 appears to be in the hand of excommunicated Mormon Oliver Olney, whose wife, Phebe Wheeler, worked as a domestic in Hyrum Smith’s home: “What motive has [S]ayers in it—it is the desire of his heart. . . . Joseph did not pick that woman [Ruth Vose Sayers]. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.”43 Evidently, Olney was gathering information through his wife and learned of the episode involving the Sayers and Joseph Smith. (Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 3560-3564).

He used even less of this quote in his FAIRMORMON Presentation. In his footnote (43) he writes,

43. [Oliver Olney], typescript excerpt in Quinn Papers, WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c) Box 1. I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation. (ibid., Kindle Locations 4122-4124).

But the full quote adds something that Mike Quinn thought important enough to assign this quote to someone else, Lucinda Sagers, not Sayers. The full quote that Don Bradley gave to Hales reads:

ca. Oct-Nov 1843 document (Yale University) says: “Mrs. Sagers if she don’t look out and keep still she will be put aside…she shall keep her child as long as it lives…  Joseph did not pick that woman  she went to see whether she should marry her husband for Eternity.”—the document also lists the following plural wives of JS: Louisa Beman, Agnes Smith, Elisa R Snow, Emily Partridge, Elisa Partridge, Mrs Sylvia Lyons, Mrs D. Sessions, Mrs Granger.” (Hales, Document JS0596, 28, mormonpolygamydocuments.org, emphasis mine).

Is there any reported children by Ruth and Edward Sayers in 1843? Not that I am aware of. There aren’t any children by her listed that I can find. In the High Council Minutes from November 25, 1843 we read,

Joseph Smith [preferred a charge] against [William Henry] Harrison Sagars. Charge[:] Nauvoo City[,] November 21st 1843. Brother Marks[.] Dear Sir, I hereby prefer the following charges against Elder Harrison Sagars, namely: 1st. For trying to seduce a young girl, living at his house[,] by the name of Phebe Madison. 2nd. For using my name in a blasphemous manner, by saying that I tolerated such things in which thing he is guilty of lying &c &c. Joseph Smith. The defendant plead not guilty. One [high councilman each] were appointed to speak on [either] side, viz. (7) [Thomas] Grover and (8) [Aaron] Johnson[.] The charge was not sustained, but it appeared that he had taught false doctrine which was corrected by President Joseph Smith, and the defendant was continued in the church. [The] Council adj[ourne]d [un]till Saturday the 9th day of Dec[ember] next at 2 o’clock P.M. Hosea Stout[,] Clerk. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 12620-12629). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

John Dinger writes,

Phoebe Madison was Sagers’s sister-in-law, who lived with Sagers and his wife, Lucinda. Rumors circulated that Joseph Smith sanctioned a sexual relationship between Sagers and his wife’s sister, and in fact, Sagers would be allowed to marry the sister in a polygamous ceremony a month later. He would also take another three wives in Nauvoo and five more in Utah (George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… But We Called It Celestial Marriage [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008], 346-47, 617-18). (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13033-13037).

It is very easy to see Olney’s account being about the Sagers, and the woman that Joseph didn’t pick being Lucinda Sagers or her sister Phoebe Madison. The trial was public and there is an account given of it in the Warsaw Signal:

Mr. Editor—

In all probability, you have heard of the existence of a body in Nauvoo City, called the “High Council” whose business it is; to investigate all the affairs that concern the church, to try all offenders against the laws of said church, and punish accordingly…. I had often heard of this court, and my curiosity was aroused to see it, and I had the fortune to have it perfectly satisfied in the following manner. Being in that city [Nauvoo], last December, I heard considerable talk of the doctrine of Spiritual Wives, which doctrine, I find has been, and is now being taught to a great extent in that place, the proofs of which are daily, presenting themselves, but in what shape, I shall leave you to determine.

Being compelled to remain in that city on account of the closing of the river, I was happy to learn that there was to be a trial of one of their Priests [Harrison Sagers], not for teaching said doctrine, but for teaching it too publicly. Accordingly on the day of the trial, I repaired to the council chamber, and by good luck, obtained a seat, the room being crowded to excess. It was with much difficulty that I could learn the names of all concerned, but shall endeavor to give them as correct as possible: but previous to my going farther, I will say, that before this occurrence transpired, I cared little or nothing about their creed, consequently was not carried away, as others are against them on account of their faith; and therefore I watched their proceedings strictly, but without prejudice. But it was impossible to be there long, without seeing that it was fixed and settled between Smith and the accused, (the trial merely being got up for effect,) that it should all be blown over. The parties concerned, as near as I could find out, were, Joseph Smith, complainant, Harrison Sagers, defendant, and the two principal witnesses were, Lucy Sagers, wife of the said Sagers, and her sister, Miss Mason, to whom he had been teaching this doctrine for the last two years; which fact was clearly proven, and would have been satisfactory to any court but such an accursed Inquisition as this. The evidence here produced, is of too black and despicable a nature to be described; and had the accused have been dealt with according to his crime, he would have been divested of his office, as priest, and cut off from the church. As is common, however, in all cases of importance, that come before this tribunal, instead of meeting his just deserts, after a short address from the Prophet, which was more to screen himself and brother, than to chastise, the said Sagers was discharged by the Prophet, notwithstanding the suit was brought before the said High Council; and that body did not act officially on that subject, no vote being taken. I must say that a more ungallant speech than that of the Prophet, was never spoken in the presence of females—in fact, so lewd and lascivious, that it was with difficulty that I could sit still and hear it…. A TRAVELER. (Warsaw Signal, March 20, 1844, 2)

Lucinda obviously did not approve of her husband’s spiritual wife, so she brought the matter before the High Council again on March 30, 1844:

Lucinda Sagars [preferred a charge] against [William Henry] Harrison Sagars. Charge[:] To the Presidency and the Twelve. Inasmuch as you have declared officially that you will deal with all persons who teach or have taught the abominable doctrine of Spiritual wive[s], this is to notify you that Harrison Sagars is guilty of that said sin, which thing can be proven by credible witnesses, and if he is not chastized for it by the church the laws of the land will be enforced against him. H[arrison] Sagars left his family in December last[,] since which time he has not provided for them in any way whatever. The cause of the innocent demand action immediately and you are the ones to take the matter in hand. Lucinda Sagars. Brother Harrison Sagars, Dear sir[:] As this complaint has been handed over to the High Council by the First Presidency to act upon, you are requested to appear before [the] Council on Saturday the 13th inst[ant] at my house at 2 o’clock P.M. to answer the within ^above^ charges.

Nauvoo City[,] April 10th 1844. William Marks President of said Council. [The] Defendant plead not guilty. Two were appointed to speak on [each] side to wit[:] (5) D[avid] Fulmer & (7) J[ames] G. Divine on the part of the plaintiff and (6) G[eorge] W. Harris and (8) A[aron] Johnson on the part of the defendant. [It was] decided that ^as^ the first part of the charge had been brought before the Council before (on the 25th of Nov[ember] 1843) and he [being] tried on it; that the Council had no right to deal with him on that item. And that the second part was not sustained and therefore that he should remain in the Church. Adjourned till the 27th inst[ant] at one o’clock P.M. Hosea Stout[,] Clerk. (Dinger, John S.,The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13157-13174).

Notice that Lucinda mentions “his family”, so they had children. John Dinger writes,

Notice that the action against Sagers is driven by his wife, while the high council remains surprisingly lackadaisical in its response to alleged adultery. It appears that they knew Sagers had been given permission to take his sister-in-law as a second wife. If so, considering that the revelation required a man receive his first wife’s permission, the high council was complicit in the transgression (D&C 132:61; but cf. vv. 64-65).

A document in the LDS Church History Library and Archives titled “Trial of Harrison Sagar[s] defendant and his wife Lucinda Sagars” states that Ja[me]s Hadlock — says that he heard the defendant teach the doctrine of spiritual wives, and that he said he believed it to be the order of God[.] It was before he had his trial before this council, that [the] def[endan]t said his whole salvation wd? rested on having 2 certain Girls to wit[,] [seventeen-year-old] Amanda Higbee and [twenty-five-year-old] Phebe Madison[,] and that was the way [he and his first wife] came to part[.] … They seperated last fall … P. Wells testifies [he heard James] Hadlock [speak about the] … spiritual wife doctrine … last fall [but] … thought it was all a joke. Mrs Hadlock says def[endan]t taught[the] spiritual wife doctrine … He frequently comes to see his child [and says] … that he must get an old woman to get young women for him … [The] def[endan]t and wife parted by agreement on the 8th of Dec[ember] … His wife said [the] def[endan]t and his mother all was whores … [It was] decided that as the first part of the charge had been brought up before the Council before (on the 25 Nov[ember] 1843) and he [was] tried on it[,] that the Council had no right to deal with him on that item, and that the second part was not sustained and therefore that he should remain in the Church (Nauvoo Stake High Council Court Papers, Selected Collections, 1:19). (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13912-13929)

Again, notice that “He [Sagers] frequently comes to see his child”. In the light of this, the quote makes more sense:

Mrs. [Sagers] if she don’t look out and keep still she will be put aside…she shall keep her child as long as it lives…  Joseph did not pick that woman she went to see whether she should marry her husband for Eternity.”

It is obvious that Lucinda would be “put aside” if she did not “look out”. She had a child, (Ruth Vose did not) and Lucinda got to keep her child since Harrison Sagers was visiting it after they separated. How could this apply to Ruth Vose? Hales is claiming that Ruth went to Joseph because her husband told her since he didn’t care about a “future life” that he insisted she should be sealed to Joseph. So then why does the transcription say that “she went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity?” Shouldn’t this say she went to see whether she could marry Joseph for eternity?

The document also mentions “Mrs Granger” as a wife of Joseph Smith, but Sarah Granger never married him. So how do we know that the information about Mrs. Sagers is accurate?

Could it be that Lucinda went to Joseph and wanted to be sealed to Harrison Sagers, and he said no because she would not accept the second wife? I agree with Mike Quinn’s initial conclusion that this best fits Lucinda Sagers, not Ruth Vose Sayers. But where is Hales disclosure of these problems? Nowhere to be found on his website or in his books. And why didn’t he reveal the entire quote? Because it raises too many questions? Hales has even convinced Mike Quinn that this is about Ruth Vose Sayers.

Mike Quinn wrote in 2012,

Despite my decades-long expectation for those specific words to be in the written records of sealing, Brian Hales has recently persuaded me that Joseph Smith was sealed during his lifetime to one already-married woman in a ceremony that she, her non-Mormon husband, and the Prophet all regarded as applying only to the eternities after mortal life.This was Ruth Vose Sayers, for whom there was no contemporary record of the ceremony’s wording. However, as Hales affirmed today and in his previous articles, in addition to a recently discovered narrative about this matter by Andrew Jenson, a document written by one of Joseph’s house-girls in late 1843 or early 1844 stated: “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.” …

Regrettably, in his publications about this matter, Hales has misrepresented the fact that my transcription gave the woman’s name as “Sagers” (with a “g,” NOT Sayers). In his 2012 publication, he even pretended that my typescript spelled the surname as “Sayers” (with a “y”). Acknowledging (with brackets) that he made only one change to my transcript, Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” 220, stated: “Another document apparently dating to 1843 … [stated:] `What motive has [S]ayers in it–it is the desire of his heart,” and Hales claimed on the same page that this 1843 document “names Sayers explicitly.” Also see my Note 4 (last para.)

To the contrary, the surname that Hales allegedly quoted and allegedly paraphrased in 2012 was NOT Sayers (with a “y”) in my transcript, as explained midway into my citation to this document in D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1994), 348n39, as follows:

“Phebe Wheeler Olney statement, written between November 1843 and April 1844 on the back of Susan McKee Culbertson’s application for membership in the Nauvoo Relief Society, 21 [July] 1843, uncataloged manuscripts, Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Nauvoo’s 1842 census showed `Phoebe’ Wheeler as the first of the six girls residing as house servants with the Joseph Smith family.

Despite her marriage to Oliver Olney on 19 October 1843, performed by Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Phebe apparently continued as a servant in the Smith home until 1844. Its unrelated [i.e., unrelated to Origins of Power’s emphasis on the document’s mentioning Robert D. Foster] reference to `Mrs Sagers’ indicates that this entry dates from November 1843 to April 1844, when the marital complaints of Mrs. [William Henry] Harrison Sagers involved the high council. The more likely time period for discussion of the Harrison [Sagers] case in the Smith household was November 1843, the only time Smith’s manuscript diary referred to the complaint against Harrison. …” Likewise, Gary James Bergera, “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 (Fall 2005): 3n4 (“Sagers was linked sexually to his sister-in-law, Phebe Madison, in late 1843, but she married civilly shortly before he was tried for adultery and forgiven”). Therefore, since discovering the Olney document in the early 1970s, I regarded the “eternity” reference in the original manuscript as a restatement of William Henry Harrison Sager’s excuse for adultery, and I didn’t realize it applied to a different already-married woman seeking to be sealed to Joseph Smith.

The index of Origins of Power (page 675) also had this entry: “Olney, Phebe Wheeler, 113, 348n39.” Hales cited this book in his 2010 “Joseph Smith and the Puzzlement of `Polyandry,'” 114n39. She had Culbertson’s application in her possession because (from 1842 to 1844) Phebe Wheeler was the assistant secretary of Nauvoo’s Relief Society. See Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 433. However, historians have disagreed about this assistant secretary’s middle initial and marital status: “Miss Phebe M. Wheeler” in Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing, 1941), 696, contrasted with “Phebe J. Wheeler, a widow” in Derr, Cannon, and Beecher, Women of Covenant, 30. If the latter is accurate, then Phebe Wheeler Olney was probably a daughter of the Relief Society’s assistant secretary. However, the LDS Family History Library’s electronic website of familysearch.org has no entries in its Ancestral File or Records Search for “Phebe J. Wheeler” at Nauvoo, while it shows that “Phebe M. Wheeler” married Oliver Olney there in October 1843. With the exception of some minor differences in phrasing (plus giving the document’s recently assigned Yale catalog number as MSS S-1644/F349), this same description appeared in the citation to the Olney manuscript in D. Michael Quinn, “National Culture, Personality, and Theocracy in the Early Mormon Culture of Violence,” John Whitmer Historical Association 2002 Nauvoo Conference Special Edition ([Independence, MO]: John Whitmer Historical Association, 2002), 183n131.

Due to the citations by Hales from Andrew Jenson’s research-notes that Ruth Vose Sayers requested to be sealed “for eternity” to Joseph Smith and that her husband Edward Sayers agreed, I now realize that my original transcription of the surname was probably in error. The 1843-44 manuscript’s handwriting could as easily be read “Sayers” (with a “y”), instead of being read as “Sagers” (with a “g”–the way I transcribed it the 1970s).

However, neither Hales nor his research-assistant Don Bradley (see my Note 44, 2nd para.) consulted the original manuscript at the Beinecke Library. Hales indicated this in his “Puzzlement,” 129n93 (“I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation”), with identical statement in Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” 220n195.

Therefore, Brian Hales had an academic obligation to tell his readers in 2010 and 2012 that my typescript of the surname did NOT match the way he was allegedly quoting my typescript, but Hales did not make such an admission. Even though Hales should have consulted the original manuscript in the Beinecke Library, his analysis that the document refers to Ruth Vose Sayers (which I now accept) also provides more precise dating for its entries about the polygamous marriages of Joseph Smith and of his brother Hyrum. By my analysis (see the narrative for my Note 274 and within that note itself), those entries were written no earlier than February 1844. That was when Hyrum Smith performed the sealing ceremony for Ruth and his brother Joseph), but also written before the martyrdom of the two brothers on 27 June 1844 (because the document’s entries about polygamy referred to them in the present tense–i.e., while the Smith brothers were still living). (D. Michael Quinn, Evidence For The Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Expanded-Finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013,  5, 64-66).

I’m not sure why Mike Quinn was persuaded by Hales’ argument. The document cited:

“Phebe Wheeler Olney statement, written between November 1843 and April 1844 on the back of Susan McKee Culbertson’s application for membership in the Nauvoo Relief Society”

Could easily be about Lucinda Sagers. The first trial of Harrison Sagers took place on November 25, 1843, and the second on March 30, 1844 and April 10th. This fits the timeframe perfectly. Yet Quinn’s argument to overturn the evidence that this was indeed about Lucinda Sagers is that “The more likely time period for discussion of the Harrison [Sagers] case in the Smith household was November 1843, the only time Smith’s manuscript diary referred to the complaint against Harrison.” Yet “The Traveler’s” letter was published in the Warsaw Signal on March 20, 1844! Was this enough to cause discussion in the Smith household?

Quinn’s other objection was that Gary Bergera claims that Phoebe Madison had been married in 1843 before the first Sagers trial and so he could not have married her. Yet, Brian Hales affirms George D. Smith (cited above) and states in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy:

Sagers later was sealed to Phoebe Madison with Joseph Smith’s sanction, but the date of this sealing is not documented but was undoubtedly late 1843 or early 1844. George D. Smith affirmed that, on this occasion, the Nauvoo High Council (and by extension, Joseph Smith) showed “indifference toward [Phoebe Madison’s] moral welfare” and apparently Harrison Sagers’s as well. (Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 2a: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition,  Locations 5731-5734).

Hales published this after Quinn’s paper came out since he quotes from it in his Trilogy of books. What is Quinn basing his reassessment on? Andrew Jenson’s notes that have no source? And  how can we be sure that the original document was a “y” and not a “g” when they are notes that Quinn made years earlier? He is recalling somehow that it might easily have been a “y”, but what is he basing this on? His memory of something he transcribed in the 1970’s? It would take the original document to be sure, and even Hales claims he cannot locate it, though Quinn describes it to him.

ADDENDUM (October 1, 2015). My friend Joe Geisner located the original document for me, so here it is:

https://mormonitemusings.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/wa-mss-s-1644-susan-cuthbertson-nauvoo-relief-society-application.jpg?w=584&h=369

WA MSS S-1644 Susan Cuthbertson Nauvoo Relief Society Application

The text in questions reads (thanks to Joe Geisner for help with this):

Wait till next week and thou shalt hav an oppo
rtunity – thou shalt go with true[?] persons –
there Stay 3 weeks Olive[r][?] will[?] come in 4 weeks
When he cometh he <if he> goeth to the place he will bring the plates
When he cometh again he will have the plates if he goeth
to the place..; Mrs sagers if she dont look out for and keep still
she will be put aside – __ do not like it but it
is the desire[?] of their hearts & they will do it saith the Lord
what motive has sagers in it – it is the desire? of his heart
he has shed the blood of many man he thinketh it is no
harm  – she shall keep the child as long as it lives
– how long shall the child live – I will tell the[e] in 3 days
Miss V? thou shalt write half a sheet <to>day
that I will tell thee I[n] 3 weeks Mo[??]  shalt have the gift
of tongues – ;; It is to be kept private
There has been man murdered lately by the name of [Monshinly?]
by Dr Foster with a Sword on the prair[i]e 6 miles & buried
him in a ditch the cup is double filld with iniquity:–
Joseph did not kick? that woman she went to see Whether she
Should marry her husband for Eternity  The tribe Asthemma?
is comming on the earth – 10000 years ago;  six particular
hyms thou shall sing to day Why Lord – thou shalt fast
to d<a>y and sing–; because thou didst not fast but one day

[sideways:] The heroes shall gather in here—

Here is my analysis of the word in question, which I have determined is “sagers”:

Susan Cuthbertson Sagers Handwriting Analysis

[End of ADDENDUM]

Still, what about the mention of a child? I don’t see either of them addressing that elephant in the room. It is almost like that part of the quote just doesn’t exist for them. And what about the other part of the quote, ““What motive has [S]agers in it—it is the desire of his heart…?” Where does this come from? Is it a part of the original quote that Don Bradley didn’t transcribe? If so, why not? Why are quotes like this so full of ellipsis? Why, if Hales has these original documents, does he not quote them fully, (what Mike Quinn transcribed) in context so the readers can judge for themselves what is relevant?

Notes that we have no idea where the information came from; a “garbled” account of various happenings in Nauvoo that could span months; and an affidavit with serious problems that doesn’t mention Emma and has Hyrum Smith marrying Ruth Vose before he accepts polygamy. This is Hales evidence of a non sexual eternity only sealing?

[15] Ruth Vose Sayers, Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Book 1:9, Online here, Accessed September 16, 2015.

[16] Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition,  Locations 1726-1731. Hales writes,

However, it is unlikely that Sylvia chose to compare her plural marriage to those of Eliza and Zina simply because their sealing dates were close to hers. It could be argued that, if Sylvia was sealed to Joseph Smith soon after Windsor Lyon’s excommunication on November 19, 1842, they may have been married less than five months after Eliza’s plural sealing date. Undoubtedly Josephine, like 99 percent of all Church members in 1882, was unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo, since the first publication on the topic was Andrew Jenson’s 1887 article, five years later. Nor would she have recognized any dating discrepancy in her mother’s story.

This claim by Hales is pure speculation. As I have documented above, Sylvia and her mother Patty Sessions knew these two woman intimately, so there is every reason to have confidence that she knew the dates of their marriages. Hales would have to present evidence that these woman would never have discussed their marriages; and so trying to claim that Sylvia would not have known when they were “married” to Smith is simply Hales’ speculating in an effort to try and discount an 1842 “marriage” date. Hales here, also changes the parameters of the quote, making it a “comparison” of marriages. This is not what the quote says. It reads,

“She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church. She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.”

Josephine Fisher Affidavit 1915Where is the comparison here? Did Sylvia state that her marriage was like or unlike theirs? No. So, how is this comparing her “marriage” to those other marriages? She only states that her marriage took place “about the same time” that those other “marriages” took place. She was giving a time-frame for her “marriage”, nothing more. But Hales doesn’t have a valid rebuttal for this, so he claims that quote is something it is not, a “comparison”.

How Hales comes up with these arguments mystifies me. It’s like he’s reading some other different document than the one he is quoting. Hales employs this tactic time and time again, which in and of itself is baffling, because all one has to do is just read the original documents. When was Windsor excommunicated? 1842. When was Eliza Snow “married” to Joseph? 1842. When was Zina Huntington “married” to Joseph Smith? Late 1841. And remember, Hales also wants to question the day of the marriage. If so, then how can he be sure the month is February? It could be March, April, May, etc. getting further and further away from those other marriages. This is what speculation does. Hales constantly wants to take what is said plainly and try and twist it into meaning something than what it actually says. This is the nature of his apologetic approach. He is trying to sell the public something the evidence doesn’t support. If he can contort the evidence into some “likely” scenario that he simply invents, he can then claim that the evidence he cited supports his “likely” scenario.

[17] Lorenzo Snow testimony, “Temple Lot Suit,” United States testimony 1892, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, folder Ms-d 1160, Box 1, fd11, 123, online here, accessed November 5, 2014.

[18] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes”, op. cited above. See also, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1664-1675.

[19] The article will be titled, “Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits”.

[20] Mormon Bookshelf, “Bathseba Smith”, Notes, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015.

[21] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” op. cited. Also, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1631-1633. Hales also writes,

My comparison of the handwriting leads me to conclude that the words “Book 1” and “Book 2” were written by someone other than the books’ compiler, Apostle Joseph F. Smith.

My own handwriting analysis shows that Hales is mistaken. Smith did write the Titles. This is really irrelevant when one takes into account the totality of the evidence which shows that Books 1 & 2 were the originals. The fact that Joseph F. Smith had his name embossed on the first and last pages of these two books shows that they were his copies. Smith didn’t write all of the affidavits in the books himself either, but it is likely (from my comparison of Smith’s handwriting), that he did pen most of them and the Indexes found in Books 1 & 4.

As for the superscript “Du” found on the Title label of Book 1, and inside of Books 1 & 2, I believe this stands for “Duplicate”, and was probably written later when they were acquired by the Church History Library. This is only my speculation, but it fits the historical narrative.

[22] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions” op. cited, 54-55, n. 20

[23] Gregory L. Smith, “A Welcome Introduction,” Online here, Accessed September 16, 2015.

[24] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, 45-46.

[25] ibid.

[26] ibid., 46.

[27] ibid.

[28] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, footnote 21, p. 55.

[29] Brian Hales, “Polyandry?” Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[30] Sessions, Patty Bartlett, 1795-1892, Mormon Midwife : the 1846-1888 diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions, Edited by Donna T. Smart, Utah State University Press, 1997, 80. (Hereafter, Smart, Mormon Midwife). This was during a visit of Sylvia to her mother where she was also able to visit with Eliza R. Snow and other of Smith’s spiritual wives.

[31] ibid., 69.

[32] Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“, 46.

[33] Mormon Midwife, 80.

[34] ibid., 69.

[35] Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“, 46.

[36] Irvin F. Fisher to A. B. Call, April 9, 1945. pg. 1.

[37] Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition, Locations 1949-1950.

[38] Hales, “Emperors New Clothes“, op. cited.

[39] Decision of Judge Philips in Temple Lot Case, 42-44, Online here, Accessed September 18, 2015.

[40] Emily Partridge Diary, 1880-1893, CHL. She also wrote,

March 19th – Mr. Hall came down with a buggy for me to go up to an office in the Templeton to take the witness stand. I was there several hours and underwent a rigid examination. I felt sometimes as though the top of my head might move off. I was very weary and sometimes quite indignant, but had to pocket my pride and indignation and answer all the important questions the lawyers chose to ask. Truly we are turning backward, and a very strange thing it is, when after all these many years, Joseph the Prophet is being tried in court for teaching and practicing plural marriage. And some of his wives are brought forward to testify either for or against him. (Emily Partridge Diary, March 19, 1892).

[41]  Whitney, H. M., Hatch, C. M., & Compton, T. (2003). A Widow’s Tale: The 1884-1896 Diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 494.

[42] ibid.

[43] ibid.

[44] ibid., 494-495.

[45] ibid., 495.

[46] ibid.

[47] ibid.

[48] Lucy Walker, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Part 3, 451.

[49] ibid., 463.

[50] ibid., 468

[51] ibid., 470-71.

[52] ibid., 478.

[53] Snow’s testimony from the Temple Lot Case:

92 Q. Did he [Joseph Smith] tell you whether or not a man could be sealed to another man, and a man’s family? A. No sir, he said nothing about that.

93 Q. Do you know whether or not that was the case from you knowledge? A. This is the first time I ever heard of it.

94 Q. Heard of what? A. Of one man being sealed to another.

95 Q. You never heard of a family being sealed to another family? A. Yes sir, I have heard of it in this way—I have heard of children being sealed to adults.

96 Q. Did you ever hear of a man’s wife being sealed to him? A. Yes sir.

97 Q. You have heard of that? A. Certainly I have hear of women being sealed to men, but of men being sealed to one another, I never heard of that until now.

98 Q. Was it not common to seal a man’s wife to him—that is was not the principle common after Joseph death and was it not practiced in the church at that time? A. Certainly. Now do I understand you t o ask me the question about a man being sealed to a man?

99 Q. Yes sir. A. In what way?

100. Q. Sealed to one higher in authority, so the whole family would be his in eternity? A. You ask me if I now know or ever did know anything about a man being sealed to a man, and I say no, I never knew or heard of such a thing as that. (Lorenzo Snow, Temple Lot Case Transcript, 139-40.)

Lorenzo Snow absolutely perjured himself here. Of course Snow knew all about the law of adoption (being President of the Salt Lake Temple at the time of his testimony) and the sealing of men to men, which was practiced in the church until discontinued by Wilford Woodruff in 1894. Here is Brigham Young commenting on the sealing of men to men, from Wilford Woodruff’s journal in 1847:

While treating upon the principle of Adoption He said some men were afraid they would loose some glory if they were sealed to one of the Twelve And did not stand alone And have others sealed to them. President Young said there kingdom consisted of their own posterity And it did not diminish that at all by being sealed to one of the Twelve but ownly [p.118] bound them by that perfect Chain according to the law of God and order of Heaven that will bind the righteous from Adam to the last Saint And Adam will claim us all as members of his kingdom we deing his Children. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, 117-118, Jan. 16, 1847.)

Brigham Young, also discussed the Law of Adoption and the sealing of men to men in front of the Church and in private. (See Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, 187, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015. After 1893: Wilford Woodruff, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 67; George Q. Cannon, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 76. )

As Todd Compton explained,

The importance of the size of one’s eternal family, and the necessity of building it up on this earth, is shown by the custom of adoption practiced in the late Nauvoo period by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, who would have grown men, with their families, sealed to them as “sons”; these sons would even sign their name with their “father’s” last name. In the late Nauvoo period, among the elite Mormon leadership, there reportedly was competition to add new members, “sons,” to their adoptive families. Young had a number of “children” in his adoptive family; one of his adoptive sons, John D. Lee, in turn, had his own sizeable adoptive family. This is explainable in light of the principle of degree of one’s salvation according to the size of one’s earthly “kingdom.” Marrying plural wives was a comparable method of extending one’s family in this life so as to increase one’s power, dominion, exaltation in the next. Marriage, sealing, and adoption, in fact, were nearly interchangeable concepts. When John D. Lee married two women in 1845, he wrote in his diary, “About this time my family began to increase by the Law of Adoption. Feb 5, 1844 [1845] Nancy Bean was adopted into my family April 19, 1845 Louisa Free was also admitted—taking upon her my name.”

In Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage to Joseph Smith, Joseph and Heber C. Kimball, Helen’s father, desired the marriage so that Heber’s family would be linked eternally to Joseph, thus assuring their salvation.37 Michael Quinn, with his interest in prosopography, emphasizes the fact that Joseph’s plural marriages linked him with important men in the church.38 This would have given the two connected parties both earthly and eschatological advantages.

When Jedediah Grant preached on the subject of Joseph’s plural marriages, he referred to them in terms of Joseph “adding to his family”: “When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel.” (Todd Compton, “A Trajectory of Plurality”, op. cited above, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 14, Online here,  (PDF) Accessed September 25, 2015).

Notice that Grant affirms that the “family organization” is the “Patriarchal Order of God”, or polygamy.  Claiming that marriage for time and all eternity is the main focus of D&C 132 is a modern interpretation of that “revelation”, because the sealing power was already in place and the concepts spoken of in Section 132 had already been revealed in public by Joseph in relation to Baptism for the Dead. In its totality, Joseph’s evolved theology from the Nauvoo period centered on the enlargement of family, with those sealing to themselves the largest number having the greatest “kingdom”.  This was the Patriarchal Order Marriage that was practiced in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom by all the gods.  In 1884 Abraham H. Cannon wrote these two entries in his diary,

Sunday, April 6th, 1884–Last day of Gen. Conf. “At a Priesthood meeting held in the evening (after the Hall was cleared of all those who were not worthy of being present by arranging the brethren according to wards and stakes) the strongest language in regard to Plural Marriage was used that I ever heard, and among other things it was stated that all men in positions who would not observe and fulfill that law should be removed from their places. The Spirit of the Lord rested powerfully upon the First Presidency each of whom addressed the meeting. All present felt the force of the remarks made.”

Mon. April 7th, 1884–At Social Hall, a mtg. of all Stake Presidents. “The revelation on Celestial Marriage was read and explained by Pres. Taylor in a clear and forcible manner, so that none could mistake its meaning. All were enjoined to observe this law.” (Abraham H. Cannon Diary, under dates listed, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

The Law of Adoption was also discussed in a meeting that Lorenzo Snow attended in 1884 (almost ten years before the Temple Lot Suit) with President John Taylor,

Thursday May 22, 1884. Prest Taylor Cannon & Smith & the brethren of the Apostles & others met at the Temple at 9.30 am  There were present in the Recorders Room as follows – Prest John Taylor, George Q Cannon – Joseph F. Smith, Apostles W. Woodruff, L.[orenzo] Snow, E. Snow, F. D. Richards – M Thatcher – G Teasdale, Coun D H Wells  Prests. J. D T McAllister, L. John Nuttall – A. M Cannon, W B Preston  C O. Card  M. W Merrill – Elders – D H Cannon  Samuel Roskelly, T. Morrell & Geo W Thatcher – President John Taylor directed the Temple Recorder to place on the records of the Temple as follows “That the Lord is well pleased and has accepted this House, and our labors in its Dedication, also the labors of the people in its building and beautifying – and whatever (p. 50) the Saints may feel to place into it, to ornament and embellish it, will also be acceptable. I state this as the Word of the Lord. And the Lord will continue to reveal unto us every principle that shall be necessary for our guidance in the future in all matters pertaining to our labors both spiritually and temporaly. Several of the brethren briefly expressed their satisfaction, in conversation, of all that had transpired in the building and in the past days services –

When President Taylor afterwards made pertinent remarks on the subject of adoption. said he had been considering this subject and had the matter and the Keys thereof before him, and in a short time he would make it plain to all, [not in attendance] in that there need could (sic) (p. 51) be no misunderstanding. he also referred to Abraham & others – after which He arose to his feet and said “God accepts us and our labors and if we will do His will and Keep His commandments, He will stand by and sustain us, and no power on the earth or in hell shall have power to do us any harm or to injure us in any manner – I feel to bless you my brethren here present in the name of Isreals God. and you and your families shall be blessed, and God will raise you up and lift you on high. I feel like shouting Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Glory to God. For His Kingdom and people shall triumph I say it in the name of the Israels God. Amen – All present responded Amen – Prest. Taylor & Cannon & Elder (p. 52) Nuttall then proceeded up to the sealing room when Prest Taylor explained further in regard to the ordinance of Adoption and concluded to postpone any action on that ordinance for the present and until he shall he shall give further instructions pertaining thereto. Everything now being in working order at the Temple the President & brethren left & prepared for starting to Salt Lake this afternoon – At 130 started by Utah & Northern train for Ogden in a special car provided by Supt Doddridge when on arrival at Ogden changed cars to the Utah Central and arrived at Salt Lake at 730 P M  all well and found families all well (p. 53) While on the train a dispatch was received from Elder Geo Reynolds setting forth that it was rumored that Prest Jos F Smith & Coun D H Wells were wanted by the Grand Jury as witnesses in some Polygamy cases before them. Bro Wells stopped at Brigham & Bro Smith at Willard & came down to the City afterwards.

He gave some interesting teaching concerning the rights of men & the dealings of men with there wives and children, the raising of posterity, purity, Holiness &c. That if A wise and proper course was taken in the begeting and raising of children that they would soon become pure & Holy And be administered to by Angels &c. And many other things did the Apostle teach. (Diary of L. John Nuttall, May 22, 1884)

In 1894 Wilford Woodruff claimed that the law of adoption (including the sealing of men to men) had been being performed incorrectly, and addressed the Church about it,

I want to lay before you what there is for us to do at this present time; and in doing this I desire particularly the attention of President Lorenzo Snow, of the Salt Lake Temple; President M. W. Merrill, of the Logan Temple; President J. D. T. McAllister, of the Manti Temple; and President D. H. Cannon, of the St. George Temple, and those associated with them. You have acted up to all the light and knowledge that you have had; but you have now something more to do than what you have done. We have not fully carried out those principles in fulfillment of the revelations of God to us, in sealing the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I have not felt satisfied, neither did President Taylor, neither has any man since the Prophet Joseph who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt that there was more to be revealed upon this subject than we had received. Revelations were given to us in the St. George Temple, which President Young presented to the Church of God. Changes were made there, and we still have more changes to make, in order to satisfy our Heavenly Father, satisfy our dead and ourselves. I will tell you what some of them are. I have prayed over this matter, and my brethren have. We have felt, as President Taylor said, that we have got to have more revelation concerning sealing under the law of adoption. Well, what are these changes? One of them is the principle of adoption. In the commencement of adopting men and women in the Temple at Nauvoo, a great many persons were adopted to different men who were not of the lineage of their fathers, and there was a spirit manifested by some in that work that was not of God. Men would go out and electioneer and labor with all their power to get men adopted to them. One instance I will name here: A man went around Nauvoo asking every man he could, saying, “You come and be adopted to me, and I shall stand at the head of the kingdom, and you will be there with me.” Now, what is the truth about this? Those who were adopted to that man, if they go with him, will have to go where he is. He was a participator in that horrible scene—the Mountain Meadow massacre. Men have tried to lay that to President Young. I was with President Young when the massacre was first reported to him. President Young was perfectly horrified at the recital of it, and wept over it. He asked: “Was there any white man had anything to do with that?.” The reply was No; and by the representations then made to him he was misinformed concerning the whole transaction. I will say here, and call  heaven and earth to witness, that President Young, during his whole life, never was the author of the shedding [p.73] of the blood of any of the human family; and when the books are opened in the day of judgment these things will be proven to heaven and earth. Perhaps I had not ought to enter into these things, but it came to me. Men are in danger sometimes in being adopted to others, until they know who they are and what they will be. Now, what are the feelings of Israel? They have felt that they wanted to be, adopted to somebody. President Young was not satisfied in his mind with regard to the extent of this matter; President Taylor was not. When I went before the Lord to know who I should be adopted to (we were then being adopted to prophets and apostles), the Spirit of God said to me, “Have you not a father, who begot you?” “Yes, I have.” “Then why not honor him? Why not be adopted to him? …. Yes,”says I, “that is right.” I was adopted to my father, and should have had my  father sealed to his father, and so on back; and the duty that I want every man who presides over a temple to see performed from this day henceforth  and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every man be adopted to his father. When a man receives the endowments, adopt him to his father; not to Wilford Woodruff, nor to any other man outside the lineage of his fathers. That is the will of God to this people. I want all men who preside over these temples in these mountains of Israel to bear this in mind. What business have I to take away the rights of the lineage of any man? What right has any man to do this? No; I say let every man be adopted to his father; and then you will do exactly what God said when he declared He would send Elijah the prophet in the last days. Elijah the prophet appeared unto Joseph Smith and told him that the day had come when this principle must be carried out. Joseph Smith did not live long enough to enter any further upon these things. His soul was wound up with this work before he was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ. He told us that there must be a welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation to another. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that was given to him. In my prayers the Lord revealed to me, that it was my duty to say to all Israel to carry this principle out, and in fulfillment of that revelation I lay it before this people. I say to all men who are laboring in these temples, carry out this principle, and then we will make one step in advance of what we have had before. Myself and counselors conversed upon this and were agreed upon it, and afterwards we laid it before all the Apostles who were here (two were absent—Brothers Thatcher and Lund, the latter being in England), and the Lord revealed to every one of these men—and they would bear testimony to it if they were to speak—that that was the word of the Lord to them. I never met with anything in my life in this Church that there was more unity upon than there was upon that principle. They all feel right about it, and that it is our duty. That is one principle that should be carried out from this time henceforth. “But,” says one, “suppose we come along to a man who perhaps is a murderer.” Well, if he is a murderer, drop him out and connect with the next man beyond him. But the Spirit of God will be with us in this matter. We want the Latter-say Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. When you get to the end, let the last man be adopted to Joseph Smith, who stands at the bead of the dispensation. This is the will of the Lord to this people, and I think when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be [p.74] true. (Wilford Woodruff, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, p.74. April 8, 1894).

Sealing men to men was a natural progression of the Patriarchal Order of God. Though Woodruff claimed that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor “were not satisfied” with what had been revealed about the “Law of Adoption”, Taylor specifically said in 1874 that he “had the matter and the Keys thereof before him” and that he would “make it plain to all” so there could be no misunderstanding. Taylor did not say that there were any problems or that he “was not satisfied” with the doctrine itself.  What is very interesting is that Woodruff decided to discontinue the sealing of men to men who were not directly related after the Temple Lot Suit and the questions it obviously raised. This was also done in relation to Re-baptism and later; Polygamy and the Adam-God Doctrine; all points of doctrine that those from the ReOrganized Church used in their attacks on the validity of the Utah Branch of the Mormon Church and which cased a Judge to rule against them.

A month before Woodruff had the Law of Adoption discontinued in the Church he told a group of men in the temple,

Wed., March 28, 1894. … I (Wilford Woodruff) was sealed to my father, and then had him sealed to the Prophet Joseph. Erastus Snow was sealed to his father though the latter was not baptized after having heard the Gospel. He was however, kind to the Prophet, and was a Saint in everything except baptism. The Lord has told me that it is right for children to be sealed to their parents, and they to their parents just as far back as we can possibly obtain the records; and then have the last obtainable member sealed to the Prophet Joseph, who stands at the head of this dispensation. It is also right for wives whose husbands never heard the Gospel to be sealed to those husbands, providing they are will[ing] to run the risk of their receiving the Gospel in the Spirit world. There is yet very much for us to learn concerning the temple ordinances, and God will make it known as we prove ourselves ready to receive it… (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Wed., March 28, 1894).

Woodruff proclaimed to the “saints” in 1894:

When you get to the last man in the lineage, as I said before, we will adopt: that man to the Prophet Joseph, and then the Prophet Joseph will take care of himself with regard to where he goes. A man may say, “I am an Apostle, or I am a High Priest, or I am an Elder in Israel, and if I am adopted to my father, will it take any honor from me?” I would say not. If Joseph Smith was sealed to his father, with whom many of you were acquainted, what effect will that have upon his exaltation and glory? None at all. Joseph Smith will hold the keys of this dispensation to the endless ages of eternity. It is the greatest dispensation God ever gave to man, and he was ordained before the world was to stand in the flesh and organize this work. He was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus, and when he comes in the clouds of heaven he will wear a martyr’s crown. Those of you who stand here—I do not care whether you are Apostles or what you are—by honoring your fathers you will not take any honor from your heads; you will hold the keys of the salvation of your father’s house, as Joseph Smith does. You will lose nothing by honoring your fathers and redeeming your dead. It is a glorious work. When I returned from England in 1841 and heard Joseph Smith give this revelation, that we had power to redeem our dead, one of the first things I thought was, “I have a mother in the spirit world.” My father was in the flesh. I baptized and ordained him and brought him up to Zion where he is buried. But I never saw my mother to know her. She died when I was an infant. I had power to seal my mother to my father. Was not that a satisfaction? It was to me. I have gone to work with the assistance of my friends and redeemed my father’s and my mother’s house. When I inquired of  the Lord how I could redeem my dead, while I was in St. George, not having any of my family there, the Lord told me to call upon the Saints in St. George and let them officiate for me in that temple, and it should be acceptable unto Him. Brother McAllister and the brethren and sisters there have assisted me in this work, and I felt to bless them with every feeling of my heart. This is a revelation to us. We can help one another in these matters, if we have not relatives sufficient to carry this on, and it will be acceptable unto the Lord. (Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 75, April 8, 1894)

And yet a month before this Abraham H. Cannon writes that,

I (Pres. Woodruff) was sealed to my father, and then had him sealed to the Prophet Joseph. Erastus Snow was sealed to his father though the latter was not baptized after having heard the Gospel. He was, however, kind to the Prophet, and was a Saint in everything except baptism. The Lord has told me that it is right for children to be sealed to their parents, and they to their parents just as far back as we can possibly obtain the records; and then have the last obtainable member sealed to the Prophet Joseph, who stands at the head of this dispensation. It is also right for wives whose husbands never heard the Gospel to be sealed to those husbands, providing they are will to run the risk of their receiving the Gospel in the Spirit world. There is yet very much for us to learn concerning the temple ordinances, and God will make it known as we prove ourselves ready to receive it. In searching out my genealogy I found about four hundred of my female kindred who were never married. I asked Pres. Young what I should do with them. He said for me to have them sealed to me unless there were more than 999 of them. The doctrine startled me, but I had it done. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, March 28, 1894).

Why didn’t Woodruff try to “get to the last man in his own lineage”? He surely knew his own genealogy. Woodruff wrote in July, 1838:

My father Aphek Woodruff, the Son of Eldad Woodruff, which was the Son of Josiah Woodruff, is a man that hath been seeking religion & the favor of God & light & truth for many years at times, & for more than 20 years have a numerous Circle of friends made his Case a subject of Prayer & pied with God in his behalf. But as oft as my father hath strugled for a victory over sin & its influence heretofore Satan hath tempted him & hindered him from gaining the victory. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, 264).

John Taylor, it seems did not view things the same way that Woodruff did. As Abraham Cannon also wrote,

Thursday, Dec. 18th, 1890: . . .Father [George Q. Cannon] holds that we who live on the earth now and are faithful, will stand at the head of our lineage and will thus become Saviors as has been promised us. Pres. John Taylor was not sealed to his parents though they died in the Church, as he felt that it was rather lowering himself to be thus sealed when he was an apostle and his father was a high priest; but this is rather a questionable proceeding. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, December 18, 1890).

Yet, Taylor “had the keys” and said that he understood the law of adoption.  John Taylor also received a “revelation” in 1886 that God would never revoke polygamy:

John Taylor, 26-27 September 1886

“My Son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people; thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant; for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.

Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my laws and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regards to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not.

And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham?

I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; Even so  Amen.” (Unpublished Revelations, 1:88.  Musser, Four Hidden Revelations, 15, online here, PDF, Accessed December 2, 2014; For more background and the connection to Lorin Wolly, see also Fred W. Collier, Doctrine of the Priesthood, Vol. 13, No. 1, 16ff, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

As Abraham H. Cannon wrote on March 29, 1892:

We continued our meeting. Pres. Snow said he felt that when any question came up among us on which the majority were clear, should there be one who did not see as the others, that one should be willing to yield his views to those of the majority, and leave the responsibility of the course pursued with them. –John W. Taylor spoke in relation to the Manifesto: “I do not know that that thing was right, though I voted to sustain it, and will assist to maintain it; but among my father’s papers I found a revelation given him of the Lord, and which is now in my possession, in which the Lord told him that the principle of plural marriage would never be overcome. Pres. Taylor desired to have it suspended, but the Lord would not permit it to be done. At the close of John W.’s remarks our meeting adjourned till tomorrow at 10 o’clock. I closed with prayer. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, March 29, 1892).

Yet, Brigham Young taught,

…I will answer a question that has been repeatedly asked me…should I have a father dead that has never heard this gospel, would it be required of me to redeem him and then have him adopted into some man’s family and I be adopted to my father? (I ans. no.) … were we to wait to redeem our dead relatives before we could link the chains of the P. H. [priesthood] we would never accomplish it. (Diaries of John D. Lee, 89, as quoted in Gerald & Sandra Tanner, “Sealing of Men to Men: and Early Mormon Doctrine,” SLC Messenger, Issue No. 92, April, 1997, online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

There is no way that Lorenzo Snow could not have known about the sealing of men to men. Woodruff includes Snow in a list of men that preformed these sealings with “all the light and knowledge” they had. Why Snow chose to lie about this doesn’t really matter, but it does go to his credibility as a witness and shows that he would lie rather than reveal some things he might have viewed as sacred or controversial.

[54] See, “Mormon Secrets & Perjuring Prophets,” Online here, Accessed September 18, 2015.

[55] Delcena Johnson was a widow, so could be classified as “single”. I also feel that the date of her “marriage” to Smith is unreliable. See Note 56.

[56] About Delcena Johnson, Hales writes,

Delcena was born November 19, 1806, in Westfield, Vermont, to Ezekiel Johnson and Julia Hills. She married Lyman Royal Sherman on January 16, 1829. She and her husband, as others of her family, were converted to the Church in January 1832. The Shermans moved to Kirtland, Ohio, probably in June 1833 with Mrs. Julia Johnson and family where they resided until 1838. Lyman Sherman died in early 1839 and was a close friend of the Prophet.

Delcena left no record of her relationship with the [sic] Joseph. Benjamin F. Johnson, her brother, provided the sole evidence corroborating her sealing, dating it to “The marriage of my eldest sister to the Prophet was before my return to Nauvoo [on July 1, 1842], and it being tacitly admitted, I asked no questions.”  Delcena was married to Joseph Smith for “time” and was later sealed for eternity to Lyman Sherman by proxy in the Nauvoo temple. Joseph’s plural widows were given a choice to whom they would be sealed in the Nauvoo temple. Delcena’s choice of Lyman Sherman supports that sealings to high Church leaders was not then viewed as being superior to sealings to other worthy Latter-day Saints. (Brian Hales, “Delcena Didamia Johnson”, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

There is no record of a proxy sealing for Delcena during Joseph’s lifetime (according to Hales). Benjamin’s dating for the “marriage” was made in 1905, more than 60 years later. An example of Johnson’s penchant for exaggerating or telling conflicting stories:

And now as to your question, “How early did the Prophet Joseph practice polygamy?”. . . In 1835, at Kirtland, I learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, “that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.” This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her. (Benjamin F. Johnson, letter to George F. Gibbs, written in 1902 or 1903, added emphasis).

Yet in his autobiography penned years before the Gibbs letter, Johnson writes that in 1843,

…we [Joseph Smith & Benjamin Johnson] sat down upon a log he began to tell me that the Lord had revealed to him that plural or patriarchal marriage was according to His law; and that the Lord had not only revealed it to him but had commanded him to obey it; that he was required to take other wives; and that he wanted my Sister Almira for one of them, and wished me to see and talk to her upon the subject. If a thunderbolt had fallen at my feet I could hardly have been more shocked or amazed. He saw the struggle in my mind and went on to explain. But the shock was too great for me to comprehend anything, and in almost an agony of feeling I looked him squarely in the eye, and said, while my heart gushed up before him, “Brother Joseph, this is all new to me; it may all be true–you know, but I do not. To my education it is all wrong, but I am going, with the help of the Lord to do just what you say, with this promise to you–that if ever I know you do this to degrade my sister I will kill you, as the Lord lives.” (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, Independence, Mo., Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947, 94-95, added emphasis).

If Johnson already knew about Delcena in 1842, then the above conversation doesn’t make much sense though he might have learned about it later. But then why mention his “return to Nauvoo [on July 1, 1842]”? It appears that later in life Johnson wanted to portray that he was knowledgeable about polygamy at a much earlier date.  In Mormon Enigma, they write:

By 1902 or 1903, when the letter [to George F. Gibbs] is believed to have been written, Johnson was an old man and although his story [about Almira] is supported by other documents such as Joseph’s diary and Emily Partridge’s testimony in the Temple Lot Suit, his memory of dates is not so clear. He said it was only a month after Joseph visited with the Partridge woman that Joseph shared the same bedroom with Almira. It was more likely closer to three months later, for Almira’s marriage did not take place until August 1. (p. 334)

Given the above evidence, the date for Delcena’s “marriage” to Smith should be taken with extreme caution. It is more in line with Smith’s modus operandi to have “married” both of these women within a short time-frame of each other.

[57] Clark, Sylvia Porter Sessions, “Biography”, (josephsmithpapers.org), Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[58] Richard N. Holzapfel and T. Jeffery Cottle, Old Mormon Nauvoo, 1839-1846: Historic Photographs and Guide [Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1990], 111-12.

[59] Joseph Smith Affidavit Books, 1:60.

[60] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 276.

Patty Bartlett Sessions Parry, Diary Entry, June 16, 1860.

Patty Bartlett Sessions Parry, Diary Entry, June 16, 1860.

[61] History of the Church, “Remarks”, Vol. 4, 553.

[62] Joseph Smith III to E.C. Brand, January 6, 1894.

[63] Lyon, Windsor Palmer, “Biography”, Joseph Smith Papers, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[64] “Patty Sessions,” Woman’s Exponent 13, 02-01-1885, 135.

[65] “Patty Sessions,” Woman’s Exponent 13, 11-15-1884, 95.

[66] Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 11546-11553.

[67] History of the Church, Vol. 5, 184.

[68] Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 257.

[69]  Lyndon Cook, Nauvoo Deaths and Marriages, 49.

[70] Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 4:62.

[71] Woman’s Exponent 13, 11-15-1884, 95.

[72] ibid.

[73] George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 120.

[74] Helen Mar Whitney, “Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo,” Woman’s Exponent 11, 11-15-1882, 90.

[75] Stanley, B. Kimball, On the Potter’s Wheel, Diary 3 of Heber C. Kimball, p.86.

[76] ibid., 87.

[77] History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.xxix.

[78] Willard Richards Journal, CHL.

[79] Perrigrine Sessions Diary, CHL.

[80] Journal of Thomas Bullock (1816-1885), Gregory R. Knight, B.Y.U. Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1, (1991), 18.

[81] ibid., 28.

[82] Enoch Tripp Journal, quoted by Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 185-86.

[83] Lyon, Windsor Palmer, “Biography,” (josephsmithpapers.org), Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.  See also, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer, Stanley B. Kimball, University of Illinois Press, (1986), 313. Kimball writes,

Sylvia Porter Sessions (Lyon), born July 31, 1818, Newry, Oxford County, Maine, daughter of David and Patty Bartlett Sessions, died Apr. 13, 1882, Bountiful, Utah. Married for time to HCK Jan. 26. 1846. No children by HCK. She married her first husband, Dr. Winsor [sic] Palmer Lyon, in 1838 and bore him six children, most of whom died in infancy. While her first husband was living and with his permission she married Joseph Smith for eternity Jan. 26, 1846, and married HCK for time. She separated from HCK in 1847 and married Ezekiel Clark Jan. 1, 1850. She bore him one child in Iowa City, Iowa. She apparently returned to Kimball in 1854.

Kimball gets many details wrong in this bio of Sylvia Lyons. From this it appears that she “married” Smith and Kimball in 1846 and then never had any more interaction with Windsor Lyon after this. He also doesn’t mention the 1842 marriage in Nauvoo to Joseph. It is obvious that Stanley Kimball for some reason did not reference or wasn’t aware of the Utah Affidavits.

[84] Todd Compton writes,

Lyon, Windsor, husband of Sylvia Sessions Lyon Smith Kimball Clark, was born 8 February 1809, in Orwell, Addison County, Vermont, the son of Aaron Lyon and Roxana Palmer Lyon. He was baptized in 1832, married Sylvia 21 April 1838 in Missouri, moved to Nauvoo in 1839, and became a prominent shopkeeper and druggist. Of their six children, only Josephine lived past childhood. Windsor was disfellowshipped in November 1842 and rebaptized by Heber Kimball in January or February 1846. According to family tradition, he married a plural wife, Susan Gee. He, Sylvia, and possibly Susan stayed in Iowa where he died of “consumption” in January 1849. Nauvoo High Council, Minutes, LDS Church Archives and Marquardt Collection, Marriott Library; Perrigrine Sessions, Journal, 18 January 1846, LDS Church Archives; Enoch Tripp, Journal, 1 February 1846, LDS Church Archives; Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 177-93 (Todd Compton,  “Remember Me In My Affliction”: Louisa Beaman and Eliza R. Snow Letters, 1849, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 25, No. 2, (1999), 62-63).

[85] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 46.

[86] ibid., 52-53.

[87] ibid., 56.

[88] ibid., 78.

[89] ibidl, 79.

[90] ibid., 79-80.

[91] ibid.

[92] ibid., 53.

[93] ibid.

[94] Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Signature Books, 1997, 193.

[95] ibid., 197. Here is a statement written by Ezekiel Clark in 1898:

Ezekiel Clark a Senator, prominent banker, founder and president of many great industries of the state of Iowa. That’s what they say of me. How did I make that kind of a name for myself? I didn’t aspire to it all, through my young years. No, I was happy growing up on my father, Icabod’s large farm, in Richland, Ohio. My mother, Isabel, whose father’s name was McQuade and mothers name was Kilgore, was as Irish as a shamrock. So, perhaps I just had the luck of the Irish with me, all through my life! Well, no, not all through my life, for there were several great sadnesses that I had to endure, but I got through them and life went on.

First, I shall say, I was born on 17 January 1817, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, where my father had made a home for a wife and family, upon his return from the War of 1812. It was soon after my birth that father Went to Richland, Ohio, and settled upon a farm of 320 acres. Or I should say, it became a farm, of that many acres after long hard hours, days, months and years of work. I, and my older sister, my younger brother, and seven younger sisters, all did our share of work. We had good times, but living so near the sometimes hostile Indians, there were times we had scares too.

Our parents saw to it that I received a good education and then encouraged me to strike out on my own, when I was 21. 1 purchased a farm of my own and then courted Susan Urania Dyer, who had come from Franklin, Vermont. We were married 29 March 1839. We resided there until the spring of 1849, when I traveled to Iowa City and bought a farm and timber land of 1200 acres. I then went into partnership with a Dr. Lake, in purchasing the Coralville grist and flour mills. I built a home in Iowa City, to which I brought my wife and two sons, John Henry and Samuel Kirkwood, named after my sister Jane’s husband. A daughter, Phila Isabel, was born to us the next year.

I prospered in my business ventures, and became the President of the Iowa City Bank, the first such business in the young city. Then Susan became very ill and died on 25 August 1849. It was hard trying to carry on my businesses and care for three small children too. So, when I met a beautiful, tiny, genteel widow lady, (she had lost her husband, Dr. Winsor P. Lyon, in January of the same year) she became the object of my affection. I was determined to have her as my wife, and she was just as determined to join the rest of her family in the Utah Territory. She was a “Mormon” and wanted to be with the rest of the “Mormons” at their headquarters in Salt Lake City. But with love, I persued and persuaded her to change her mind and marry me on the lst. of January 1850. Her brother Perrigrine Sessions, had come from Utah to fetch her and her children. He arrived just the day before, and she almost changed her mind, but finally she told him to return to Utah without her, and so we were married. We were happy, I thought, through those few years. However, two of her three small children sickened and died. David Carlos 21 April 1850 and Bryran Winsor, 13 December 1851, just before our first child was born, Perry Ezekiel, 4 February 1851. We had two other children, Phebe Jane, born 1 September 1852 and our last, Martha Sylvia, 20 January 1854. There were many times that Sylvia mentioned her peculiar religion, but each time I turned a deaf ear. I wish I had listened more carefully. I was satisfied with the religion of my parents and so did not want to hear of another. I did notice that Sylvia wrote many letters to her mother, Patty, in Salt Lake, and that she received many in return. Each of those letters brought her tears and ended in an angry response from me. I could not understand why she felt it her duty to go to that place, just to be with the other Mormons. When I’d ask her “why?”, she’d try to tell me about a “restored gospel of Jesus Christ”. She would only make me angry, and I’d counter with “but aren’t all these churches around here churches of Christ. Why would He have to have just one?” It was such a controversial church! I had read some of the articles about it through the years, but none of them impressed me as being entirely true. Then after their expulsion from Nauvoo, I had met some of those who came to Iowa City, to outfit themselves for the westward trek. They seemed like sensible, intelligent people. Perhaps too zealous, but since their money and business brought prosperity to my mills at Coralville, stocking up on supplies for a three month journey, I was glad to help them out. But why would she want to leave the beautiful home I had built for her in Iowa City, with all it’s luxuries? Very few of our acquaintances lived as well, and she had a prominent role to fill in society, as the wife of a banker.

One of the “Brethren”, as she called her old friend from Salt Lake, visited us on his way to an Eastern Mission. Afterward I found her in tears and demanded to know why she always seemed so unhappy after seeing or receiving letters from her “Mormon” friends. It was then that I received some astonishing news. She told me that she was a “sealed wife” of Joseph Smith, her Prophet. I had heard rumors of polygamy being practiced in Illinois, but didn’t know what it meant. She explained it to me. Joseph, the Prophet, had been given the commandment to take other wives in a “Celestial marriage” ceremony, that sealed them for time and eternity. In 1842, he told Sylvia’s mother and father that he had been given Pattys name, as one of those he was to be sealed to for eternity. Since she was already married, the ceremony would not constitute a marriage for time, as the others were to be, but only for Eternity. David had given his permission and the sealing was made, with Sylvia as a witness. Since the main reason for this restored ordinance was for posterity for the Prophet Joseph, and he was killed just two years later, without additional increase from these women, those same women were then married to Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and others of the presiding Elders. The children born from these unions would, in reality, be the posterity of Joseph Smith, having been born “under the covenant of that Celestial marriage.” I was more astonished as she continued.. Since Patty was beyond the child bearing years when the “sealing” was performed, there was only one way Joseph would have a posterity from her lineage. It would be necessary for Sylvia to be sealed to Joseph, in the Nauvoo Temple, with Heber C. Kimball being proxy. She and her husband, Winsor Lyon, were asked to pray for affirmation of this commandment of the Lord. Winsor, through some disagreement with the leaders, had been cut off from the membership, a short while before. But after their fervent prayers had been answered, he asked for re baptism and gave his consent for the proxy ceremony and for the children born to them, to be indeed, posterity for Joseph. The last two children born to them, who died after our marriage, had been born under that covenant. But then so were my three children! Even though I wasn’t a knowing or willing partner in this, my children were born to Sylvia, who was still under this covenant. I refused to believe this! As long as I didn’t believe it, then it just did not matter and we would not talk about it anymore. I really hoped she would forget it all.

Then her brother, Perrigrine, came to visit us, on his way to Salt Lake from a mission to England. She cared for him through a serious illness after his arrival. Upon his recovery, I complied with their suggestion that she go with him to Utah. I believed that a visit with her mother and brothers and their families would be the answer to our problem. I felt sure that when she saw how primitively they lived out there, that our home and life in a refined society, would make up her mind forever to forget all that religious nonsense. I fitted them out with two spring wagons, much more comfortable than the prairie schooner type wagons the pioneer companies were made up of. And I secured two good cows to go along, for fresh milk for the children. Our baby, Martha Sylvia, was only three months old and the other two, less than three years of age. The morning of their departure I was apprehensive. Would she forget all that foolishness and return to me? But of course! I would await their return! But they didn’t return! I wrote letter after letter to her, pleading for her to return to me and to our home. But she apparently had made up her mind to remain there, where the rest of her Mormon family and friends were. Iowa City had become an important gathering point for westward saints. They purchased teams and wagons and oxen and supplies for the journey. Heber C. Kimball and Jedidiah Grant, came to see me in 1856 and they talked to me about our situation and informed me that she had been advised to remain there, where her children could receive the religious instruction they needed, to take their rightful place in the Celestial Kingdom. Then they asked my help in outfitting handcart companies that would be going to Salt Lake each Spring. They asked if these companies could assemble at my mills at Coralville. I entered into an agreement with them, and they said they’d be glad to take anything out to my wife and children that I wanted to send. I did send, many things from time to time, to aid in my wife’s and children’s comfort.

The first handcart company, led by Edmund Ellsworth, with 266 souls left on 9 June 1856. Altogether, I was instrumental in helping 2,077 people, in 7 companies, to travel to Utah. The main Coralville street was named for them “Mormon Trek Boulevard”. I even made a trip out to Salt Lake, taking my two sons, John Henry and Samuel Kirkwood to visit their brother and sisters. Once again I implored my dear Sylvia to return with me. I loved her very much and I also loved my children and wanted them with me. But, she again refused, however, I did extract a promise from her, that she would let our son, Perry, come to Iowa, where I could be assured that he would receive the education befitting my son, a Clark. I returned to my home and because of the times, became quite involved in State politics. My sister, Jane and husband, Samuel Kirkwood, had come to Coralville to assist me in my farming and milling, in 1855.

The following year, due to my persuasion and campaigning for my brother in-law, he was elected State Representative for 4 years. On the 15th. of Sept. 1859, Sylvia sent our son, Perry, back to me for his education. I gave him the best schooling possible in our state, and then sent him to Europe to receive a higher and more valued education. In 1861 I was married to Mary Dewey, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. We had six children born to us, four sons and two daughters. Samuel Kirkwood was elected Governor of our State and the Civil War was declared. My two oldest sons were determined to join the army. They enlisted twice before they were of age and I purchased them out again. Samuel Kirkwood Clark, the youngest, perservered and went to war. It was at Arkansas Post, that he had both legs shot off, resulting in his death, 20 February, 1863.

During that war, between the North and South, I gave my all to serve the people effectively, serving in the House of Representatives from 1863 to 67. I was pulled more and more into politics and in 1876 to 1878, I was Iowa’s State Senator. I did not seek reelection, as my businesses needed my attention. Once again, I made a trip to Utah. I received word, that Sylvia had passed away on 12 April 1882. 1 took the rail cars to Salt Lake to see my daughters, who were both married and had children. I wanted to see them. I had always loved their mother, Sylvia, and had even made a proposition to her, that if she would return to Iowa City for a year, I would go back to Utah with her. But, I guess she knew me better than I even knew myself, for she knew that I would never be converted to her religion. I had met many fine Mormons and had admired their integrity and zeal in their religion but my beliefs could never be the same as hers. We parted friends and I sold off her farm and timber lands that her husband, Winsor Lyon, had purchased before his death, in 1863. I also sent her $1500.00 by a Mr. Lemmon, to purchase, from him, land in Bountiful, where she was able to build a nice brick home. The farm she owned was run by Mr. Williams, a fine reliable neighbor. I had promised that she would never want for anything, that I could give her. I have a clear conscience, that I had kept that promise. Phebe Jane and Martha had married on 30 January 1870 to John Henry Ellis and Adelbert Burnham. Each had several children that greeted me as “Grandpa Clark’. I had given them each a thousand dollars, to build homes on the plots of land their grandmother, Patty, had given them as a wedding gift. But now John Henry and Phebe needed more room for their family. Since he was a fine carpenter, I gave them enough to build on to their small house, which gave them more room and comforts for their family. It hurts me to think of how much more I could have done for my daughters, had they only stayed in Iowa. However, they seemed happy enough and my grand children were fine sturdy ones. Phebe’s youngest girl, at that time, had been named Sylvia and she was going to be just as beautiful as her grandmother had always been. However, I felt real concern over Phebe Jane. She had a serious heart condition and seemed in such poor health. She writes quite often, but doesn’t complain, so I don’t really know how she is getting along. My son, Perry, still lived in the States. He had returned from Europe and first worked at my bank in Iowa City and then in 1885, worked as a bookkeeper and clerk in my bank at Kansas City, Missouri. I had purchased a large farm there and stocked it with thoroughbred cattle, that I took a great deal of pride in.

With all the occupations I have engaged in, farming, milling, banking, politics, I still feel the need to get back to the soil. I enjoy watching crops grow and animals feeding and growing from it. I have had a good life, even with the sorrows, which must come into everyones life. I have always contributed to needs of my fellowmen, especially the destitute. May God grant that I may ever have it in my power to help, in some degree, relieve the suffering sons and daughter of Adam. That is all I ask in my old age. There is one thing, however, that has always puzzled me. I have never been able to experience the same warm feeling in my heart, when many have addressed me as “the honorable Mr. Clark”, as I did, for those brief moments when neighbors of my daughters in Utah, mistakenly addressed me, as “Brother Clark”.

OBITUARY OF EZEKEIL CLARK A HISTORY MAKER AND NAPLOEON OF FINANCE June 26, 1898 The death of the Honorable Ezekiel Clark occurred at his home on North Clinton Street at 9:30 o=clock on Sunday last. For several years the gentleman had been failing, and for months he had been confined to his home where the flame of life had been fluttering, only awaiting for the day to come when the Angel of Death should pluck from the heart of Iowa one of her greatest sons. Thus ended the life of a man who was one of the best known and highly respected financiers of the great. Hawkeye State. From the time when Mr. Clark removed from Ohio to this State in 1848, until very recently, his was an active life. In 1849 he and Dr. Lake purchased the Coralville mills, and for many years Clark operated those mills successfully and built, up a large business. In every enterprise requiring capital and brains, he was the man sough after, and he was the man who built up many of the great industries. It was his brain that built up the enormous business of the Coral mills, his was the capital that started the Glass Works, the Packing House, the Gas and Electric Light Works, that built the Opera House, and many other enterprises. The story of Johnson County tells of the successful operation of all these various industries, while Mr. Clark’s counsel prevailed in regard to the business and of the plants. As a banker he was best known, however, and his bank is one of the oldest landmarks in the City. Until the late years when extreme age prohibited Mr. Clark from taking an active part in business. His was the best known Iowa name in commercial circles and during his long career he shaped the policy of many a great undertaking. His name will ever be associated with that of Iowa’s old war governor, and it was largely due to Clark’s efforts that Kirkwood played the important part in Iowa’s history. At the time when politics were new in Iowa and when the sterling qualities of man counted far more than did his Political pull, Mr. Clark induced his brother in law, Kirkwood, who at that time was working in the Coral Mills, to attend the convention held at Iowa City, in 1856 at which meeting the Republican Party of Iowa was born. The record from that time, on of Kirkwood and Clark, are matters of history, and all Iowa points with pride to the events which so rapidly followed. At this convention began Kirkwood’s career, and through it all the Prince of Iowa’s politicians ever had a true friend and wise counselor, in the person of Ezekiel Clark. When the war broke out Mr. Clark was at the head of a branch of the State Bank in Iowa City. The extricating of Iowa State funds in Lieu of wildcat banks and the establishment of the State Bank and branches on a solid basis, was largely Mr. Clark’s work. The new Governor Kirkwood was confronted with no money to arm, equipt and feed the Iowa troops, then answering the Presidents call. From Mr. Clark’s bank the Governor borrowed all the money the institution could spare, did the same from Hyram Price’s bank at Davenport, and to secure each bank, governor Kirkwood’s and Ezekiel Clark’s names went on the notes. Finally the legislature repaid the banks. Mr. Clark was sent to the front as a Paymaster and was a helpful assistant to the Governor all through the War. In 1864 Clark was elected to the Iowa Senate, and was returned again in 1876. Several times he was nominated for Congress and for Governor, but his business interest weaned him away from office holding. Mr. Clark’s also accredited with another great financial feat. It is stated that he is, in reality, the Father of the”Greenback” One night, long ago he awakened at his hotel in New York City, springing up, paced the floor until dawn, his mind filled with a great idea. Then after a consultation with his associate on the trip, the representative of the Governor of Indiana, as Mr. Clark was Governor Kirkwood’s representative, he went to Secretary Salmon P. Chase, before whom he laid his plan. ‘The cabinet offices adopted the great idea, carried it into execution and the greenback was born. Mr. Clark was 81 years old in January. He was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, 17 Jan. 1817. His parents had returned to that state from Richland County, Ohio, driven back by the incursions of the then ravaging Red Man. Later on the Clarks again went to Richland County, and there the subject of this sketch spent his babyhood and youth. There too he was married, when 22 years of age, to Miss Susan Urania Dyer. To them was born three children, Mrs. John N. Coldren, John H. Clark, and Samuel Kirkwood Clark, to whom came fatal injuries at Arkansas Post during the Civil War. In 1850 Mr. Clark was again married, his wife being a widow, Mrs Sylvia Lyon, of Iowa City. Their children were Perry E. Clark, Phebe Jane Clark and Martha Sylvia Clark. In 1861 Mr. Clark was united in marriage to Miss Mary Dewey, of Mt. Pleasant, who survives him. The fruits of this union were Mrs. Eurk Carson, of Davenport; Loren D. Clark of Trenton, Missouri; Horace G, Clark of Grinnel; Adeleaide, Earl, and Sidney of Iowa City. At three o’clock Tuesday afternoon the funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Dr. Barrett at the family residence at the corner of Clinton and Davenport Streets: and this Wednesday morning the remains were taken to Davenport, where in accordance with Mr. Clark’s wishes, cremation will reduce to ashes all that is mortal of this once great and prominent man. 26 June 1898 (Online here, Accessed June 1, 2016)

[96] ibid., 198.

[97] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 21.

[98] Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1923-1929.

[99] ibid., Locations, 1923-1929.

[100] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 72.

[101] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[102] Smart, Mormon Midwife, 195.

[103] Emily Partridge, “What I remember” April 7, 1884.

[104] I’m baffled by Hales’ presentation in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” concerning Mary Heron Snider. He writes,

“My research supports that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives had legal husbands.”

He includes Mary Heron Snider in this list of “wives”. But Hales himself has written,

Without any additional evidence, it is impossible to conclusively identify the nature of Joseph Smith’s relationship with Mary Heron, if any special relationship ever existed. (Hales, “Mary Heron”, online here. Accessed,September 25, 2015).

He even includes her in this graphic at the FAIRMORMON Conference:

Hales Polyandrous Wives Graphic

Hales provides us with a lot of speculations about what happened between Mary Heron and Joseph Smith, but he himself won’t commit to any of them, yet continues to claim that she was Smith’s plural wife!

The way that Hales handles the Joseph E. Johnson account about Mary Heron and Joseph Smith tells a lot about his lack of being able to present the evidence in any kind of balanced way. For example if one goes to the link above, and you wish to read the minutes of the Joseph E. Johnson account, you are first presented with another link that provides a “concise summary”.  Here is Hales’ summary,

Joseph E. Johnson reported that he knew that “the first frigging [slang for sexual relations]—that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.” Johnson’s statement represents the only evidence I have been able to identify regarding a polyandrous plural relationship between Joseph Smith and Mary Heron Snider. However, Johnson seems credible so I have included Mary here as a possible conjugal wife. The fact that Mary Heron was not sealed to her legal husband,

John Snider during their lifetimes, even though the opportunity was repeatedly available (including by proxy between her 1852 death and John Snider’s 1875 passing), is consistent with a sealing between her and the Prophet. John Snider remained an active Latter-day Saint, suggesting either that he was entirely unaware of the relationship (which is unlikely if his son-in-law, Joseph E. Johnson, knew about it) or that he knew about it and supported it.

Here she is a “possible” conjugal wife! How does he get to the wife part of this? He wants to believe that she was one. That is all. Does it even occur to Hales that because the “prophet” had committed adultery with Snider’s wife and she agreed to it that it was her decision not to be sealed to Snider? Remember as early as 1831 Smith was claiming that adultery was no crime and that he, like David could commit any sin and not lose his prophetic mantle. (See Ezra Booth’s letter to Edward Partridge,  September 20, 1831, & Ezra Booth to Ira Eddy, November, 29, 1831. See Note #105). Of course, this throws a wrench into Hales’ assumptions here.

When you are done reading the summary, by all means read the Mary Heron page and then come back and read the minutes here in their uninterrupted entirety, or read them first, curious reader. Here are the minutes we I’ve been able to find as recorded by D. Michael Quinn,

1850 Sept. 2, 2 P. M

A Council met in WR’s East Room Present—B[righam] Y[oung] – H[eber] C K[imball] – W[illard] R[ichards] – O[rson] H[yde] P[arley] P P[ratt] E[zra] T[aft] B[enson], G[eorge] A. S[mith], O[rson] Spencer, T. B – D[aniel] Carn – A[lexander] Neibaur – J[oel]H. Johnson, B[enjamin] F. Johnson, and Joseph Kelly [clerk] –

[***]

1. Hyde [:] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot. before Council in Kanesville his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here—a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson—she was living in his house—we deemed it improper for her to be there he sent her away to a retired place—she was delivered of a child—she is again living at his house in Kanesville—he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church. He says he has bro: Snow & he was satisfied.“

Joseph E. Johnson  [:]—I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done—I av neglected to lay it before you before this—bro Hydes statements r all correct—true—all I can do is beg for mercy—I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the[y] r—I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied—I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.

[***]

“Ansr.  I av not ad connection with Devol’s daur – as God is my judge this is true.  I never herad [heard] any conversation to say it was right to go to bed to a woman if not found out – I was aware the thing was wrong.  – had been with – he sd. He was familiar with the first frigging – that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.

“O.H. sd. Kelly told him Johnson knew what he was about—it was done in his house by bro Joseph that the Ch had tried to break down bro. Babbitt & the Ch Therefor—I knew at the time I was doing wrong—I never av taken any body as a excuse—I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions.

[***]

“J. Kelly—It as taken me by surprise—in our conversation—Johnson introduced the subject—as to himself—& many scenes that r familiar in the Ch—he sd. It was a matter of his own concern & interested nobody else but those he wod. av to bow to him.”  (Source: Misc Minutes, Brigham Young Collection, d 1234, CHL, Sept. 2, 1850, restricted; excerpts transcribed by D. Michael Quinn, bx 3 fd 2, Quinn Collection, Yale Library.)

[Quinn note:]

Brigham Young reproves him and has him rebaptized.

Now, here is the account from Hales’ Vol. 1 of “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy” which he calls “an isolated source” (it is actually not “isolated”, but restricted by the Mormon Church):

Joseph Ellis Johnson’s Statement

Returning now to their original transgression in April 1849, even at that time with polygamy secretly gaining momentum among Church members, LDS leaders were intolerant of adultery regardless of the setting. Hence, upon learning of Hannah Maria’s pregnancy and the circumstances, Joseph Ellis Johnson’s Church membership was in jeopardy. He attended a council of priesthood leaders in the Salt Lake Valley on September 2, 1850, that discussed the case.70 Brigham Young presided at the meeting, which was also attended by Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Ezra Taft Benson, George A. Smith, Orson Spencer, Daniel Carn, Alexander Neibaur, Joel H. Johnson, Benjamin F. Johnson, and Joseph Kelly (secretary).71 Notes from that council explain:

1.Hyde [speaking] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot. before Council in Kanesville his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here—a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson—she was living in his house—we deemed it improper for her to be there he sent her away to a retired place—she was delivered of a child—she is again living at his house in Kanesville—he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church. He says he has bro: Snow & he was satisfied.“Joseph E. Johnson [speaking]—I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done—I av neglected to lay it before you before this—bro Hydes statements r all correct—true—all I can do is beg for mercy—I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the[y] r—I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied—I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.72

During the proceedings, secretary Kelly recorded Joseph Ellis Johnson’s explanatory comments that make it clear he was not attempting to justify his conduct:

I never heard any conversation to say it was right to go to bed to a woman if not found out—I was aware the thing was wrong.—had been with—he sd. He was familiar with the first frigging [slang for sexual relations]—that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.73

The “mother in law” was Mary Heron Snider.

Hales shows his bias by claiming that the source must be considered because it was made by a devout Mormon, so here we have evidence that Hales considers a source by a Mormon who is “devout” to be of greater weight.  Hales also does this in the case of Esther Dutcher, who was said to be sealed to Joseph Smith by her husband Albert Smith per Daniel H. Wells who wrote about it in a letter to Wilford Woodruff in 1888.

Hales also claims that one must provide “context” for the account above. How so? It really speaks for itself.

Notice also, the footnotes. It is not until after Hales presents all of his own conjectures as to what this account means (without just providing the whole account) that Hales then presents the rest of the account in a footnote ( #111) which includes crucial details:

Other pertinent comments in the council meeting, as transcribed by Michael Quinn, are difficult to understand, although it does appear that the secretary, “J. Kelly,” was surprised. Quinn’s transcription reads: “O.H. sd. Kelly told him Johnson knew what he was about—it was done in his house by bro Joseph that the Ch had tried to break down bro. Babbitt & the Ch Therefor—I knew at the time I was doing wrong—I never av taken any body as a excuse—I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions. . . . J. Kelly—It as taken me by surprise—in our conversation—Johnson introduced the subject—as to himself—& many scenes that r familiar in the Ch—he sd. It was a matter of his own concern & interested nobody else but those he wod. av to bow to him.” Miscellaneous Minutes, September 2, 1850.

These minutes are “difficult to understand”, only if you are trying to justify or explain away Smith’s clear adultery here, as some kind of marriage or present them intermixed with your own commentary. The facts of this case are,

  1. Joseph E. Johnson was accused of committing adultery and was “on trial” for it, and was disfellowshipped until the trial.
  2. Joseph E. Johnson admitted he committed adultery.
  3. Joseph E. Johnson admitted that what he did “was wrong”.
  4. Joseph E. Johnson claimed that it is wrong for anyone to “go to bed with a woman if not found out”, and therefore that it was wrong, even if it was kept hidden.
  5. Joseph E. Johnson claimed that it “had been
    with” and then brings up Joseph Smith and that he was familiar with the “first frigging” (or sexual intercourse) between Smith and Johnson’s mother-in-law, Mary Heron. It is obvious that he is saying that it was wrong when Joseph did it too.
  6. Joseph E. Johnson claims again that he knew at the time he was doing wrong and that he had never taken anyone else as an “excuse” to do wrong and that he “never plighted my faith on Joseph [Smith’s] transactions”. Again, clear evidence that Johnson considered what Smith did as wrong, or adultery.
  7. The only person who seems the least bit surprised by this is the clerk Joseph Kelly. What Hales does not tell you except in a footnote is that Brigham Young reproved Joseph E. Johnson for his adultery and had him rebaptized. There are no objections or accusations directed at Johnson for lying, or giving false information, or that Johnson’s observations that what Joseph Smith did with his mother in law was NOT something that he would “plight his faith on” was anything most of those in attendance were surprised or offended at.

This proves that those men were not perturbed in the least by Smith’s sexual polyandry or adultery as Brian Hales claims they would be over and over again. The page about Mary Heron Snider at Hales’ website is basically the same as in his book. There is a lot of apologetic explaining that takes place before one gets to read the evidence. In attempting to try and mitigate the damage that this account does to Smith’s reputation and credibility Hales writes at his website,

… the faith of Joseph E. Johnson does not seem to have been negatively affected by what he learned about the Prophet and his mother-in-law in 1843. It is probable that, if he viewed the relationship as immoral, his testimony may have been compromised. Similarly, when he discussed his case with the council in 1850, the minutes do not record any reaction from the leaders to his comment about Joseph and his mother-in-law.

 That they convened in part to consider Joseph E. Johnson’s membership status due to his adultery (he was disfellowshipped), demonstrates a lack of tolerance of sexual transgressions. That they would have disciplined Johnson but dismissed similar conduct by Joseph Smith without comment seems less likely. If the Prophet was guilty of adultery, Johnson could have claimed hypocrisy, which he was careful to not do.

So Hales can read Johnson’s mind and know what Johnson would have done? Is Hales reading the same document that we are? We have to ask because his comments are baffling. Johnson’s “faith” was not negatively affected even though he knew that Smith committed adultery. Why else would he state that he did not plight his faith on Joseph’s transactions? What transaction? The “frigging” of his mother-in-law by Joseph Smith that was obviously an adulterous affair, just like Joseph E. Johnson’s adultery was (which he freely admitted). I guess Hales thinks that Joseph E. Johnson would never consider that Smith made a mistake and “repented” of it, just as he did. This is only one of many reasons that I could list for why Johnson’s testimony was not “compromised”.  Notice also, that for Johnson it is a disfellowshipment, but when Hales mentions Windsor Lyon, it is an “excommunication.”

Johnson said he was aware that it was wrong as it had been with… who? He then mentions Joseph Smith and his “frigging” of Mary Heron Snider. He obviously did view this as immoral, but it didn’t matter to him. (Again, “I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions).  Of course Johnson didn’t claim hypocrisy because he knew how those men (and he himself) felt about Joseph Smith.

This same tired old argument by Hales gets very old after awhile. Even in his response to Mike Quinn on his website, Hales claims that if you only pay attention to those around Smith, you will see that their lack of negative reaction is proof that Smith could never have been practicing sexual polyandry.

Really? Then how could a man like David Whitmer reject Smith and still believe in the Book of Mormon? There are many other examples like this. But what about those who still believed in Smith? Marvin Hill wrote in 1989,

Joseph told a city council in Nauvoo in 1844 that “the people’s voice should be heard, when their voice was just,” but that when it was not “it was no longer democratic.” He said that “if the minoritys views are more just then Aristocracy should be the governing principle.” For the most part, this meant that Joseph himself would decide what was just.  He told the Saints in Kirtland that “he was authorized by God Almighty to establish his Kingdom–that he was God’s prophet . . . and that he could do whatever he should choose to do, therefore the Church had NO RIGHT TO CALL INTO QUESTION anything he did . . . he was responsible to God Almighty alone.” (Marvin S. Hill, Counter-revolution: The Mormon Reaction To The Coming Of American Democracy, Sunstone 13:3/31 (Jun 89).

This was affirmed by Henry Jacobs — the living husband of Zina Huntington while Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were married to her – for he believed that:

 …whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God’s authorities bend to the reasoning of any man; for God has called and empowered him, and no man has a right to judge their works. (Oa Jacobs Cannon, “History of Henry Bailey Jacobs,” MS 6891 1, Church History Library).

Think about that statement for a moment. This is how many men that have led religious movements could do whatever they pleased and still be justified in doing so by their followers. Hales’ naïve conjecture that because Joseph Smith committed immoral acts his followers would have left him is not borne out in many historical accounts before and after the time of Smith. We have mentioned Warren Jeffs and David Koresh as two modern examples, but there are many more. Concerning Joseph Smith, Richard S. Van Wagoner wrote,

“Gentile Law,” with its civil marriage, was publicly denounced as early as 1847 by Orson Pratt in a sermon recorded by Wilford Woodruff:

As all the ordinances of the gospel Administered by the world since the Aposticy of the Church was illegal, in like manner was the marriage Cerimony illegal and all the world who had been begotten through the illegal marriage were bastards not Sons & hence they had to enter into the law of adoption & be adopted into the Priesthood in order to become sons & legal heirs to salvation.

Pratt further explained in his 1852 Church-sponsored periodical, The Seer:

Marriages, then among all nations, though legal according to the laws of men, have been illegal according to the laws, authority, and institutions of Heaven.  All the children born during that long period, though legitimate according to the custom.; and laws of nations, are illegitimate according to the order and authority of Heaven.

Even Mormon marriages prior to the fall of 1835, when priest-hood authority began to be evoked in marriage ceremonies, were pronounced invalid.  John D. Lee, member of the secret Council of Fifty and an adopted son of Brigham Young, remembered:

About the same time the doctrine of “sealing” was introduced…. the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid.  That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so.  That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles and inspired men of God.  That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessing and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married.

Married women such as Mary Elizabeth Lightner, Marinda Hyde, Sylvia Sessions, Prescendia Buell, Zina D. H. Jacobs, and others were likely persuaded by Joseph Smith himself that even though their marriages may have been “productive of blessing and peace,” he, a prophet of God, could take them to the highest degree of the coveted celestial kingdom whereas their legal husband might not. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, “Joseph and Marriage”, Sunstone 10:9/33 (Jan 86).

This Joseph would have to do in direct violation of Church Law affirmed in his 1842 First Presidency Message. Jedidiah Grant would later affirm that not everyone did agree that Joseph could do whatever he wanted to and be justified:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven-the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel.  Says one brother to another, “Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?, “I would tell him to go to hell.” This was the spirit of many in the early days of this church.  Did the Prophet Joseph want every man’s wife he asked for? He did not but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed.  The grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 13-14, Online here, Accessed September 26, 2015).

Unlike what Hales states, there were some that objected to Smith’s behavior and some who did not, but embraced it in all its ugliness (See Note #106 about Augusta Cobb).  Van Wagoner, again:

In some instances, however, the Prophet’s intent went beyond “trying the people,” for he apparently did want the wives of some men.  Despite a canonized statement in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants which recognized that “all legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled,” the Prophet in the 1840s viewed as invalid those marriages not sealed by his blessing.  As God’s earthly agent, he believed he had been given powers that transcended civil law.  Claiming sole responsibility for binding and unbinding marriages on earth and in heaven, he did not view it necessary to obtain civil marriage licenses or divorce decrees.  Whenever he deemed it appropriate he could release a woman from her earthly marriage and seal her to himself or another, thus eliminating in his mind any stigma of adultery.  In an unusual polyandrous twist to such relationships, the Prophet advised each of these married women to continue living with her husband. (Van Wagoner, op. cited)

This concept of doctrinal and personal infallibility as to sin was explained by Abraham H. Cannon,

The angels who appeared in the Kirtland Temple delivered the keys of power to the Prophet Joseph and they were now with the Priesthood. There is not a man who has the Holy Ghost that the adversary can make him do anything wrong.  (Abraham H. Cannon, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 3, 284).

Therefore, whatever the leadership did was RIGHT, and certainly not SIN. It didn’t matter if it was in the “scriptures”, the “living oracles” always trumped the scriptures and anyone who would call these men to account were told that they themselves were without the “Holy Ghost”. George Q. Cannon made this perfectly clear,

There is one thing that the Lord has warned us about from the beginning, and that is, not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. He has told us that any member of the Church who indulged in this is liable to lose the Spirit of God and go into darkness. The Prophet Joseph said time and again that it was one of the first and strongest symptoms of apostasy. Have we not proved this? Have not his words upon this subject been fulfilled to the very letter? No man can do this without incurring the displeasure of the Lord. It may seem strange, in this age of irreverence and iconoclasm, to talk in this way. Nevertheless, this is the truth. God has chosen His servants. He claims it as His prerogative to condemn them, if they need condemnation. He has not given it to us individually to censure and condenm them. [p.223] No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on the earth without incurring His displeasure. The Holy Spirit will withdraw itself from such a man, and he will go into darkness. This being the case, do you not see how important it is that we should be careful? However difficult it may be for us to understand the reasons for any action of the authorities of the Church, we should not too hastily call their acts in question and pronounce them wrong.  (George Q. Cannon, October 6, 1896, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 5, 223)

In 1900, Joseph F. Smith claimed,

The question in my mind is this: Who is to judge who are the good men and the wise men? If you leave me to judge, I say one man; if you leave Brother Brigham to judge, he may say another man; or, if we leave it to the people to judge, one says this is the wise man, and another says that is the wise man. The question with me is: Am I in a frame of mind, that when I get the word of the Lord as to who is the right man, will I obey it, no matter if it does come contrary to my convictions or predilections? If I feel that I can obey the word of God on this matter, then I am in harmony with the spirit of the work of God. If I cannot do it, I am not in harmony with that spirit. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October, 1900, 48, Online here, Accessed September 26, 2015).

Brigham Young taught,

I have told you what causes apostacy. It arises from neglect of prayers and duties, and the Spirit of the Lord leaves those who are thus negligent and they begin to think that the authorities of the church are wrong. In the days of Joseph the first thing manifested in the case of apostacy was the idea that Joseph was liable to be mistaken, and when a man admits that in his feelings and sets it down as a fact, it is a step towards apostacy, and he only needs to make one step more and he is cut off from the church. That is the case in any man. When several of the Twelve were cut off, the first step was that Joseph was a prophet, but he had fallen from his office and the Lord would suffer him to lead the people wrong. When persons get that idea in their minds, they are taking the first step to apostacy. If the Lord has designed that I should lead you wrong, then let us all go to hell together and, as Joseph used to say, we will take hell by force, turn the devils out and make a heaven of it. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Speech given on 21 March 1858, Salt Lake Tabernacle, transcribed by George D. Watt, Vol. 3, 1420).

Like with Hales and polygamy being “difficult to understand”, so too Cannon uses this same line of reasoning to justify leaders being held accountable for their actions. You cannot find fault with “God’s leaders” without incurring his displeasure. So Joseph Smith and Brigham Young could take other men’s wives away from them, commit adultery and break any law because “it is not given to us individually to censure and condemn them.” This was drilled into the heads of the “saints” during the Nauvoo years, and unfortunately many fell victim to this perversion of scripture and by their silence enabled these men to act with impunity in any way they so desired.

Joseph’s mantra, that some sin is really not sin, (See Note #105) was taken up by many and believed when it came to marriage, the law and adultery.  Brian Hales today is a prime example of someone who believes in this way and will go to any length and postulate any silly or illogical excuse to exonerate Smith from his John C. Bennett type spiritual wifery.  As John D. Lee wrote in his memoirs,

During the winter [of 1842], Joseph, the Prophet, set a man by the name of Sidney Hay Jacobs, to select from the Old Bible such scriptures as pertained to polygamy, or celestial marriage, and to write it in pamphlet form, and to advocate that doctrine. This he did as a feeler among the people, to pave the way for, celestial marriage. This, like all other notions, met with opposition, while a few favored it. The excitement among the people became so great that the subject was laid before the Prophet. No one was more opposed to it than his brother Hyrum, wo denounced it as from beneath. Joseph saw that it would break up the Church, should he sanction it. So he denounced the pamphlet through the Wasp, a newspaper published at Nauvoo, by E[beneezer] Robinson, as a bundle of nonsense and trash. He said that if he had known its contents he would never have permitted it to be published, while at the same time other confidential men were advocating it on their own responsibility.  Joseph himself said on the stand that should he reveal the will of God concerning them, they—pointing to President W[illiam] Marks, P[arley] P. Pratt and others—would shed his blood. He urged them to surrender themselves to God instead of rebelling against the stepping stone of their exaltation. In this way he worked upon the feelings and minds of the people, until they feared that the anger of the Lord would be kindled against them, and they insisted upon knowing the will of Heaven concerning them. But he dared not proclaim it publicly, so it was taught confidentially to such as were strong enough in the faith to take another step. About the same time, the doctrine of “sealing” for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so. That the true priesthood was taken from the eath with the death of the Apostles and inspired men of God. That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise or beget children, in alienation from each other. There should exist an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.

… After the death of Joseph, Brigham Young told me that Joseph’s time on earth was short, and that the Lord allowed him privileges that we could not have.  (John Doyle Lee, The Writings of John D. Lee, Ed. by Samuel Nyal Henrie, 2001, 2002, 133-34, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed September 26, 2015).

It seems that Joseph Smith was also able to deny people the right of their free agency to refuse to go on a mission without being penalized by him acting in his Church leadership role. In 1842 this is what Smith told John Snider:

<1842.> January 28 Joseph decided that Elder John Snider should go out on a mission, and if necessary some one go with him. and raise up a Church. and get means to go to England. & carry the Epistles required in the Revelation109 page 36.— and instructed the Twelve, B[righam] Young H[eber] C. Kimball. W[ilford] Woodruff. &— W[illard] Richards— being present. to call Elder Snider into their council & instruct him in these things, & if he will not do these things he shall be cut off from the Church. & be damned.— (Online here, Accessed September 26, 2015, added emphasis).

Is using threats against someone’s eternal salvation because someone is reluctant to go on a mission the righteous exercise of priesthood authority over them?  Joseph Smith himself wrote that God told him that:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 121:34-39, added emphasis).

Every Mormon knows that it is a fundamental doctrine of the Church that one cannot be “forced” to serve a mission as Joseph Smith tried to do with John Snider. For example, at mormon.org, “Nick” wrote,

“Required” is an interesting word when it comes to faith and religion. In the Mormon Church no one is “required” to serve a mission. Church membership is not revoked for not serving a mission.

It seems that church membership can be revoked, if the “prophet” wants your wife. As James E. Talmage taught,

It is no more a part of God’s plan to compel men to work righteousness than it is his purpose to permit evil powers to force his children into sin.” (James Talmage, The Great Apostasy, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909, 35, Online here, Accessed September 26, 2015).

David O. McKay also taught this same principle,

Freedom of the will and the responsibility associated with it are fundamental aspects of Jesus’ teachings. Throughout his ministry he emphasized the worth of the individual, and exemplified what is now expressed in modern revelation as the work and glory of God–“To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Only through the divine gift of soul freedom is such progress possible.

Force, on the other hand, emanates from Lucifer himself. Even in man’s preexistent state, Satan sought power to compel the human family to do his will by suggesting that the free agency of man be inoperative. If his plan had been accepted, human beings would have become mere puppets in the hands of a dictator, and the purpose of man s coming to earth would have been frustrated. Satan’s proposed system of government, therefore, was rejected, and the principle of free agency establish in its place. (Conference Report, April 1950, 34 -35, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed September 26, 2015).

So, according to David O. McKay, where did Joseph Smith’s threat to cut off John Snider from the Church if he did not accept a mission come from? Lucifer.  Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Snider “frigging” is how Hales continues to portray it, even though he claims there is no evidence any special relationship existed,

My research supports that Joseph Smith and all of his plural wives obeyed the theology undergirding the practice of polygamy. That is, a wedding ceremony creating a valid priesthood marriage always occurred, they did not engage in sexual polyandry, and adultery was always condemned.

Looking specifically at Joseph Smith’s marriages to women with legal husbands, I conclude that three were for “time and eternity” (Sylvia Sessions, Mary Heron, and Sarah Ann Whitney) and included sexual relations with Joseph Smith (or may have included it). Importantly, documentation of sexual relations with the legal husband during the same period is absent because two of the women were already physically separated from their civil spouses (Windsor Lyon and Joseph Kingsbury) and the third case (of Mary Heron) is too poorly documented. (“Hales-Quinn”, online here, Accessed September 26, 2015).

How then, can Hales claim that it is probable that Smith was married to Mary Heron Snider for “time and eternity”? Fact is, he can’t. We do have evidence enough to conclude that it was adultery, but a marriage? That is simply wishful thinking on the part of Hales.

As for this speculation by Hales concerning John Snider,

A fourth interpretation [of Smith and Mary Heron’s relationship] also acknowledges conjugality between Joseph Smith and Mary Heron and assumes that a plural sealing in the new and everlasting covenant occurred that would have caused the legal marriage to be “done away” (D&C 22:1) with John continuing as a “front husband” to shield Joseph Smith from suspicion.  This explanation absolves Joseph of charges of both adultery and hypocrisy but raises plausibility issues about John Snider’s willingness to give up his wife and to thereafter serve as a “front husband.” In support of this possibility are the observations that John Snider and Mary Heron seem to have endured significant periods of estrangement after 1833, with no pregnancies after Mary turned twenty-nine. Also, the couple’s marriage was apparently never sealed, although the option was available. (Hales, “Mary Heron”, op. cited above).

Hales use of D&C 22 in relation to the polygamy “revelation” is anachronistic. And unfortunately for Hales, it directly contradicts the Message from the First Presidency (in other words a binding “revelation” to the Church) made in November, 1842.

What are we to make of Joseph Smith craftily using the “sealing power” to multiply “wives” unto himself that had living husbands? Why did he ignore his own commandment not to break up marriages and families? Did he misuse this power? From what we see above, yes, it appears that he did and then when his first wife Emma totally rebelled against him wrote the apology “revelation”, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132.

[105] This statement by Joseph Smith as recorded by Wilford Woodruff may help clarify why some were convinced that Joseph could not sin when it came to his relations with women:

“…if we did not accuse one another God would not accuse us & if we had no accuser we should enter heaven. He [Joseph] would take us there as his backload. If we would not accuse him[Joseph] he would not accuse us & if we would throw a cloak of charity over his sins he would over ours. For charity coverd a multitude of Sins & what many people called sin was not sin & he did many things to break down superstition & he would break it down. He spoke of the curse of Ham for laughing at Noah while in his wine but doing no harm.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, November 7, 1841, emphasis mine.)

The idea of being able to justify sin was nothing new to Joseph Smith, as we see from the November 1841 quote recorded by Wilford Woodruff above.  In this case it would be justifying the sin of adultery. Lorenzo Snow once claimed that,

“I saw Joseph the Prophet do, and heard him say, things which I never expected to see and hear in a Prophet of God, yet I was always able to throw a mantle of charity over improper things.” (Lorenzo Snow, Statement, January 29, 1891, as cited in Dennis B. Horne, An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon (Clearfield, UT: Gnolaum Books, 2004), 175).

Of interest here is the testimony of Sarah Miller and others about what took place between her and Chauncey Higbee, William Smith and others in May of 1842:

[p. 1:]Testimony of Sarah Miller before the High Council  of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the  City of Nauvoo May 24th 1842.–– Agnst Chauncy Higby.

Some two or three weeks since, in consequence of  Bro Joseph Smiths teachings to the singers, I began to be alarmed  concerning myself, & certain teachings which I had recevd  from Chauncy L. Higby, & questioned him about his teaching, for  I was pretty well persuaded from Joseph[’s] public teachings that  Chaney had been telling falsehood.– but Chauncy said that  that Joseph Now taught as he did th[r]ough necessity, on acount of the prejudices of the people, & his own family particlarly as they had not become full believers in the doctrine.– I then became satisfied that all of chaunceys teaching had been false [erased word], & that he had never been authorized by any one in authority to make any such communication to me. Chancy L. Higbys teaching & conduct were as follows. When he first came to my house ^soon^ after the spical conferene this spring, darwin chase was withhim ^Chancy^ he comnced joking me about my getting married & & [sic] wanted to know how long it had been for since my husband died – and he soon removed his seat near me & began his seducing insinations by saying it was no harm to have sexual intercourse with women if they would keep it to themselves. & continued to urge me to yield to his desires, & urged me vehemently. & said he & Joseph were Good friends & he teaches me this doctrine. & allows me such privilgs & there is no harm in it & Joseph Smith says so.– I told him I did not believe it, & had heard no such teching frm Joseph. Nor frm the stand but that it was wicked to commit adultry, &c. Chauncy said that did not mean Single women, but Married women: & continued to press his instructions & arguments until after dark, & until I was inclined to believe, for he called God to witness of the truth, & was so solemn and confident, I yielded to his temptations, having received the stronget assure from him that Joseph app[r]ovd it & would uphold me in it. [p. 2:]

He also told me that many others were following the same coure of conduct As I still had some doubts near the close of our interview I <agn> suggested my fear that I had done wrong & should loose the confidence of the brthrn when he assurd me that it was right & he would bringa witness a witness to confirm what he had taught. When he came again William Smith came with him & told me that the doctrine which Chancy Higby had taught me was true. & that Joseph believd the doctrine. I still had doubts & replied that I had understood that Higby had had [sic] recently been baptized & that Joseph when he confirmd him told him to quit all his iniquitous practices. Chauncy Said it was not for such things things that he was baptized for <chauncy exited from the room> & William Smith said that he would take all the sin to himself. – for there was no sin in it. before Chauny left the house he said do you think I would be baptized for such a thing & then go into it so soon again. Chauncy Higby said that it would never be known. I told him that it might be told in bringing forth [pregnancy]. Chauny said there was no Danger <& that> Dr Bennt understood it & would come & take it away if there was any thing.

Sarah Miller

Hancock Co } To wit – Then appeard Sarah Miller to State of Illinois} sign of the above instrument : & made City of Nauvoo} oath that the above declaration, is true before me. Geo W Harris Ald Nauvoo May 24, 1842 Alderman of Nauvoo City

[Sideways] Sarah Miller Chauncy Higby

Here is the testimony of Catherine Fuller,

Testimony of Catherine Fuller ^Warren^ before the High Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the City of Nauvoo May 25th 1842. Against John C. Bennett & others

Nearly a year ago I became acquainted with John C. Bennett, after visiting twice and on the third time he proposed unlawful intercourse,being about one week after first acquaintance. He said he wished his desires granted I told him it was contrary to my feelings he answered there was others in higher standing than I was who would conduct in that way, and there was not harm in it. He said there should be no sin upon me if there was any sin it should come upon himself. I told him I was not guilty of such conduct and thought it would bring a disgrace[?] on the church If I should become pregnant he said he would attend to that. I understood that he would give medicine to prevent it. Sometime last winter ^I became alarmed at my conduct and told him I did not wish his company any longer^ he told me that the heads of the church were conducting in that manner ^and referenced[?] Joseph’s name^  and he thought as he had no good wife[?] as they had, I think this happened last October, He said that Joseph taught and conducted in the above manner, He also was with Mrs Shindle now living beyond Ramus. and also with the two Miss Nymans Hxxx. I do not know that he kept[?] company with any others neither did I hear him say he had.

I have also had unlawful connexion with Chauney Higbee and George W. [or M.?] Thatcher. C. Higbee taught this same doctrine as was taught by ^J C^ Bennett and that Joseph Smith taught and practised those things, but he stated that he did not have it from Joseph but he had this information from Dr. John C. Bennett. He Chancey L. Higbee has gained his object about 5 or 6 times.

XXXXXXXXXX [William Smith] has also been to my house on the 27th of last month being the day I was married and proposed unlawful connexion but I refused and told him that it was contrary to the teaching of Joseph on the stand. He answered that Joseph was obliged to teach to the contrary on the stand to keep down prejudice and keep peace at home First W. Smith insisted very much that I should not marry and proposed to supply me with food &c if I should remain unmarried and grant his requests Chaney Higbee also made propositions to keep me with food if I would submit to his designs[p. 8:]

Darwin Chase has alson been at my house – sometime last winter as made propositions for unlawful connexion he did not urge much – I did not yeild to him. Liman O. Littlefield has also been at my house – and made similar propositions and taught the same doctrines as those already referred to – He did not gain his designs – because I saw I was ruining myself and bringing disgrace upon the church This took place about the last of January or first of February. He came several times in the space of a few weeks

Joel S. Miles has also been at my house and made propositions for unlawful intercourse and taught similar doctrine to that taught by Bennett. He accomplished his designs twice. He came several times but has not been lately. The above transactions ^This^ took place sometimes in January.

George W. Thatcher has been at my house twice, sometime in the middle of February but not since that time – he had ^unlawful^ intercourse with me twice he said the heads of the church wear teaching and practising such Black things, and he had as good rights as they had. Sometime about a year ago last ^summer^ as I have been informed ^Mrs Bosworth^ went to the house of Mrs ^Alfred^ Brown but the door was fast – I thought they were not at home but happening to look over the door where a clapboard was off, I saw Dr. J. C. Bennett and Mrs Brown sitting very close together John C. Bennett was the first man that seduced me – no man ever made the attempt before him J. B. Backenstos has also been at my house – was introduced by Chancy Higby – made request similar as above – gave me two dollars – He accomplished his designs only once – has been there two or three times since. This happened in the fore part of this winter–[p. 9:]

These minutes give an amazing picture of what was going on behind the scenes in Nauvoo. Here we see that William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith was a partner with John C. Bennett and Chauncey Higbee (and others) in teaching women that having sexual intercourse was no sin, because if they had no accuser, there was no sin. These are the very words of Joseph Smith just months earlier:

7th Sunday I first called upon Br Joseph with some of the Twelve. From thence to B. Young. From thence to the meeting ground near the Temple whare I found many hundreds of Saints. Elder Wm. Clark preached about 2 hours when Br Joseph arose & reproved him as pharisaical & hypocritical & not edifying the people.

Br Joseph then deliverd unto us an edifying address showing us what temperance faith, virtue, charity & truth was. He also said if we did not accuse one another God would not accuse us & if we had no accuser we should enter heaven. He would take us there as his backload. If we would not accuse him he would not accuse us & if we would throw a cloak of charity over his sins he would over ours. For charity coverd a multitude of Sins & what many people called sin was not sin & he did many things to break down superstition & he would break it down. He spoke of the curse of Ham for laughing at Noah while in his wine but doing no harm.

After this meeting closed I met with the Twelve & High Priest quorum: the word of wisdom was brought up. B Young says shall I Break the word of wisdom if I go home & drink a cup of tea? No wisdom is justified of her Children. The subject was discused in an interesting manner. All concluded that it was wisdom to deal with all such matters according to the wisdom which God gave. That a forced abstai-nance was not making us free but we should be under bondage with a yoak upon our necks. I walked out & spent the night at Br Allexanders. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, October 7, 1841).

Matilda Nyman testified:

Testimony of Matilda Nyman before the High council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in the city of Nauvoo, May the 21. 1842 Against Chancy Higby

During this Spring Chancy L Higby kept company with me from time to time, and as I have since learned Wickedly, deceitfully and with lies in his mouth, urged me vehemently to yeald to [his]  desires, that there could be no wrong in having sexual intercourse with any female that would keep the same to herself, Most villianously and lieingly Stating that he had been so instructed by Joseph Smith and that there was [no] sin where there was no accuser -, also vowing he would  Marry me. Not succeeding, he on one occasion, brought one in Authority in the Church, [William Smith] who affirmed that such intercourse  was tolerated by the heads of the Church, I have since  found him also to be a lieing conspirator against female  virtue & chastity, having never received such teachings from the  heads of the church ; but I was at the time partially influenced  to believe in consequence of the source from whom I received  it, I yealded and became subject to the will of my seducers[sic] Chancey L. Higby–– And having since found out  to my satisfaction that a number of wicked men have conspired to use the Name of Joseph Smith, or the heads of the  Church, falsely & wickedly, to enable them to gratify their  lusts, thereby destroying female innocence & virtue I repent before god & my brethren and ask forgiveness.

I further testify that I never had any personal acquaintance with Joseph Smith, & never heard him teach such doctrines as Higby, sta  either directly or indirectly ––Matilda J. Nyman

Hancock Co} To wit: Nauvoo city, May 24, 1842. Then personaly appeard State Illinois} Before me, Geo. W. Harris, alderman of said city, Matilda J. Nyman the signer of this instrument & testified under oath that the above decaration[sic] was true.              Geo W Harris Ald[p. 14:]

These documents also accuse William Smith of being involved with the women who testified about Chauncey Higbee and John C. Bennett.  It brings to mind what Lorenzo Snow once said and Abraham H. Cannon recorded in 1890:

Wednesday, April 9, 1890: Very nice day. From 7 a.m. till 10 o’clock I was busy at the office looking over the mail and attending to other matters of business. At the latter time I went to the Historian’s office where all the brethren met who were present last evening. After the singing of two hymns and prayer Pres. Snow arose and expressed his pleasure at our fasting (which we all did this morning) and our meeting. He said: Everyone of us who has not already had the experience must yet meet it of being tested in every place where we are weak, and even our lives must be laid on the altar. Brigham Young was once tried to the very utmost by the Prophet, and for a moment his standing in the Church seemed to tremble in the balance. Wm. Smith, one of the first quorum of apostles in this age had been guilty of adultery and many other sins. The Prophet Joseph instructed Brigham (then the Pres. of the Twelve) to prefer a charge against the sinner, which was done. Before the time set for the trial, however, Emma Smith talked to Joseph and said the charge preferred against William was with a view to injuring the Smith family. After the trial had begun, Joseph entered the room and was given a seat. The testimony of witnesses concerning the culprit’s sins was then continued. After a short time Joseph arose filled with wrath and said, “Bro. Brigham, I will not listen to this abuse of my family a minute longer. I will wade in blood up to my knees before I will do it.” This was a supreme moment. A rupture between the two greatest men on earth seemed imminent. But Brigham Young was equal to the danger, and he instantly said, “Bro. Joseph, I withdraw the charge.” Thus the angry passions were instantly stilled. (Abraham H. Cannon Diary, April 9, 1890).

So Joseph not charging William is blamed on Emma Smith? In these documents William’s name is scratched out in places; [by order of Emma Smith?] and he was never charged for any crimes as both Higbee and Bennett were. William also claimed that he was teaching Joseph’s doctrine.  He also claimed that Joseph was obliged to teach “on the stand” things that “were the opposite” of what he was teaching in private, the very things that William Smith was teaching.  The only difference in what they were teaching was that in Joseph’s case, he had performed a “marriage” (or sealing) ceremony, while Bennett and William Smith apparently did not. But in some cases that involved Joseph Smith, we know of no marriage/sealing ceremony, such as with the Mary Heron Snider and Fanny Alger. Joseph may have evolved his doctrine, while Bennett and William Smith did not follow that evolution. As John Dinger writes,

Beginning in 1842, Joseph Smith experienced a painful falling out with his former confidant, John C. Bennett. On May 17, Bennett resigned as mayor (replaced by Smith), and on May 19 his resignation was accepted by the city council, which resolved to: “tender a Vote of Thanks to Gen[era]l John C. Bennett, for his great Zeal in having good & wholesome Laws adopted for the Government of this City, & for the faithful discharge of his Duty while Mayor of the same.” Apparently, Bennett had secretly taught that worthy couples, married or not, could engage in sexual relations on the condition that they keep their behavior a secret. Rumors circulated that his doctrine had been authorized by Joseph Smith. In fact, Smith by this time had contracted several polygamous marriages and proposed to, and was rejected by, a handful of women. Though some of the gossip regarding Smith was true, Bennett’s teachings had not been sanctioned by Smith, and at his resignation as mayor Bennett signed an affidavit clearing Smith of moral impropriety. Though Bennett said he wanted to regain his Church membership, the situation turned ugly over the next several months. In mid-June 1842, Smith went public with his criticism, and Bennett left Nauvoo a few days later. On June 27, the nearby Sangamo Journal published a Bennett letter vowing to retaliate by exposing every secret he knew about Nauvoo. In fact, in successive letters, he explained what he knew of Smith’s and other leaders’ involvement in polygamy. Smith’s first documented plural marriage occurred in Nauvoo in April 1841. Two years later, on July 12, 1843, Smith recorded a revelation regarding polygamy (D&C 132) and the next month saw his brother Hyrum broaching the topic with the high council. At that meeting, Councilman Dunbar Wilson “made inquiry in relation to the subject of a plurality of wives, as there were rumors about[,] respecting it, and he was satisfied there was something in those remarks, and he wanted to know what it was.” Joseph was home ill, so Hyrum read the July 12 revelation to the group and stated, “Now, you that believe this revelation and go forth and obey the same shall be saved, and you that reject it shall be damned.” Several high councilmen subsequently rejected the revelation, including William Law, William Marks, Leonard Soby, and Austin A. Cowles. Prior to being officially taught the doctrine of plural marriage, the high council had investigated rumors of various Church members accused of entering into multiple marriages. Beginning on May 21, 1842, the high council handled the first of twenty-three cases which arose, in large measure, from the nascent doctrine of plural marriage. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 520-544). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

On January 3, 1844 these High Council Minutes record what Joseph Smith related about those who didn’t keep his “spiritual wife system” secret:

[The] Mayor spoke on [the] Spiritual wife system and explained, The man who promises to keep a secret and does not keep it he is a liar and not to be trusted. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 6346-6347). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

Wilford Woodruff recorded these words of Joseph Smith on December 18, 1841:

The reason we do not have the Secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep them but reveal them. We do not keep our own secrets but reveal our difficulties to the world even to our enemies. Then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? Joseph Says I can keep a secret till dooms day.  (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.143, my emphasis).

This is what Brigham Young once said about Oliver Cowdery in relation to Fanny Alger,

Presidet Young staid 3+ hours in Compiling his History. He remarked that the revelation upon a plurality of wives was given to Joseph Smith. He revealed it to Oliver Cowdery alone upon the solem pledge that He would not reveal it or act upon it it but He did act upon it in a secret manner & that was the cause of his overthrow. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 84, August 26, 1857).

Of course, all Cowdery did was claim that Smith had committed adultery.  That was the secret that Joseph told Cowdery, not a “revelation” on polygamy. Along with John C. Bennett and Chauncy Higbee, there were others who were involved with making proposals to women. They were John Darwin Chase, Joel S. Miles, Lyman O. Littlefield, Justus Morse, J. D. Backenstos and William Smith.  Both Chase and Miles were Danites and were among the company of men that Joseph Smith chose to accompany him to Monmouth after he was arrested on charges from Missouri in 1841:

 Monday, 7.—I started very early for Monmouth, seventy-five miles distant (taking Mr. [Sheriff Thomas] King along with me and attending him during his sickness), accompanied by Charles C. Rich, Amasa Lyman, Shadrack Roundy, Reynolds Cahoon, Charles Hopkins, Alfred  Randall, Elias [p.366] Higbee, Morris Phelps, John P. Greene, Henry G. Sherwood, Joseph Younger, Darwin Chase, Ira Miles, Joel S. Miles, Lucien Woodworth, Vinson Knight, Robert B. Thompson, George Miller and others. We traveled very late, camping about midnight in the road. (History of the Church, Vol. 4, p.366, June 7, 1841)

Joel S. Miles was also a County Constable, and in one family history John Darwin Chase was said to be a Bishop in Nauvoo. Lyman O. Littlefield was a typesetter for the Church affiliated Nauvoo Neighbor, and also worked at the Times and Seasons.  Darwin Chase also spent time with Joseph Smith in jail in Missouri. Brian Hales writes,

Lyman O. Littlefield, who knew the Prophet in Nauvoo, recalled in 1883: “I have the best reasons for believing it [celestial and plural marriage] was understood and believed by him (Joseph Smith, the Prophet) away back in the days when he lived in Kirtland . . . he was instructed of the Lord respecting the sacred ordinance of plural marriage; but he was not required to reveal it to the Church until sometime during the residence of the Saints in Nauvoo.” (Hales, op. cited, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

Littlefield’s 1883 “Open letter” to Joseph Smith the III, published in The Millennial Star (which Hales quotes above) is interesting. He writes:

The doctrine of celestial marriage, I have the best reasons for believing , was understood and believed by him away back in the days when he lived in Kirtland, when he and the Saints, in their poverty were toiling to erect that sacred edifice wherein you now falsify him, seeking, by your unsupported declarations, to nullify his most sacred doctrines. Even there, as I believe, he was instructed of the Lord respecting the sacred ordinance of plural marriage; but he was not required to reveal it to the Church until some time during the residence of the Saints at Nauvoo, where he received a revelation from the Lord setting forth in detail the results to be obtained by keeping inviolate all the laws connected with this sacred condition of things. And in consequence of the prejudices of the Saints and the tide of persecution which he well knew he would have to encounter from the outside world, wherein his life would be endangered, he delayed, as long as possible, to make this principle known, except to a few of the most faithful and humble of the Saints. The boy Joseph [III], while playing in the streets and vacant lots of Nauvoo, very likely did not know of these things, nevertheless the writer knew that the elder Joseph then practiced and taught [though not publicly] this doctrine. And further, he then knew some of the women to be his wives who subsequently, in Utah, reported themselves to his sons, Joseph and David, while here, as such wives. (Lyman O. Littlefield, “An Open Letter Addressed to President Joseph Smith, jun., of the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Millennial Star 25 (June 18, 1883): 387).

Yet the testimony of some of the women that claimed they were taught by John C. Bennett, William Smith, and Chauncy Higbee about Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine also claimed that Littlefield was among those doing so and proposing to have sexual intercourse with them:

Testimony of Catherine Fuller –

1. O. Littlefield had been at my house, and made propositions to have unlawful intercourse – he urged hard_ this was about the last of January or first of February – had been 3 or 4 times in course of 2 or 3 weeks_  he urged doctrine such as the following – namely – that there was no harm in having unlawful intercourse – that others conducted in the same way – there there [sic] should be no sin come upon her – if there was any it should come upon himself; that the heads of the church were practising the same things – named Joseph Smith – he urged this doctrine – was there about the first of February about 8 in the evening (Testimony of Catherine Fuller before the High Council  of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the City of Nauvoo May 25th 1842)

Caroline Butler testified,

I have frequently seen Darwin Chase & Chancy Higby go to Widow Fullers frequently – have seen Joel S. Miles go there – have seen L.[yman] C. [sic- O] Littlefield go in there (ibid., pg.

Catherine Fuller also testified that,

Darwin Chase has also been at my house – sometime last winter has made propositions for unlawful connexion he did not urge much – I did not yeild to him.

Liman O. Littlefield has also been at my house – and made similar propositions and taught the same doctrines as those already referred to – He did not gain his designs – because I saw I was ruining myself and bringing disgrace upon the church This took place about the last of January or first of February.  He came several times in the space of a few weeks

Joel S. Miles has also been at my house and made propositions for unlawful intercourse and taught similar doctrine to that taught by Bennett.  He accomplished his designs twice.  He came several times but has not been lately.  The above transactions ^This^ took place sometimes in January.

Why did Joseph’s bodyguards teach and propogate such things? Wilford Woodruff wrote about the proceedings:

The first Presidency The Twelve & High Council & virtuous part of the Church are making an exhertion abo[u]t these days to clense the Church from Adulterors fornicators & evil persons for their are such persons crept into our midst. The high council have held a number of meeting[s] of late & their researches have disclosed much iniquity & a number [have] been Cut off from the church. I met with the High Council to day on the trial of L[yman] O. Littlefield[,] Joel S Miles & Darwin Chase. The two former were cut of[f] for Adultery & the case of D[arwin] Chase was put of[f] till tomorrow” (Scott G. Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, 9 vols. [Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983-85], 2:177).

The next day Woodruff wrote,

 28th The case of D. Chase was tryed & he restored to fellowship by the majority of own[ly?] 1 vote.

The High Council Minutes for May 24-28, read:

May 24, 1842; Tuesday. The High Council met according to appointment at the Lodge Room. 1st. The testimony of Mrs Sarah Miller and Miss Margaret [Nyman] and Matilda Neyman were taken relative to the charges of ^against^ Chancy Higbee and others showing the manner of iniquity practised by them upon female virtue & the un-hallowed means by which they accomplished their desires. Adjourned till tomorrow at 12 o’clock. H[osea] Stout.

May 25, 1842; Wednesday. The [High] Council met according to adjournment[.] 1st. [A] charge [was preferred] against John Haddon by H[enry] G. Sherwood for unlawfully detaining from Harriet Parker, her house and premises. Done in her behalf[,] the defendant did not appear. The charge was fully sustained. On motion [it was] resolved that he be disfellowshipped until he make satisfaction to H[enry] G. Sherwood and restore the house to Harriet Parker. 2. [A] Charge [was preferred] against Mrs. Catherine Warren by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with John C. Bennett and others. The defendant confessed to the charge and g[a]ve the names of several other [men] who had been guilty of having unlawful intercourse with her[,] stating that they taught the doctrine that it was right to have free intercourse with women and that the heads of the Church also taught and practised it[,] which things caused her to be led away thinking it to be right but becoming convinced that it was not right[,] and learning that the heads of the church did not believe of [the] practice [of] such things[,] she was willing to confess her sins and did repent before God for what she had done and desired earnestly that the Council would forgive her and covenanted that she would hence forth do so no more. After which she was restored to fellowship by the unanimous vote of the Council. 3. On motion [the] Council ^adjourned^ till tomorrow Friday the 27th ins[tant] at 12 o’clock at this place. Hosea Stout Clerk.

May 27, 1842; Friday. [The High] Council met according to adjournment. 1st. [A] charge [was preferred] against Lyman O Littlefield by Geo[rge] Miller for improper and unvirtuous conduct and for teaching false doctrine. [He] plead not Guilty[.] Two were appointed to speak on each side[,] viz. (1) Sam[ue]l Bent[,] (2) James Allred[,] (3) Lewis D. Wilson[,] and (4) Wilford Woodruff[.] The charge was sustained. On motion [it was] Resolved — That he be disfellowshipped untill he make satisfaction to this Council. 2. [A] charge [was preferred] against Darwin Chace by Geo[rge] Miller for improper and unvirtuous conduct and for teaching false doctrine. Plead not guilty[.] Two were appointed to speak on the case[:] Viz. (5) David Fulmer and George W. Harris. The defendant plead for an adjournment for the want of evidence[.] On motion [it was] resolved — That this case be adjourned till tomorrow at 1 o’clock at this place. 3rd. [A] charge [was preferred] against Joel S. Miles by George Miller for improper and unvirtuous conduct and for teaching false doctrine. [He] plead not guilty. Two were apointed to speak on the case — Viz. (7) Tho[ma]s Grover and (8) Aaron Johnson. The charge was fully sustained[.] On motion [it was] resolved that he be disfellowshiped[.] until Adjourned till tomorrow at 1 o’clock at this place. Hosea Stout Clerk.

May 28, 1842; Saturday. [The High] Council met according to adjournment. 1st. [A] charge [was preferred] against Justis Morse by George Miller for unchaste and unvirtuous conduct with the daughter of the Widow Neyman &c &c Charge was sustained The defendant did not apear before the Council but upon being cited to apear before the Council he ordered his name to be struck off of the Church Book as he did not wish to stand a trial Two were appointed to speak on the case[,] viz — (9) Newel Knight and (10) William Huntington. [The] charge was sustained On Motion of President Austin Cowles — Resolved — That he (the defendant) be disfellowshiped. 2nd. The Charge against Darwin Chace (of the 27th inst[ant]) was taken up according to adjournment. [The] charge [was] not sustained[.] The President decided that he should be restored to full fellowship which was carried by a majority of 8 to 4. After which the case spoken on by different ones of the Council to show further light on the subject and showing reasons why they did not secede to the Presidents decisions. The President again called on the council to sanction his decision which was done unanimously ^which was carried unanimously^. On motion adjourned till Saturday the 4th of June at [blank] o’clock at Hiram Smith’s office. Hosea Stout Clerk. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 11332-11377). Signature Books. Kindle Edition.

Lyman O. Littlefield would later write,

During the period of which I am now writing (1843-4) a subtle and malicious undercurrent was silently and stealthily running and spreading through the circles that composed the society of Nauvoo. As well as the glorious doctrines of baptism for the dead, there were many other truths of vital moment which were revealed to the members of the Church through the agency of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Some of the doctrines were construed by evil disposed persons in a way to place them in a false light before the people by placing upon them interpretations different from what their real import would justify. There were those ready and willing to embrace the opportunity of fabricating false deductions for the purpose of counteracting or lessening the great influence which Joseph wielded against all who practiced any species of evil in society. Among these were disaffected persons, some of whom possessed ability, cunning and a degree of influence. Some of them were persons who were ambitious for promotion and advancement into public favor, a portion seeking social, political or religious advancement, according to their taste. But Joseph was the man who stood boldly in the Thermopylae to defend the innocent and unsuspecting and direct their minds in the true channel that pointed the way to eternal blessings. (Lyman Omer Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints, p.156 – p.157).

What is ironic is that Lyman Littlefield was involved in the very activities that he is decrying years later! The Temple Lot testimony of Littlefield sheds more light on what he actually did know about polygamy:

  1. Q—State to the reporter Mr. Littlefield, what you know in regard to the doctrine of plurality of wives, or as it is commonly called, polygamy, being taught in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo bdore the death of Joseph Smith? A—Well I can tell what I know about it, what I know about that doctrine being taught. Do you want to know?
  2. Q—Just answer the question? A—Well I was cognizant of the fact that that doctine was taught there, and it was understood by a great many people that it was taught, and not only taught but practiced. I knew it was known by a great many people I understood that matter perfectly but it was not taught to the whole church generally, but it was taught privately so that a great many people understood it and knew it was practiced, too up to that date.
  3. Q—Mr Hall, Up to that date? A—Up to that time previous to the death of Joseph Smith, senior, Now what I mean by that is that it was not taught publicly from the stand, but it was so taught that the people, or a great many of them understood that doctrine, and some of them practiced it, at least if it was taught from the stand I didn’t know it, for I never heard it taught from the stand but I know it was taught and practived secretly, and was not given to the whole church as a principle according to the best of my knowledge in the days of Joseph.
  4. Q—I would like to ask you Mr Littlefield if you were taught that principle? A—Yes sir, I was taught that doctrine or principle, and conversed upon it with different parties but I never was taught that doctrine from Joseph Smith himself, personally, but the doctrine was talked of between myself, and a great many other parties, and always with the understanding that it had its origin, with Joseph Smith the prophet, himself. (Lyman O. Littlefield, Temple Lot Testimony, Msd 1160, Box 1, fd 12, CHL, p. 148-149)

Why then, was Littlefield teaching the same doctrines as John C. Bennett and William Simth? Gary James Bergera writes that:

John C. Bennett, the prophet’s talented, egotistical ally, had lodged with the Smiths from September 1840 to July 1841. [This is when the Goddards claimed that he was having an affair with Sarah Pratt and was with her for nearly the whole month of October, 1840] In fact, the thirty-seven-year-old Bennett had been privy to Smith’s April 1841 plural marriage and was conversant with his controversial teachings. Consequently, he believed he too was authorized, whether or not Smith conveyed such an impression, to initiate himself and others into the prophet’s new order. Smith worried that the enthusiasm with which Bennett embraced the celestial doctrine, and especially his introduction of it to others without Smith’s permission, failed to emphasize sufficiently the religious aspects of his revelation and thus exposed the church to the condenmation of nonbelievers. (Smith required a marriage/sealing ceremony be performed with his permission by an authorized priesthood holder prior to sexual contact; Bennett believed that worthy couples, married or not, could engage freely in sexual activity provided they keep their conduct a secret.) By the spring of 1842, Bennett’s sexual escapades had made him a liability, especially when rumor connected his and the prophet’s names. “We have been informed,” Smith and other ranking church leaders (including some already officially introduced to the prophet’s teachings) wrote to the Relief Society in late March, that some unprincipled men, whose names we will not mention at present, have been guilty of such crimes [i.e., debauching the innocent]–We do not mention their names, not knowing but what there may be some among you who are not sufficiently skill’d in Masonry as to keep a secret, therefore, suffice it to say, there are those, and we therefore warn you, & forewarn you, in the name of the Lord, to check & destroy any faith that any innocent person may have in any such character, for we do not want any one to believe any thing as coming from us contrary to the old established morals & virtues & scriptural laws, regulating the habits, customs & conduct of society; and all persons pretending to be authorized by us or having any pennit, or sanction from us, are & will be liars & base impostors, & you are authoriz’d on the very first intimation of the kind, to denounce them as such, & shun them as the flying fiery serpent, whether they are prophets, Seers, or revelators: Patriarchs, twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Mayors, Generals, City Councillors, Aldermen, Marshalls, Police, Lord Mayors or the Devil, are alike culpable & shall be damned for such evil practices; and if you yourselves adhere to anything of the kind, you also shall be damned.

Less than two weeks later, Smith angrily “pronounced a curse upon all adulterers, and fornicators, and unvirtuous persons, and those who have made use of my name to carry on their iniquitous designs,”  By the end of the month, as word broke of his attempted liaison-which he denied-with his counselor’s daughter, Smith complained of a “conspiracy against the peace of my household was made manifest and it gave me some trouble to counteract the design of certain base individuals, and restore peace. The Lord makes manifest to me many things, which it is not wisdom for me to make public, until others can witness the proof of them.” When Smith shortly afterward threatened to publicize Bennett’s libertinism, Bennett first signed into law (at Smith’s request and with the city council’s approval) a law banning brothels and “adultery, or fomication,” then resigned as mayor, withdrew (or was expelled, accounts vary) from the church, and left town by the end of June. Shortly afterward, he began publicly exposing Smith’s own secrets, including his letter to his counselor’s daughter. It was against this backdrop of clandestine plural marriages that the Nauvoo High Council convened in mid-May 1842. (Bergera, “Illicit Intercourse,” op. cited, pages 65-67).

During these High Council proceedings Joseph Smith instigated a lawsuit on May 24, against Chauncey Higbee for slander and defamation:

State of Illinois

County of Hancock, ss

Before me, Ebenezer Robinson, one of the Justices of the Peace for said county personally came Joseph Smith, who, being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that at sundry times, in the City of Nauvoo, county aforesaid, one Chancy L. Higbee has slandered and defamed the character of the said Joseph Smith, and also the character of Emma Smith, his wife, in using their names, the more readily to accomplish his purpose in seducing certain females, and further this deponont saith not.

Sworn to, and subscribed before me, in the county aforesaid, this 24th day of May A.D. 1842. E. Robinson J. P.

[Signed] Joseph Smith

On another sheet inside the jacket which contained the case was written:

Smith’s Affidavit Filed September 14th, 1842…. Davis Clerke

STATE OF ILLINOIS,

HANCOCK COUNTY, Sct.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS To Margaret J. Nyman, Matilda Nyman, Sarah Miller,

You are hereby commanded to appear before me at my office in Nauvoo, forthwith then and there to testify the truth, in a matter in suit, wherein The State of Illinois is plaintiff and Chancy L. Higbee defendant and this you are not to omit under the penalty of the law. Given under my hand and seal, this 24th day of May, 1842.

1. Robinson J. P. [Seal]

The following is written in longhand on this page:

Names of Witnesses in case of State of Illinois vs. Chancy L. Higbee

Margaret J. Nyman
Matilda Nyman
Sarah Miller &
Alexander McRae

Issued

The following information is written on the back of the subpoena:

>Subpoena

State of Illinois
vs
Chancy L. Higbee

costs .25 [cents]

Served on the witnesses named May 24th 1842 Fees 50 [cents]

Lewis Robison Constable (Joseph Fought Polygamy, Chapter 13, Online here, Accessed March 20, 2015).

Notice that Smith’s subpoenaed witnesses include three of the women who testified against Higbee and also list as a witness one Alexander McRae. In 1839 Reed Peck wrote about the Danites, and mentions Alexander McRae, who was a member of that band:

I was appointed Adjutant of the [Danite] band in consequence I suppose of my holding that office in the 59th Reg Missouri Militia I did not think it policy to regect the appointment though I declared to my society friends that I would never act in [p. 42] the office — All the principles of the Society tended to give the presidency unlimited power over the property, persons and I might say with propriety lives of the memebrs of the church as physical force was to be resorted to if necessary to accomplish their designs The blood of my best best friend must flow by my own hands if I would be a faithful Danite should the prophet command it Said A[lexander] McRae in my hearing “If Joseph should tell me to kill Vanburen in his presidential chain I would im [p. 43] mediately start and do my best to assassinate him let the consequences be as they would–Having been taught to believe themselves invincible in the defence of their cause though the combined power of the world were in array against them, and the purposes of God were to be accomplished through their instrumentality, the wicked destroyed, by force of arms the “nations subdued,” and the Kingdom of Christ established on the Earth, they consider themselves accountable only at the bar of God for their conduct, and consequently [p. 44] acknowlegded no law superior to the “word of the Lord through the prophet” Do you suppose said a Zealous Danite at a time when the Sheriff of Daviess county held a State’s warrant against Joseph Smith that the prophet will condescend to be tried before a judge? I answered that Smith would in all probability submit Knowing that in case resistence was made the officers would call in the strength of other counties to enforce the law “What, said he, do we care for other counties or for the state or whole United States.” [p. 45] The independence of the church was to be supported it laws and the behests of the presidency enforced by means of this layal band of Danites, under command of Jared Carter, the terrible brother of Gideon became the additional title of “Captain Genl of the Lords hosts” His subalterns were Maj Genl Sampson Avard Brigd Genl C. P. [-] Coln Geo W. Robinson also a Lieut Coln Maj. Secretary of War an Adjutant, Captains of fifties & captains of tens and all these officers with the privates were to be under the administration of [p. 46] the presidency of the church and wholly subject to their control At a meeting for the organisation of the Danites Sampson Avard presented the society to the presidency who blessed them and accepted their Services as though they were soon to be enployed in executing some great design They also made speeches to the Society in which great military glory and conquest were represented as awaiting them, victories in which one should chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight, were portrayed in the most lively manner, the assistance of [p. 47] Angels promised and in fine every thing was said to inspire them with Zeal and courage and to make them believe that God was soon to “bring to pass his act, his strange act” or by them as instruments to perform a marvelous work on the Earth In the fore part of July the “brother of Gideon” or Jared Carter Capt Genl of the Danites having complained to Joseph Smith of some observations made by Sidney Rigdon in a Sermon, was tried for finding fault with one of the presidency and deprived of his station and Elias Higbee was appointed in his stead (Reed Peck Manuscript, 41-47)

Alexander McRae was not at the High Council Trial in May and it is unclear why Joseph would call him as a witness in the slander suit against Higbee.  But as is evident from this letter, these men were willing to do anything to support Joseph Smith:

Dear Brethren I am at your service and I wait your Council at Quincy and shall be happy to grant you the desires of your hearts; I am ready to act. Please to give me all the intelli gence that is in your power. If you take a change of venue please to let me know what county you will come to and when as near as possible and what road you will come, for I shall be an Adder in the path. Yes My Dear Brethren God Almighty will deliver you, fear not, for your redemption draweth near, the day of your deliverance is at hand. Dear Brethren I have it in my heart to lay my body in the sand or deliver you from your bonds, and my mind is intensely fixed on the latter. Dear Brethren, you will be able to judge of the Spirit that actuates  my breast, for when I realise your sufferings my heart is like wax before the fire, but  when I reflect upon the cause of your afflictions it is like fire in my bones, and burns  against your enemies to the bare hilt, and I never can be satisfied while there is one of them to piss against a wall, or draw a sword or spring a trigger, for my  sword never has been sheathed in peace; for the blood of D[avid] W. Patten and those who  were butchered at Hawn’s Mill crieth for vengeance from the ground therefore hear  it, Oh ye Heavens, and record it, Oh! ye recording angels, bear the tidings ye flaming  seraphs, that I from this day declare myself the avenger of the blood of those innocent  men, and of the innocent cause of Zion and of her prisoners, and I will not rest untill  they are as free who are in prison as I am.

Your families are all well and in good spirits. May the Lord bless you all, Amen. Brs A Lyman & W Barlow join in saying our hearts are as thy heart. Br Joseph if my Spirit is wrong, for God’s Sake Correct it.

Brethren be of good cheer, for we are determined as God liveth to rescue you from that hellish crowd or die in the attempt furrow. We shall come face foremost.

1.B. A Ripley
1.B.
(I have been once driven but not whipped) Br B[righam] Young sends his best compliments respects to you all. A.R.

J— S— Jr [Joseph Smith, Jr.]
H— S— [Hyrum Smith]
C— B [Caleb Baldwin]
A— McR [Alexander McRae]
L— W. [Lyman Wight]

What these men (many of which had close ties to Joseph Smith) were teaching was perhaps based upon doctrines that Smith incorporated into his teachings from others:

In the early 1830s, another group of “saints” also emerged from the New York social chaos. Disciples of revivalist preachers Erasmus Stone, Hiram Sheldon, and Jarvis Rider claimed they were perfect and could no longer sin. They became known as “Perfectionists.”  As part of their doctrine, they advocated “spiritual wifery,” a concept nearly identical to Mormon eternal marriage. John B. Ellis’s 1870 description of perfectionist theology assured that “all arrangements for a life in heaven may be made on earth; that spiritual friendships may be formed, and spiritual bonds contracted, valid for eternity.” Mormon missionary Orson Hyde, a former member of Rigdon’s “family,” visited a similar group he referred to as “Cochranites” in 1832 and worried about their “wonderful lustful spirit, because they believe in a ‘plurality of wives’ which they call spiritual wives, knowing them not after the flesh but after the spirit, but by the appearance they know one another after the flesh” (Hyde, 11 Oct. 1832; emphasis in original).

The frontier teemed with other practitioners of that “wonderful lustful spirit,” such as the notorious Robert Matthews, alias “Matthias the Prophet.” This self-styled “Prophet of the God of the Jews” announced that “all marriages not made by himself, and according to his doctrine, were of the devil, and that he had come to establish a community of property, and of wives” (“Memoirs” in Ivins 7: 15). Matthews practiced what he preached, contracting an unusual marriage with the wife of one of his followers in 1833. Convincing the couple that, as sinners, they were not properly united in wedlock, he claimed power to dissolve the marriage and prophesied that the woman was to “become the mother of a spiritual generation” while he Matthews, would father her first spiritual child. Charges of swindling and murder were brought against him in 1835 by a group of his followers. Though legally acquitted of murder, he served a brief sentence on a minor charge. Three months after his release from prison, he turned up on Joseph Smith’s doorstep in Kirtland using the alias “Joshua the Jewish Minister.” After two days of mutually discussing their religious beliefs, they disagreed on the “transmigration of souls,” and Joseph told him his “doctrine was of the Devil . . . and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart” (Jessee 1984, 74-79).

Linked as the Prophet was with such contemporary religionists as Matthias, Shaking Quakers, Harmonists, Perfectionists, Rapphites, and Cochranites, it is little wonder that many outsiders viewed him with a jaded perspective. Ironically, however, the real problems for Smith in Kirtland were caused by insiders. He had given a revelation 9 February 1831 which reaffirmed New Testament monogamy. “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shall cleave unto her and none else,” he said (D&C 42:22). In March 1831 he added, “It is lawful that [a man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh” (D&C 49: 16). Within the Prophet’s own congregation, rumors floated that he was violating these directives.

Benjamin Winchester, once a close friend of Smith’s and leader of Philadelphia Mormons in the early 1840s, recalled in 1889 the situation in Kirtland during the mid-1830s: “There was a good deal of scandal prevalent among a number of the Saints concerning Joseph’s licentious conduct, this more especially among the women. Joseph’s name was connected with scandalous relations with two or three families” (Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Sept. 1889). Benjamin F. Johnson, another of Smith’s confidants, added late in life that this was “one of the Causes of Apostacy & disruption at Kirtland altho at the time there was little Said publickly upon the subject” (Zimmerman 1976, 39). (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polyandry in Nauvoo, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.3, p.70).

Like Darwin Chase, Alexander McRae was also arrested with Joseph in Missouri and spent time with him in jail. Justus Morse was also a Danite and would later be called to serve a mission to help with Smith’s Presidential Campaign.

Joseph would ultimately drop his suit against Chauncey Higbee that he filed on May 24, 1842, afraid perhaps of what the blowback would be since there were many who were close to him (including his brother William) involved in these incidents.  Another reason that Joseph may have dropped his suit is that one of his witnesses, Sarah Miller later married a man (John Thorpe) who was already legally married. They were both excommunicated on January 1, 1843. (Bergera, op. cited, 79-80). As Bergera concludes in his “Illicit Intercourse” Essay:

Not all cases brought before the Nauvoo Stake high council during the years 1840 to Joseph and Hyrum Smiths’ deaths on 27 June 1844 involved accusations of sexual misconduct. In fact, during the peak year of the council’s tribunals, 1843, only slightly more than a third of all cases centered on such behavior. What is instructive is not the number of men and women called to account for their illicit actions, but the range of prolubited behaviors and the responses to them of the church’s leaders. For even at the fringe of American religious (and in some ways sexual) expression, Mormons confronted deviance in an assortment of manifestations and guises, some more easily .addressed than others. As a divinely sanctioned component of the church’s erotic economy, plural marriage not only impacted many Saints’ moral identities, but challenged their own leaders’ ability to superintend the sexual lives of a growing congregation. That some men and women followed unholy paths speaks not so much to their gullibility, rebellion, or lust, or even to others’ self-serving presumption to speak in the prophet’s behalf, as it does to Joseph Smith’s calculated decision to adopt a variety of sometimes questionable measures in promulgating and practicing his celestial doctrine of”priesthood privileges.” (ibid., 90).

Speaking of “priesthood privileges”, this seems to be the case for William Smith and why he was not brought to trial by Joseph Smith. According to these minutes recorded in 1845 of a trial attended by many including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and George Adams, who was ordained a “special apostle” by Joseph Smith, was a member of the City Council, and was one of the original members of the Council of Fifty:

Present, Samuel Bent, Charles C. Rich, Albert P. Rockwood, David Fulmer, Thomas Grover, Newel Knight, Phineas Richards, W[illia]m Huntington, Aaron Johnson, George W. Harris, Alpheus Cutler, James Allred and W[illia]m Snow. Also President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, George A. Smith & John E. Page of the Quorum of the Twelve. N[ewel] K. Whitney and George Miller Presiding Bishops, and W[illia]m Clayton and Daniel Carn. Pres[iden]t Bent called upon W[illia]m Clayton to act as clerk pro tem, inasmuch as the regular clerk was sick. Council opened by prayer from Elder O[rson] Pratt.

Pres[iden]t B[righam] Young then said we want to take into consideration the case of Brother George J. Adams who is now present. I have objections to brother Adams’ conduct, and to the course he has taken and shall tell them here. First when brother Adams came home last last fall, I asked him if he had any money for the Temple; he said no, he handed every thing to W[illia]m Smith. Since then W[illia]m Smith has wrote and said he sent some money and some cloth by brother Adams for the Temple; we have not got it. I have also been told that brother Adams has frequently read some kind of a note before the people, which represents him as having some great authority over everybody else, and also that he was appointed Joseph [Smith]’s Spokesman.

I have been told that brother Adams says the Church owes him something from six hundred to one thousand dollars in money. Now I want to know if brother Adams can explain these things, and whether he is satisfied to have the matter investigated before this council. Brother Adams then went on to explain to the Council, relative to the above charges. He denied having said that he was /appointed/ Joseph’s spokesman. He explained about the Temple money, and said he was willing to meet any committee. this council might appoint, and settle the [50] whole account with them. He also explained how the church owed him money.

Pres[iden]t Young then prefered some other charges relative to his conduct in the East, to which, after many remarks on both sides, Adams plead guilty and begged for mercy.

Many remarks were then made by sundry individuals, substantiating the charges, prefered by Pres[iden]t Young, each one expressing a strong desire for brother Adams’ salvation. After spending much time in investigation, the Pres[iden]t S[amuel] Bent, arose to give his mind on the case, but a motion being made that Pres[iden]t Young give the decision, Pres[iden]t Bent gave way.

Pres[iden]t Young then arose and said he wanted Brother Adams to sit down and write that he had done wrong, that he asks forgiveness, and is willing henceforth to listen to council, and do right without incriminating any one else; also that the proper authorities of this Church are here, and that he is with the Twelve and will be with them to bear off this Kingdom. I want brother Adams to write this freely and confess his iniquities; a mans confession will never do him hurt unless he turns round and does wrong again.

Meeting adjourned, to meet in the Seventie’s Hall on Saturday next at one o’clock P.M.

… H[eber] C. K[imball] Said pertaining to many things mentioned he is knowing to himself. He was present when br[other] [Brigham] Young gave him [i.e., George J. Adams] council in Boston. His advice was that he should leave Boston, and he promised he would. But they held conferences then & there was a [illegible] differently–& there would have been no d[ifficulty] if he had come home. A[dams] says he has always been subject to council but if he had listened to c[ouncil] at that time it would have saved him a great deal of trouble & us & the church. Lowel [Massachusetts] and a great many other places are lower than they ever were–He has [been] acquainted from br[other] A[dam’s] course with others. He says he has always sustained the twelve. I don’t know but he has, but has the course they have taken sustain[ed] us. no. there is no safety for the twelve only in Nauvoo because of the course they have taken. If they would not destroy the works of any other men but their own I would not care.

B[righam] Young said to bro[ther] A[dams] he wanted to save him. I asked when you came home if there had been any women sealed to W[illiam] S[mith]. you denied it. And I can prove that that there has scores been sealed to both you & him or you have gone to bed with them–I know you have done it by revelation. You have lied to us to day and I will not bear it. and I want you to confess it today or if you dont we will have to prove it before the world and cut you off. I am all the time receiving letters from the East giving account of your prostituting young women and ruining the churches. A[dams].

In regard to women–himself & W[illia]m [Smith]–what W[illiam] had done he made him promise not to tell. He is glad to have them talk all thats in them for he wants to be saved. He wants you to be as merciful as you can. In regard to what bro[ther] [Heber C.] K[imball] [said] I staid behind because W[illia]m said so. He said he would make it all right, and I know I have done wrong. I have not got nite bed to women. In regard to the financial concerns he is willing to turn over every thing he has got on the earth till they are satisfied. He knows he has done wrong. but he dont want to be guilty of betraying any one but he wants them to look at his situation & the council he had. [51]

B[righam] Young said who wants to follow W[illia]m Smith. There is but one principle that can save William. He has a brother who is a prophet in the church. W[illia]m has not power to down the Twelve. There was something between you and W[illia]m made him want us to ordain you. he wanted to make a tool [fool?] of you. You have been gathering money for him and you ought to have known better. Has he got the Keys of this Kingdom–no nor is he the Pres[ident] of this Kingdom. if he was, farewel to our salvation. There is no man knows Joseph Smith better than I do. I have sacrificied every thing for the knowledge of God. Now be with us and operate with us and you will be saved & if you dont you will go down to hell.

A[dams] says whatever he has done wrong he is willing to do right. He did know much about W[illia]m S[mith’s] past conduct. He could tell a good many things about W[illia]m which have revol[t]ed his feelings. Since what you said to me I have never written a word to W[illia]m S[mith] nor never intend to. He wants to be saved by those who have the power & authority to do it. I would have been there when I was told to but he told me in the name of the Lord to stay. Had many contentions about being any right to do such things.

B[righam] Y[oung] we dont want you to say a word against W[illia]m because is bound to be saved. Joseph [Smith] got a promise of it.

G[eorge] W. Harris has some feelings for br[other] A[dams] and hopes it will never be dissolved. He believes & can satisfy this council about his course in the East by his making a full statement of all to this c[ouncil]–Let every thing come out here and you will be saved.

A[dams] asked for council–If he has been taken by one of the twelve and told not to say any thing–shall he do it–B[righam] Young said he did not want him to say any thing about W[illia]m. I dont want W[illia]m exposed but you ought to have come here and denied it to me. I want you should from this time take our council and be still. He then went on to relate about a delaying when he was sent by the church after the twelve preaching on the way.

P[hineas] Richards thought bro[ther] A[dams] could say whether he was guilty of what brother Young has said without criminating W[illia]m. He dont seem willing to come to the point but plays words.

T[homas] Grover saw a letter from Boston a while ago giving a relation of the way brother [Wilford] Woodruff had to raise means to go across the water. This letter stated that there had been so much money collected and the churches be[e]n so teazed that had not bro[ther] [Jedediah M.] Grant borrowed $50 it would [have] been hardly possible for W[illiam] to go away. There is a pamphlet in this place of a trial in Boston, br[other] A[dam’]s name is frequently called there & I would rather meet all Rigdonism than that pamphlet. Father Nickerson is in Boston & I believe will tell the truth. He never has said a word to any one about what was said in letters from Boston.

J[ohn] Taylor–said he had seen letters from individuals which could be depended on and he believes E[lde]r Youngs statements are correct. His heart has been grieved. Young women ruined & families broken up. It is no excuse for a man to say any one told him. We know what is right or we are not fit to go from home without a guardian. and for this church to be ruined by two or three individuals it is to[o] bad. If any others, the twelve go abroad, we dont have any trouble of them. This impression has been for a long while back that he has done more injury to this church than ten men could do good. He wants E[lde]r Adams to get up and confess his sins like a man. He has said he was willing this council should do with him as seemeth them good but he seems to want to keep behind the screen. [52]

A[dams] said he did not deny what he was accused with. he knows he has done wrong. He dont deny what pres[ident] Young has said. He is willing to go home for years & [illegible] at his business, but he wants to be saved.

G[eorge] W. Harris said the council cant judge the case unless he will tell the whole circumstances. He would advise him to state all that transpired from the time he started on his mission pertaining to himself.

A[lpheus] Cutler has had great feelings for bro[ther] A[dams] and has now. He thinks A[dams] is not aware of the number of charges which can be substantiated against him. I want he should be saved and let him come right out & tell the whole story.

W[illard] Richards bore testimony that what pres[ident] Young has said in relation to brother A[dams] or Josephs feelings is true. The brethren dont want to hear any thing about W[illia]m Smith but they want you to tell what you have done yourself.

S[amuel] Bent said that was his feelings.

A[dams] said he cant relate the things which took place without relating the whole circumstances. If he is to unfold any thing he wants to unfole the whole. In St Louis–Cincinatti he walked as pure as an Angel. never said a word to a woman. Pittsburgh–Philladelphia & New York same. but in Lowel it was not so. He has done wrong and is willing to be scourged

P[hineas] Richards made some remarks about A[dam]’s preaching, discussions, pamphlets &c but he has said an empty vessel sounds the loudest. He seems to be opposed to coming to the point we wish him. The spirit testifies to me that all is not right.

C[harles] C. Rich said there seems to [be] something in the dark with him. He desires to save br[other] A[dams] & would do all he could to [illegible]. If he has been correctly informed A[dams] has taken liberties with females for which he had been cut off from the Church. Pres[ident] Y[oung] has receivd information that he has done the same again. He has not told how it has been done and this is something he wants him to come at. If A[dams] has done it a second time he is not so easily excused as if he had only done it once. If a man has transcended his bounds once and been forgiven and then does it again where will it end.

A[lpheus] Cutler explained further as to what he said previously. He can prove that A[dam]’s conduct has been such as to through [throw] the blaime on the twelve and carry the idea that they supported him it it & he wants the twelve cleared.

A[dams] said he was willing to write as strong a document as they can wish. He has in three instances been sealed by an apostle to females & cohabited with two of them but this is all. B[righam] Y[oung] wants bro[ther] A[dams] to explain how the church owes him $600. He has acknowledged that he told bro[ther] Heber [C. Kimball] & I a falshood. He will say what he pleases about W[illia]m but he dont want any one else to say anything against him. There is no trouble to sustain the twelve, a feather will to it, because he never did any thing wrong. He will defy this church to find a case that there is not a law to save a man except the sin against the H[oly] G[host]. He wants A[dams] to bring the names of those who donated money & the money. and if I has had $600 of him I want him to have his right. He want on to show how some had gone before and after them getting money by hundreds of dollars when he could not get money to bear their expenses. A[dams] has stated that he lost $200 coming but he dont belive it. He told us in the fall it was $150 now it is $200. He then went on to explain some things about what is called the Spiritual wife doctrine. [53]

H[eber] C. K[imball] went to show that E[lde]r Adams had done more hurt than good, more hurt than the Twelve can do good in one year. The characters of the Twelve will sustain them. He dont want any writing from G[eorge]. A[dams]. to sustain them. When A[dams] has had council it has not had depth enough in him. We are willing to cover all things up if he will go and do right and stop his boasting. He gave some very good advice to brother A[dams].

O[rson] Pratt said some things in confirmation of the charges preferred by Br[other] Young. Adams said in regard to what he had said against one of the Twelve he takes it all back. He spoke inadvisedly.

W[illard] Richards called a question in regard to the documents from J[oseph] Smith. He replied he had six or seven documents from under J[oseph]’s hands pertaining to the

Russia Mission. Some remarks were here made concerning being Josephs spokesman.

N[ewel] K. Whitney related the circumstances of an interview with A[dams] a few days ago– He said to me that he possessed powers & authority which no other man had & which had never come to light. & he wants A[dams] to explain what those authorities are.

A[dams] explained.

B[righam] Young explained some things concerning what bro[ther] Parley did in the East a year ago last spring.

S[amuel] Bent said if bro[ther] A[dams] offer his confession & expression was willing to continue the hand of fellowship.

H[eber] C. K[imball] moved that it be left to Pres[ident] Y[oung] to give the decision

B[righam] Y[oung]. wanted bro[ther] A[dams]. to sit down and write. I am here. I have done wrong. I ask forgiveness and am willing to do right without criminating any one else and that the proper authority is here. and that he is with the twelve and will be with them to bear off this Kingdom A mans confession never will do him hurt unless he afterwards turns around and does wrong again.

The question was put & carried.

B[righam] Y[oung] then asked if all were willing to keep all that has been said here to themselves–their wives not excepted–unanimous.

J[ohn] E Page explained the reason why he was not here in season. and said he wanted to be present in all councils but he had not been notified.

B[righam] Y[oung] explained. He then stated that they had had a council today concerning turning the labors on the dam to the Temple and Nauvoo House. The damn will bring difficulty. Will it not be better to drop it & put all forces on the gardens and the Temple &c.

G[eorge] A. Smith moved that the council recommend this course.

J[ohn] Taylor said he had heard that some had fears the people would be dissatisifed but he did not think they would.

B[righam] Young proposed that they call the men together and let what they had done remain & lay it over till we can get a charter from the U[nited]. S[tates].

The vote was put & passed.

B[righam] Young recommended J[ohn] Taylor & J[ohn] E. Page to call a meeting of the stockholders and lay the thing before them & take an expression from them. [54]

Adjourned till next Saturday at 1.

[Source: Minutes, as quoted in Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-1951, Privately Published, Salt Lake City, Utah 2010]

John S. Dinger writes about the above minutes:

Nearly everyone spoke: all seven apostles in attendance, six high councilmen, and one of the presiding bishopric. Brigham Young said he knew through personal revelation that Adams and William Smith had both married “scores” of women back east, adding that he was also “all the time receiving letters from the East giving account of your prostituting young women and ruining the churches.” Adams said he had “promise[d] not to tell” about their misadventures, to which Young said he was “willing to cover all things up if [William] will go and do right and stop his boasting.” Young “asked if all [in attendance] were willing to keep all that has been said here to themselves — their wives not excepted — unanimous.” (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 14806-14816). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

Dinger also writes that:

Pres[iden]t Young then arose and said he wanted Brother Adams to sit down and write that he had done wrong, that he asks forgiveness, and is willing henceforth to listen to council, and do right without incriminating any one else; also that the proper authorities of this Church are here, and that he is with the Twelve and will be with them to bear off this Kingdom. I want brother Adams to write this freely and confess his iniquities; a mans confession will never do him hurt unless he turns round and does wrong again. Meeting adjourned, to meet in the Seventie’s Hall on Saturday next at one o’clock P.M. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 14569-14574). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

 William Clayton wrote this summary of the trial in his diary:

Saturday 15th [April, 1845]. … P.M. at the High Council taking minutes. G. J. Adams had his trial. Presidents Young and H.C. Kimball were witnesses against him. Many hard things were proven against him which he confessed and begged for mercy It was decided that he write a confession of his wickedness, and agree to be one with the Twelve and do right here after, which he agreed to. The property in his hands belonging to the Temple he promised to bring and have a settlement. It was a good and interesting season and will do Adams much good. good” (George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991], 160).

In summary, the testimony of the women before the High Council in May of 1842 reveals that in addition to John C. Bennett and Chauncey Higbee, there were others involved with asking these women for sexual favors.

  • One of those involved was the brother of the “prophet” (William Smith), who Brigham Young later claimed was “bound to be saved” because he was the brother of Joseph and therefore free from recrimination by the “authorities” of the Church.
  • If Joseph did not specifically sanction William’s actions, he still allowed them, (along with George Adams who he made a “special Apostle”) and these two men operated (by “revelation” according to Brigham Young) without fear of being disciplined during the life of Joseph Smith.
  • Among those who were involved with these women, some were Joseph’s bodyguards, spent time with him in jail, and were members of the Danite order and could easily have been familiar with the teachings and actions of Joseph Smith.
  • Joseph Smith seemed more concerned with keeping his teachings secret than publicly exposing some of these men, at least for two years.
  • Smith initially defended and forgave John C. Bennett until he was again betrayed by Bennett.
  • There is evidence that Joseph did not always perform a “marriage ceremony” with some of the women he was involved with sexually and this might have been known to some who emulated that behavior.
  • Joseph Smith initially filed a slander suit against Chauncey Higbee but did not pursue it.
  • Brigham Young was willing to cover up William Smith’s behavior because of promises Joseph Smith made about him. They also gave George Adams a free pass on his transgressions.

In these minutes from a few months later, they discuss William Smith and Samuel Brannan:

[p. 1:] Nauvoo May 24 1845 at 6 oclock A.M. The Twelve, in presence of a great multitude. laid the southeast corner capstone of the Temple.

At 10- Bro[ther] Wm Smith buri[e]d his wife. [Caroline Amanda Grant] preaching at the stand by Elder Orson Pratt.

3. P.M. The Twelve. to wit Brigham Young Orson Hyde. Orson Pratt. Wm Smith, Amasa Lyman. John Taylor John E. page. Geo A. Smith & Willard Richards. assembl[e]d at John Taylor[‘]s. in co[mpany] with Samuel S. Brannon. & [blank space] assembled in council [added between the lines:] Prest Young Said Philo Dibble wanted 4 oxen from the old font to exhibit with his paintings. W. Richards moved that the oxen be left to the disposal of the present [president]. – 2 by 2 or three. [end of two line addition]

Bro. Wallace.[:] said. his sister came to his house in New Bedford, told him Bro Brannan had waited on her some. one Sunday she staid at home. Bro Brannan staid at home. on the edge of the. Brannan accomplished his desire, & went into the kitchen. Messeur came in & after reported. she was dis[s]atisfied.

Wm Smith sealed them up. it worried her to think she must be Brannans, Bro [Parley P.] Pratt told her the sealing was not according to the Law of God. went into consumption & died.- Wallace wrote Br Pratt, about Brannan.- that unless he repented he could not be crowned in the celestial kingdom. She said her sickness was occasioned by what had passed.=

Wm Smith,[:] acquainted with Sis Wallace at Lowel[l], of poor health, Brannan asked Smith if he had any objection to mar[r]y them.- She manifested strong attachment for Brannan. I married. them did not consider he had was under any obligation to any one else. Married them by all the authority he possess[e]d for time & Eternity, and had a right &c to do as an apostle of J christ. 

Father Nickerson preached that if any one should get hold of his skirts or any else, on the spiritual wife system. they would go to hell. & she believed it.- Sis Wallace wrote Brannan upbraiding him with the humbug & charging me with assisting Brannan.

Prest Young.[:] said since Sis Wallace had gone home. we could throw the mantle over the whole. & shut[t]er the subject.

[p. 2:] Wm. Smith said[:] he felt interested[?] in the Subject & wished the council if they chose to say whether he had a right so to do.- whether he a right to mar[r]y Brannan. & do what he had done. or whether was to be rode on a rail, & put down, or not. – – – – – – – quite a time for him.

Prest Young.- [:] said he was satisfied with what Wm Smith did in the case of Brannan in mar[r]ying him to Sis Wallace. did not couple any other of Wms acts,- in this decision.- Wm Supposed that P. P. Pratt supposed that Brannan was married to two, at once.

Brannan,[:] walked with Sis Wallace in public &c she had discovered that the time would come when men would have more wives than one.= made arrangements to take her to N. York in the spring.- told her I should be master.- would correspond with her. but did not write for fear some one would get the Letter. Father Nickerson went to Lowell, & disaffected the minds of the sisters.

Wallace[:] was in N. York when Brannan received his sister[‘]s letter. but did not talk with him about it as freely as with other women.

many spoke-

Elder Hyde proposed exchange of farms= Clerk Read Letters from Robert H. Morris of N. York & Van Ness to Gov. Ford. for S. Brannan,

[p. 3:]Nauvoo May 24 1845

To whom it may concern,

In a Council of the Twelve this day assembled in this city, Elder Samuel Brannan of New York being present, his case receiv[e]d a re-hearing both from written & oral testimony and upon a full investigation of the whole matter, the council restored elder Brannan to the fellowship of the church, in good standing, and call on the saints to sustain elder Brannan in his office. & his publishing depa[r]tment, & bless him with their faith & prayers

Brigham Young Prst

Willard Richards, clerk of the Quorum.

The President [illegible] Wm Smith [illegible] & told him what he wanted.

[bottom of page:] to which Wm [illegible].- as agreed [p. 4:]

Sister Young came in & brought a bottle of wine from Sister Clark The president gave a toast.- and all responded.-

Wm Smith asked the views of the council about his patriarchal office.- Prest Young said it was his right.-

Wm Smith received his patriarchal blessing by Prest Young.-

[sheet when turned sideways:]

Minutes of a Council of the Twelve. = May 24./45. on Samuel Brannan

[on bottom of sheet:]

Lewis Robbins as present in this council –

All concerning William Smith and George Adams was (for a time) ignored. William Smith was ordained the Patriarch to the Church. But this would not last, and both Smith and Adams would soon find themselves at odds with the Twelve once again, and both would ultimately sever their connections with them for good.

For more on this, see the excellent Essay by Gary James Bergera, “Buckeye’s Laments: Two Early Insider Exposes of Mormon Polygamy and their Authorship,” found in Dimensions of Faith, ed. by Gary James Bergera, Signature Books Library, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015.

This was though, a bone of contention with Ezra Booth, who wrote to Edward Partridge in 1831:

“Now, permit me to inquire, have you not frequently observed in Joseph, a want of that sobriety, prudence and stability, which are some of the most prominent traits in the Christian character? Have you not often discovered in him, a spirit of lightness and levity, a temper easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking?

“Have you not often proven to your satisfaction that he says he knows things to be so by the spirit, when they are not so? You most certainly have. Have you not reason to believe, or at least to suspect, that the revelations which come from him, are something short of infallible, and instead of being the production of divine wisdom, emanate from his own weak mind? Some suppose his weakness, nay, his wickedness, can form no reasonable objection to his revelations; and ‘were he to get another man’s wife, and seek to kill her husband, it could be no reason why we should not believe revelations through him, for David did the same.’ So Sidney asserted, and many others concurred with him in sentiment.(Letter of Ezra Booth to Edward Partridge, September 20, 1831, emphasis mine.)

Booth also wrote:

“In this office [as prophet] he is to stand, until another is appointed in his place, and no other person can be appointed in his stead, unless he falls through transgression; and in such a case, he himself is authorized to appoint his successor. But how is he to be detected, should he become guilty of transgression. The commandment makes provision for this. His guilt will become manifest by his inability to utter any more revelations, and should he presume ‘to get another man’s wife,’ and 

commit adultery; and ‘by the shedding of blood, seek to kill her husband,’ if he retains the use of his tongue, so as to be able to utter his jargon, he can continue as long as he pleases in the bed of adultery, and wrap himself with garments stained with blood, shed by his own hands, and still retain the spotless innocence of the holiest among mortals; and must be continued in the office of revelator, and head of the Church.” (ibid, emphasis mine.)

Levi Lewis, a cousin of Emma Smith, related in 1834 that both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon claimed that “adultery was no crime” (Source: Affidavit of Levi Lewis, 20 March 1834, Susquehanna Register and Northern Pennsylvanian, 1 May 1834).

According to Joseph Smith, just like Noah got drunk and it “did no harm,” some committing adultery could be excused because “David did the same.”

Is this really “breaking down superstition” or is it simply an excuse to justify what is clearly sin, according to Joseph Smith’s own “revelations”? (See D&C 132:42) It is of interest to note that the word justify or justified occurs five times in this revelation.

With rumors swirling around him about “spiritual wives,” Joseph Smith told the Relief Society in April of 1842:

“The devil has great power to deceive; he will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God.” (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith and annotated by Richard C. Galbraith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, p. 256)

Was it really the devil, or just Joseph Smith trying to justify sinful behavior? Why then, if it was not sin, did Joseph practice what he called “plural marriage” in secret, and not go through the proper channels supposedly set up by God for the Church:

“For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.” (D&C 26:2, emphasis mine)

Why then, did Joseph Smith feel the need to lie about practicing polygamy when asked directly about it? Why did he not reveal this doctrine to the church before he began to practice it in secret? And why, before it was revealed by the Church that they did indeed practice polygamy, did they issue this denial in theMillennial Star, and use the binding scripture of the Doctrine and Covenants to back up the denial:

“12th Lie—Joseph Smith taught a system of polygamy.
“12th Refutation.—The Revelations given through Joseph Smith, state the following:— ‘If any commit adultery, they shall be dealt with according to the law of God.’ [Doctrine & Covenants] Page 127.— ‘He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her; or, if any commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit.’ Page 150.— ‘Thou shalt love thy wife, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.’ Page 124.— ‘We believe that one man should have one wife.’ page 331.” (“Who is the Liar?”, The Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star, Vol. 12, No. 2, January 15, 1850, pp. 29-30.)

Notice that polygamy here, is associated with adultery.

[106] Augusta Adams Cobb became the 2nd polygamous wife of Brigham Young. In 1862 Augusta Cobb wrote to Brigham Young claiming that he had warned her away from being alone with Joseph Smith, because she would have been sexually “overcome” by him:

If you had allowed me to have gone up to Nauvoo free and untrameled In my Spiret I should have seen Br Joseph the first thing. But instead of that you exacted a promise of me that I would not see him alone Saying he would certainly over come me I replied if he did he would be the first man. You then Said I had never had to deal with a Prophet of the Lord[.] Now suppose he had over come me And I should by that means have raised up a Son or a King if you please[?] Who would have been the wiser?––––– Not Mrs [Catherine] Lewes Most certainly [who testified about Cobb & Young’s adultery] And I should have been Sealed to him And all would have been right.” (Augusta Adams Cobb to Brigham Young, February 4, 1862, Courtesy of Connell O’Donovan, emphasis mine).

Here Cobb states that being “overcome” by Smith would have produced a child that she claims may have been “a Son or a King”, then she would have been sealed to him and it would have “been right”. She then remonstrates about Catherine Lewis, and then reminds Young that,

…who was it that <came> to Lynn [Massachusetts] and stoped at Mrs Lewes’s and sent for me what transpired after I arived there? You very well know, Altho you may have forgotten, but I have not God for bid that I ever should, After Mrs Lewis Apostatized she went before the Court and gave Oath to all she knew Mr C[obb] got a bill of divorce for adultry by that news, and my name now stands recorded in Boston Court state House as an Adultress (ibid, This part of the letter is Online here,  Accessed September 25, 2015).

Cobb was dissatisfied with Young, and here claims that she committed adultery with Young while he was in Lynn. According to Young’s diary he was there in August and September of 1843 and took Cobb back with him to Nauvoo along with Sister Sarah Alley, who became the spiritual wife of Joseph B. Nobel.

the next day had a pleasant visit held our conference in New York tund [sic] some [same?] day came to Boston had a good visit at Lima [Lynn] hed our conference according to apointment [September 9] staid till September 29 (Brigham Young Diary, August 31, 1843)

staid [in Boston] till September 29 then started home with sister Alley & Cobb came to New York staid one day came to Pheledelpha (Brigham Young Diary, September 29, 1843)

I posted what Amanda Cobb wrote to Brigham Young on Mormon Discussions in January of this year. Brian Hales made only one comment on the thread and he said,

Now regarding her February 4, 1862 letter to Brigham Young. She expresses disappointment that she couldn’t have been one of Joseph’s wives. While we don’t know exactly what Brigham told her, it seems likely that he was afraid she might choose the Prophet over him and requested that she not be alone or, according to Augusta, he would “certainly over come me” and that by being so “over come,” she might “have raised up a Son or a King.” That is, in this context being overcome would result in pregnancy. Critics sometimes affirm that being “overcome” is adultery and so this reference is promoted as evidence Joseph Smith was an adulterer. Frankly, I’m grateful to “grindael” for not omitting the last sentence, which sometimes is done. It declares plainly that Augusta would have married Joseph Smith: “I should have been Sealed to him and all would have been right.” She wishes in 1848 she would have been Joseph Smith’s plural wife, rather than Brigham’s. An alternate interpretation that Augusta longed for an adulterous relationship with the Prophet, but based upon her piety, this seems less plausible.

But what about Brigham’s reported warning that she might be “over come” by a “prophet of God”? Well we know of other women who rejected Joseph Smith’s personal proposals. Unsurprisingly, the women were not “over come” by him or his offer.

Hales had a penchant for misinterpreting what he reads. The evidence really speaks for itself. Cobb claims that Brigham Young made her promise that she would not see Smith alone. Why? Because Young claims she would be “overcome” by him. Cobb claims that if he did, he would be “the first man” to do so. So what does that mean? We all know. In her early letters she is quite infatuated with Brigham Young. What happened between the two of them? Young then told her she never had to deal with a prophet of the Lord.

Cobb gives the impression that Young was speaking from experience, that this kind of behavior was not surprising from Joseph Smith. If Young were not worried about Amanda being “overcome”, then why warn her not to be alone with Smith? It is these very words that are striking about this incident, not Hales conjecture that others weren’t “overcome” so why would Amanda Cobb? The fact is, the behavior of Joseph Smith around women caused Brigham Young to be concerned enough to warn Amanda Cobb. The fact that Young then claims that “she never had to deal with a prophet of the Lord” tells us that Young wasn’t concerned with this being immoral on the part of Joseph Smith.

So what is meant here? Cobb answers, by saying – suppose he “overcame me” and I should BY THAT MEANS have raised up a Son or King…. Who would have been the wiser? The wiser about what? Being sealed? That is not what she meant. She then mentions Catherine Lewis who testified about her adulterous relationship with Brigham Young. So this is clearly Cobb claiming that no one would have “been the wiser” if she did the same with Joseph Smith. She then claims: “And I should have been sealed to him and all would have been right.” Clearly indicating that the sealing would ratify the behavior.

Hales also speaks of Cobb’s “piety”. What “piety” is he talking about? Her adulterous relationship with Brigham Young? George J. Adams testified at her trial:

“In the fall of 1844 after her return from Nauvoo to Boston, Mrs. Cobb said she loved Brigham Young better than she did Mr. Cobb, and, live or die, she was going to live with him at all hazards. This was in the course of a conversation in which she used extravagant language in favor of Mr. Young and against Mr. Cobb. Mrs. Cobb went out again to Nauvoo, the second time, and lived with Mr. Young, and their living together and their conduct, was the subject of conversation in the society and out of the society. The subject of conversation, to which I have alluded, was that persons had a right to live together in unlawful intercourse, and Mrs. Cobb avowed her belief in this doctrine, and said it was right.

She also said (he claimed), “I never will forsake brother Young, come life or come death. She said that the doctrine taught by Brigham Young was a glorious doctrine; for if she did not love her husband, it gave her a man she did love” . Catherine Lewis also testified that these things were true. Smith’s 1842 Address clearly shows that Brigham Young violated the direct commandment of the First Presidency of the Church and that Joseph Smith was complicit in it, since he “married” them. Cobb was not a wicked man, far from it, and even if he was, the First Presidency Message clearly states to leave it in the hands of the law. Brigham Young and Augusta Cobb did not do so. Young broke up that marriage and family, and committed adultery with Amanda Cobb. Hales also writes,

Unsurprisingly, the women were not “over come” by him  [Joseph Smith] or his offer. For example, Sarah Granger Kimball recalled:

Quote:

Early in 1842, Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel (progress) no further without the introduction of this principle. I asked him to teach it to some one else. He looked at me reprovingly and said, “Will you tell me who to teach it to? God required me to teach it to you, and leave you with the responsibility of believing or disbelieving.” He said, “I will not cease to pray for you, and if you will seek unto God in prayer, you will not be led into temptation.”

Yes and Hiram Kimball her husband didn’t like it much. Smith wrote this “revelation” to him,

19 May 1842

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, by the voice of my Spirit, Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil, and forming evil opinions against you, with others; and if he continue in them, he and they shall be accursed, for I am the Lord thy God, and will stand by thee and bless thee. Amen. (History of the Church 5:12).

Brian Hales then writes,

After this described snub, Sarah Kimball sent Joseph Smith on his way. His response was to encourage her and to pray for her.

So? Did she come out publicly against Smith? No. She kept his secret so he had no reason to retaliate against her as he did with others. Of course, Hiram Kimball later joined the Church, but he still didn’t like what Joseph proposed to his wife at the time. By June of 1842 he was appointed assistant adjutant general in the Nauvoo Legion and became a City Alderman.

There is nothing remarkable about this. How would it be to be reproved by the most powerful man in Nauvoo when your wife was a firm believer in that man? Joseph talked many into believing in him and his doctrines. All of this still does not change that fact that Brigham Young was so concerned about one of his “wives” being alone with Joseph Smith that he counseled her not to be alone with him. Amanda affirms that she could have borne a child by Smith and that later he could have “sealed” them, and all would have been right.

Why wasn’t Mary Heron sealed to Joseph Smith? Perhaps because they had no children from the encounter?

[107] Quinn, “Sexual Side”, 66, note 183.

[108] Vogel/Hales #1 FaceBook Exchanges, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015

[109] Brian Hales, “Mormon Polygamy Documents, A Research Database,” Document js0326, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015. Heber C. Kimball himself casts doubt on the concept of non-sexual sealings, as his first choice to marry after being commanded by Smith was to choose older women that would not involve sexuality. As Helen Mar Kimball later wrote,

“When first hearing the principle taught, believing that he would be called upon to enter into it, he had thought of two elderly ladies named Pitkin, great friends of my mother’s who, he believed, would cause her little, if any, unhappiness. But the woman he was commanded to take was an English lady named Sarah Noon, nearer my mother’s age, who came over with the company of Saints in the same ship in which father and Brother Brigham returned from Europe. She had been married and was the mother of two little girls, but left her husband on account of his drunken and dissolute habits. Father was told to take her as his wife and provide for her and her children, and he did so. (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 336-337, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015. Whitney writes in a footnote that Smith told Heber C. Kimball that if he did not do as he was told by Joseph he would “lose his Apostleship and be damned”.)

Smith rejected this idea (of non-sexual eternity only sealings) and told Heber C. Kimball to take a younger wife he could have sex with. Heber C. Kimball’s marriage to Sarah Peake Noon was not a “non-sexual sealing”, he had three children with her. Why then, would Smith not be satisfied with Heber C. Kimball’s first two choices, if non sexual, eternity only sealings were just as important (if not more so according to Hales) as time and eternity sealings?

[110] Todd Compton, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 30-31

[111] Vogel/Hales #1 FaceBook Exchanges, op. cited above. Hales imaginary scenario:

IMAGINE an allegation that Sidney Rigdon performed human sacrifices on the Nauvoo Temple site at midnight during every full moon in 1843.  (This is pure fiction.)  Also suppose that someone emerges to defend this pretended report by observing that Rigdon lived in Nauvoo in 1843 when the moon was full at midnight.  In support, he might also observe that Joseph Smith taught of the eventual restoration of the law of sacrifice (D&C 13:1, 84:31, 128:24).  In addition, the proponent could recruit tales from John C. Bennett about burnt offering in Nauvoo. He might also repeat folklore regarding humans being sacrifice in Illinois, without clearly noting in their narrative that their ideas are not documentable.  Several scriptures might be referenced to support the need for such sacrifices (Jeremiah 19:5, Abraham 1:7-11, 15, Mormon 4:14, Moroni 9:10).  Whether convincing or not or even if the supportive evidence is weak or nonexistent, it still remains impossible to prove that human sacrifices did not happen in Nauvoo in 1843. (Caps in original)

[112] Todd Compton, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 24-25

[113] Sarah Pratt, in Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 1886,  62-63

[114] William Law, Salt Lake Tribune, January 20, 1887

[115] George D. Smith, Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841-46: A Preliminary Demographic Report, Dialogue, Vol.27, No.1, 27

[116] D. Michael Quinn, 150 Years of Truth and Consequences About Mormon History, Sunstone16:1/13 (Feb 92).

[117] Speech of Elder Orson Hyde, Delivered Before the High Priest’s Quorum in Nauvoo, April 27th, 1845, upon the course and conduct of Mr. Sidney Rigdon, and upon the Merits of his claims to the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Nauvoo, Illinois, Printed by John Taylor, 1845, 26-27, Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014.

[118] “LDS Biographical Encyclopedia” By Elder Andrew Jenson, 6:232, 1887

[119] Elder Joseph Kingsbury, “History of Joseph Kingsbury Written by His Own Hand,” page 5, Utah State Historical Society

[120] Diary of Emily Dow Partridge Young,  June 29th, 1881, Church History Library, Md d 2845, 63

[121] ibid, August 1, 1881, emphasis in original

The Sky Is Falling (Part II)

The Sky is Falling (Part II)

Kevin Christensen & Jeremy Runnells (Part II)

CONTENTS

Introduction
Part II: The “Perfect” Strawman
Part III: Lowered Expectations

 Introduction

Kevin Christensen (FAIRMORMON Apologist) has written a long rambling folksy sounding diatribe about how Jeff Lindsay’s “investigative approach” is far superior to that of my friend Jeremy Runnells, because Lindsay did not come to a negative conclusion about Mormonism. He compares the two men to two “seeds” who have produced different “harvests”. Of course he implies that Lindsay is the good seed, and Jeremy is the bad.

Part II: The “Perfect” Strawman

In this part I will focus on two more sections of Christensen’s article. The first he names,

Starting Position and What It Tells

Christensen writes,

So what does Runnells’s Letter to a CES Director disclose about his conceptual framework and his method? Start with the very first issue that Runnells raises in his letter, regarding the Book of Mormon translation and ”1769 King James edition errors. An ancient text? Errors which are unique to the 1769 edition that Joseph Smith owned?” He returns to this point in his website response to FairMormon:

The presence of 17th century kjv italics and 1769 kjv errors—word for word—in the Book of Mormon is its own damning evidence. These errors totally undermine the claim that Joseph “translated” the Book of Mormon and the claim that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth.

According to Thomas Kuhn, ”Anomaly (Abnormality) appears only against the background provided by the paradigm (pattern). The more precise and far-reaching that paradigm (pattern) is, the more sensitive an indicator it provides of anomaly, and hence of an occasion for paradigm (pattern) change.”

According to Christensen this issue is just a small anomaly in his Book of Mormon “paradigm”, and therefore Jeremy should basically ignore it, because it is so trivial that it is just a silly anomaly. But what if it isn’t? As Edmund O. Acevedo writes, Kuhn also defines an anomaly as “nature’s failure to conform entirely to expectation”, which is what Christensen is trying to apply to Jeremy Runnells via the Book of Mormon. But Acevedo also writes,

Clearly not all anomalies result in progress. The vast majority are ignored. When an anomaly persists over an extended period of time, the most common effect is that scientists will attempt to alter their instrumentation in a way that makes the anomaly disappear or they will try to make the anomaly fit within the paradigm (i.e. modify the expectation and thus make the former anomaly seem expected).

This seems to be exactly what Christensen is doing and wants Jeremy to do. He is ignoring what he calls an anomaly and trying to make it fit into his Book of Mormon paradigm. But it doesn’t fit. This is when an anomaly becomes a “crisis”. As Acevedo writes,

The forces that can convert an anomaly to a crisis are many, and usually several of them must co-occur. For example, a persistent anomaly may call into question some of the most fundamental tenets of the paradigm. In other cases, the paradigm predicts that an application should be ineffective when long practice has clearly established its utility (or conversely, the paradigm predicts that an application should be effective when practice reliably demonstrates its failure). As a result of such discrepancies, the anomaly becomes more widely recognized (e.g., replicated and confirmed by a broader circle of scientists) and even catches the attention of prominent figures in the field. The anomaly then becomes “the new fixation point of scientific scrutiny” (Kuhn, 1962/1996, p. 83) and its resolution becomes a shared goal. One of the defining features of a field in crisis is the emergence of multiple divergent attempts to resolve the anomaly. As these attempts multiply, they also become more diversified. Although early attempts may follow the rules of the paradigm closely, the persistence of the anomaly begs “ad hoc adjustments” (p. 83) of the paradigm that are increasingly bold and unruly. Thus “the rules of normal science become increasingly blurred. Though there still is a paradigm, few practitioners prove to be entirely agreed about what it is. Even formerly standard solutions of solved problems are called into question.(p. 83). (Edmund O. Acevedo, The Oxford Handbook of Exercise Psychology, 297).

According to many, there are numerous anomalies in Christensen’s Book of Mormon paradigm. These anomalies are widely recognized, even by the faithful like B. H. Roberts, who Jeremy discusses in his work. Roberts called one of these anomalies “a menace to the Book of Mormon”. (Studies of the Book of Mormon, 240, CES Letter, 11).

David P. Wright, associate professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East, (Brandeis University) claims that Grant Palmer:

…is on absolutely firm ground for his conclusion that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient work and, with this, according to his last two main chapters, that Smith’s visionary experiences were more subjective than tradition claims. (Dialogue, Vol. 38, No. 1, 172-173).

As Jeremy himself wrote,

Here are the facts:

  1. There are 17th century KJV additions (denoted by italics in the KJV) in the Book of Mormon.
  2. There are 1769 KJV Bible edition errors unique to only that edition present in the Book of Mormon.
  3. FairMormon concedes below that while there are no reports from witnesses that Joseph used an open Bible, “it is entirely possible that Joseph had access to a Bible during the period of translation.”
  4. FairMormon awkwardly points to the Mormon god Himself as a possible source for putting unique 1769 KJV edition errors and 17th century italics in the “most correct book on earth” Book of Mormon: “…we do not claim to know why the Lord chose to reveal the Biblical passages in that manner.” (Debunking FAIRMORMON, Online here, Accessed April 1, 2015).

So this is just an “anomaly” to Christensen? It appears so. But there are many who think that this anomaly is one of many, a crisis point in the Book of Mormon. So, what does Christensen really focus on in this section?  Continue on, dear reader:

For Runnells the appearance of any imperfection in the Book of Mormon translation seems scandalous to the point of being overwhelming. Betty Edwards explains how our preconceptions inevitably influence our subjective perception of significance:

Most of us tend to see parts of a form hierarchically. The parts that are important (that is, provide a lot of information), or the parts that we decide are larger, [Page 180]or the parts we think should be larger, we see as larger than they actually are. Conversely, parts that are unimportant, or that we decide are smaller, or that we think should be smaller, we see as being smaller than they actually are.

If the question is the perfection of the Book of Mormon text, and if we can safely

Mormon Apologist Kevin Christensen

Mormon Apologist Kevin Christensen

assume that the beholder is infallibly capable of detecting it, imperfection is the only decisive information—indeed, it is the only information that answers the question. Therefore imperfection has crucial importance relative to the question and is actually perceived in our minds as being large and scandalously important. Even the appearance of imperfection will loom large in our consciousness. No matter how much information might exist to support the notion of a real translation by Joseph Smith, it does not and cannot answer the question of perfection, and therefore, relative to that question, it appears less important. That is why no favorable information regarding the Book of Mormon appears in the Letter to a CES Director. Evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith’s inspiration does not answer the question of perfection, so in setting the table with what counts most to Runnells, none of that kind of information appears.

This straw man (in bold above) is rather silly. The Book of Mormon text can’t be perfect so it doesn’t matter? Jeremy Runnells nowhere claims that the Book of Mormon text should be “perfect”. How does one who was a longstanding member of the Church and believed the truth claims about the Book of Mormon for many years have the “preconceptions” that Christensen speaks of?

It is not Jeremy Runnells but rather Mormon “authorities” that make the claim of perfection in relation to the Book of Mormon. Christensen just makes this up out of thin air about Jeremy. His expectations were created by their declarations about it. Of course, Mormon Apologists have been spinning those for years.

The current thing in Mormon Apologetics now is for them to claim that because critics don’t list and rebut every single Mormon Apologist argument (which they call “evidence”) then they are somehow at fault for not giving credibility to what they deem crucial evidence. And so, because they do not, they simply have preconceptions, are brittle and unyielding and are condemned for concerns about what these apologists call trivia. They want critics to waste their time listing and deconstructing all of their apologist spin or they claim that they are not balanced and only focus on the negative.  Christensen will employ a series of strawman arguments (including his accusation that Runnells is claiming that the BOM text should be “perfect”) throughout his long diatribe.  He then writes,

This also means that if we changed our question from the perfection of the Book of Mormon translation to the reality of the translation, then supposed imperfections would not be as crucially decisive, and would therefore have a smaller significance.

Whose question? Christensen’s? Why would he change his own question–because it certainly in no way, shape or form was Jeremy’s.  Jeremy does speak about the reality of the translation. That is what he addresses in the CES letter (see pages 13-14). The reality is that Joseph Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon by putting a rock in a hat and claiming that the text that he then dictated was given to him by the “gift and power of God”. The imperfections/anamolies  in the Book of Mormon are massive. Please see this article on MormonThink for a list of them.

Also, the reality of what translation? We have nothing to compare it to, so how do we know it is even a translation from an actual language? We don’t. This always has been the real issue. Christensen then claims:

The reality of Joseph Smith’s inspiration is a different question than the perfection of his inspiration and leads the inquirer to different information. That is why reading books by Hugh Nibley or John Sorenson or Richard L. Anderson or Richard Bushman, John Tvedtnes, John Welch, or Terryl Givens makes for a very different experience than does reading Runnells’s Letter. They ask different questions, work with different soil, nurture the seed in a different manner, and produce vastly different harvests.

Unfortunately one cannot separate the reality of Smith’s inspiration from it’s supposed perfection because of the claims that Smith himself made. Reading those claims (by Smith and other Mormon “Authorities”) is all the information one needs. And please excuse us if we don’t want to give credence to the spin of Mormon apologists like Nibley, Givens, Anderson, Tvedtnes, or Welch, when it was hard enough to read their claims. We would rather quote Joseph Smith who said,

I never told you I was perfect, but there are NO ERRORS in the REVELATIONS that I have taught.  (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 369).

Seems like it is Joseph Smith who is claiming perfection in revelation here, which Christensen strangely doesn’t address (and neither does FAIRMORMON).  But even Hugh Nibley said,

We can never prove absolutely that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be; but any serious proven fault in the work would at once condemn it. If I assume the Book of Mormon to be fraudulent, then whatever is correct in it is merely a lucky coincidence, devoid of any real significance. But if I assume that it is true, then any suspicious passage is highly significant and casts suspicion on the whole thing, no matter how much of it is right. (1953, 831; all but the first clause has been deleted in Nibley 1989, 56). (Stan Larson quoted in Brent Metcalfe, New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, 238, added emphasis. See also the Improvement Era, LVI [Nov. 1953]:831, Online here, Accessed April 1, 2015).

Nibley’s quote here destroys Christensen’s argument. He claims that any suspicious passage in the Book of Momron is highly significant and casts suspicion on the whole thing. So why fault Jeremy for feeling the same way? This is one of Christensen’s chosen apologists, folks. The 1828 dictionary defines perfection as,

PERFEC’TION, n. [L. perfectio.] The state of being perfect or complete, so that nothing requisite is wanting; as perfection in an art or science; perfection in a system of morals.

As Orson Pratt explains,

It is to be expected that when the angel restores the gospel it will be restored in fullness and in the most perfect simplicity and plainness so that every point of the doctrine of Christ shall be clearly revealed and expressed in such language that no two persons could understand it differently. Many things, connected with the doctrine of Christ, are not clearly revealed and dressed in the English translation of the Bible: this is owing, as we have already shown in number three to the loss of many of the inspired writings, and to the rejection of many sacred books by the third council of Carthage, together with those which have since been rejected by the Protestants: and also, as we have before proved, another great source of error is, that the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from which the Bible was translated, had become so awfully corrupted in almost every text, that the translators were utterly at a loss to know which reading was correct. All these things, combined with the unavoidable errors of an uninspired translation have rendered the English Bible extremely uncertain and ambiguous. This uncertainty and ambiguity have been the principal cause of all the divisions of modern Christendom. The only way to remedy this great evil is to obtain another revelation of the gospel, free from all the corruptions and uncertainty which characterizes the English Bible. Nothing short of such a revelation can ever redeem mankind from their errors of doctrine; nothing else can be an infallible standard of the Christian religion; nothing else can reclaim them from divisions and strifes; nothing else will give certainty and stability so necessary to the happiness and salvation of man; and nothing else could be expected in the revelation of the gospel an angel. Such a revelation is the Book of Mormon; the most infallible certainty characterizes every ordinance and every doctrinal point revealed in that book. In it there is no ambiguity–no room for controversy–no doctrine so imperfectly expressed that two persons would draw two different conclusions there from. Such a revelation was greatly needed and such a revelation the angel has revealed.  (Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, 83, added emphasis).

Pratt defines the Book of Mormon as infallible, perfect in it’s doctrines. He claims that there is no doctrine “imperfectly expressed”. Jeremy quotes Joseph Smith in his CES letter, who said:

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. (History of the Church, 4:461, added emphasis.)

The 1828 definition of the word correct is:

CORRECT, adjective [Latin , to set right; right, straight. See Right.] Literally, set right, or made straight. Hence, right; conformable to truth, rectitude or propriety, or conformable to a just standard; not faulty; free from error

It seems that Christensen may want to rethink his approach to those anomalies he claims are of no concern and put the claim of perfection where it rightly belongs. 

Fortunately at the “official” lds.org, they do address the issue of “translation” in one of the new essays. They write,

According to these accounts, Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument. The process as described brings to mind a passage from the Book of Mormon that speaks of God preparing “a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light.”Joseph Smith The Whitmer Farm Winter 1830small

The scribes who assisted with the translation unquestionably believed that Joseph translated by divine power. Joseph’s wife Emma explained that she “frequently wrote day after day” at a small table in their house in Harmony, Pennsylvania. She described Joseph “sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.” According to Emma, the plates “often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth.” When asked if Joseph had dictated from the Bible or from a manuscript he had prepared earlier, Emma flatly denied those possibilities: “He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.” Emma told her son Joseph Smith III, “The Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me for hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.” (emphasis added)

As Russell M. Nelson stated in the July 1993 Ensign:

The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12, added emphasis).

Joseph Knight wrote,

Now the way he translated was he put the Urim and Thummim into his hat and darkened his eyes, then he would take a sentence and it would appear in bright Roman letters, then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away, the next sentence would come, and so on. But if it was not spelled right it would not go away till it was right, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the whole translated. (added emphasis)

In January of 1833, W. W. Phelps wrote (per Joseph’s instructions) in The Evening and Morning Star:

The word of the Lord carries its own evidence with it. In vain have men attempted to counterfeit it. They may compass the earth with their knowledge, and look through the regions of space by their inventions, but death teaches them their frailty, and time covers their glory. The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.-It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)… (The Evening and Morning Star, Vol. 1, No 8, January 1833, 58).

Here we see that the claim that Jeremy makes was addressed by Joseph Smith and that those italic words should not be in the Book of Mormon! If this is such a “minor issue”, then why did they feel it so important to address in 1833? Also, Joseph Smith himself was so confident in W. W. Phelps that he wrote to him in the same month and advised him that,

… we wish you to render the Star as interesting as possable by setting forth the rise progress and  faith of the church, as well as the doctrine for if you do not render  it more interesting than at present it will fall, and the church suffer  a great Loss thereby——(JS, Letter, Kirtland, OH to William W. Phelps, Jackson County, MO, 11 Jan. 1833; in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 18–20; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams; CHL).

Apparently God displayed on the stones all of the KJV errors that Smith then dictated to his scribes. He had no book or manuscript, and that would include the Bible. The English words simply “appeared on the instrument”.  Smith himself claimed that there were “no errors” in the revelations that he taught, and this would include the Book of Mormon as he also claimed that it was the “most correct book” and therefore free from errors. He had published in the Star, that the Book of Mormon was never “tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an italic word to supply the deficiencies” but we know that Smith copied them right into the Book of Mormon text! The reality of their claims is far from what the truth of the matter is. And this claim (of the Book being error free or perfect) is made because it was claimed that it was translated by “the gift and power of God”.

This is not a claim by Jeremy Runnells, but one made by Joseph Smith himself and others associated with him. Not perfection in spelling, etc., but no errors in the “revelations”. Why then, are all the KJV errors found in the Book of Mormon? Why were they not corrected in subsequent editions like many other transcribing errors were? This folks, is not an “anomaly” or a minor issue because it was important enough for the early Mormons to address in an effort to establish Smith’s credibility as a prophet and seer.

God supposedly gave Smith lots of new text that wasn’t in the Bible. So why would he need to project on Smith’s stone the exact wording of the KJV with all the errors? This is an argument borne out of desperation, which no quaint anecdote can remedy.

Mormon “prophets” have always claimed to be doctrinally infallible. Conflating this with what they describe as character or personality flaws is where apologists like Christensen go off the deep end. He then waxes philosophical with another irrelevant anecdote:

Consider the difference between perfection and reality through one of the tales of Lancelot, Chrétien de Troyes’s The Knight and the Cart. The story involves Lancelot going on an elaborate adventure to rescue a captive Queen Guinevere. When, after overcoming many trials, dangers, and obstacles, he finally finds and frees her, she rejects him. Much later, after both the Queen and Lancelot endure more suffering and trauma due to that rejection, she finally refers to a moment, when, in order to obtain crucial information, he needed to travel via a prison cart, and thereby endure public shame. And he did so, after only a moment’s hesitation. The Queen’s only reaction was, “Why did you hesitate?” as though to her, only that imperfection mattered. And oddly enough, he agrees with her about the devastating significance of that single momentary lapse, based on the peculiar ideals he brings to the issue. A concern about the reality of Lancelot’s effort, or even just the success of his effort, rather than perfection relative to the unrealistic ideals of courtly love, would grant weight and significance to all of his actions during his adventure, including a recognition that he overcame his own hesitation in dealing with his pride versus the need to ride the cart. So questions regarding what is real, as opposed to what appears to be perfect and or ideal, raise different issues, and call for a different kind of processing, and consideration of a much wider set of information.

This is simply pseudo intellectual jargon that has nothing to do with the Mormon concept of revelation except in Christensen’s fertile imagination. These long-winded takeaways from the issues may appear to him to be charming, but they are simply tedious and ineffectual. This is what happens folks, when an author is trying to prop up their own red herring.

Still, what does this have to do with Jeremy Runnells’ criticisms of the Book of Mormon? Absolutely nothing. It is simply a diversion by Christensen to promote his own strawman argument, nothing more. He then writes,

In approaching the Book of Mormon, we could do what Runnells does; look for imperfection, and then display indignation and shock.

Again, this is a strawman of Christensen’s making. Jeremy never claimed that the Book of Mormon had to be perfect, so he’s not looking for imperfection, he is being critical of its historical authenticity and translation method (by the “gift and power of God”) based on what the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith actually say. It is Joseph Smith and his followers that have made the argument for perfection that Christensen puts on Jeremy. They sowed the seeds of that expectation which believing Mormons embrace and so is it any wonder that one might be indignant and shocked when this claim is proven false?

Christensen’s purpose here, is to try and make those criticisms trivial; and turn Jeremy into a villain for even bringing them up. Remember, Jeremy believed in the Book of Mormon for years before he began discovering the problems associated with the narrative that Joseph Smith authored. Indignation and shock are a natural reaction in someone who feels they have been duped for years. Christensen then asks a series of carefully worded questions that deal with Mormon apologetic claims:

Or we could ask, how does the Book of Mormon translation and treatment of internal scriptural quotation compare with scriptural quotation within the Bible [Page 182]and compared to the evidence of biblical transmission and translation? Does the Book of Mormon contain information consistent with eyewitness accounts of the times and settings that it claims for itself? Does it accurately describe conditions in Jerusalem, 600 bc? Does it accurately describe cultural and physical conditions in the Arabian desert? Does it accurately describe a Bountiful area at a coastal location east of Nahom? How does the Book of Mormon describe its New World setting? Are there indications of others? What cultures does it describe and what physical settings? Does the description of Cumorah in the Book of Mormon fit the New York hill “of considerable size,” or, traditional identifications notwithstanding, should we look elsewhere? What forms of government, politics, religion, and trade does it describe? What are the patterns of warfare, including seasonality, tactics, and weapons? Do the 28 verses describing the Sidon contain enough information to narrow the range of candidate rivers for an external correlation? Can we assume homogeneity and accuracy in all cultural descriptions, that is, can we assume that what Enos says about Lamanite culture from the outside also applies to what we see later when the sons of Mosiah actually travel and live among the Lamanites? What are the best sources of information against which to test its claims? If during the course of my investigation, I run across something that I did not expect, what happens if I then pause to reflect and ask, “What should I expect?” But just as Guinevere only asks about an imperfection in the Lancelot quest, Runnells looks only for imperfection in Mormonism. The eye of the beholder crucially influences the harvest.

This last claim by Christensen is simply not based in reality. Like me, Jeremy was a member of the Church for decades. His family are members. Does Christensen think that we are not familiar with such issues? That we haven’t asked such questions? Either he is extremely naive, or he is simply posturing for his audience. Did Christensen even listen to Jeremy’s podcast where he describes his life in the Church and his extended Missionary work? Does he even care what Jeremy knew before he began investigating deeper issues in the Book of Mormon?  Here is where Christensen fails, because he is basically saying that he knows what issues that Jeremy has studied and that in his eyes Jeremy doesn’t find impressive the apologist answers to the questions that Christensen raises all of which have been answered by them with only speculation.  I guess I’ll play the analogy game here.

You are a Doctor and a patient has died on your table from massive wounds that no one could have survived. The monitors have been flat-lined for many minutes and everyone in the E.R. tells you that your patient has died–but you can’t bring yourself to accept it. You had invested so much time and used all your skill to save the patient. In frustration at the announcement of your patient’s death you grab the defibrillator paddles and you use them on the patient. No response as the body jerks and twitches on the table. You do this over and over again, each time with absolute certainty that the patient’s heart will kick start and they will live. But this doesn’t revive them and still you can’t accept it. You check the vitals again, you perform CPR, you pound their chest and grab at the paddles again but someone pulls you away. You then are forced to realize that yes, the patient is really dead as they pull you back and take the defibrillators out of your hands. But deep down you still can’t believe it and look around with accusatory eyes for someone else to blame it on. You convince yourself that it wasn’t your fault, it was someone else’s. If only they would have believed things might have turned out different. They just didn’t look at things from the right perspective, from your perspective. Their preconceived notions (that when the heart has flat-lined for that long the patient is dead) led them down the wrong path and did not allow you to prove they were wrong and you could have saved the patient with more jolts of electricity.defib-dr.

What Christensen wants critics to do is keep defibrillating someone after they are long dead and can’t understand when someone is convinced by a reality they will not perceive.

Christensen wants critics to accept another Cumorah than the one Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery identified; to desperately cling to the notion that the Book of Mormon documents an historical reality; or that we can find some river or lake or portion of coastline that matches what is vaguely described there. One must also overturn every rock and hiding place and crazy theory that might somehow, someway verify that the Book of Mormon is something more than 19th century fiction before we can declare it to be a product of the 19th century and not a translation.

He acts like no critic has ever studied these issues before. He wants us to accept Nibley’s wacky parallelomania and false dichotomies, and take Warren Aston (the UFO “expert”) seriously. But when critics don’t, they are not as bending as Christensen is, they are brittle and shatter with the slightest breeze.  They didn’t study enough, they didn’t look at it with the right perspective. Christensen claims that Jeremy has not really studied the issues. But he has read and quoted FAIRMORMON and other Mormon apologists extensively and that still doesn’t seem to be enough for Christensen.   I too have studied all of these issues and find all of that “evidence” is simply made up apologist spin.

For example, let’s take Nahom and Warren P. Aston. Just google his name and you come up with articles like this one:  “UFO researcher hunting for truth,” which talks about how Aston believes the story of a man who claimed that aliens showed him the future which included the home computer and the rise of Nazi Germany.  This UFO “expert” also owns a travel agency called “Bountiful Tours”. We find on their webpage (from 2011),

“Bountiful Tours conducts unique tours of Lehi & Sariah’s path from Jerusalem to Bountiful. It also operates custom-made tours overland into the historical Hadramaut Valley and coast of Yemen, air-tours to the mystical island of Socotrain the Indian Ocean and tours of the ancient Frankincense Trail in Saudi Arabia.”

Here is the price info on the ‘tour’ from 2011:

The 2011 tour will be led throughout by Warren Aston. The tour itself commences on Sunday October 9th in Jerusalem and ends in Muscat, Oman on Friday October 21st.

Tour cost is $US 2835 per person, share-twin, Single Supplement is $560. The tour price includes all sightseeing, tours and entrances, all land and water transportation, first class hotels with breakfasts daily throughout, luggage handling, return domestic airfares within Oman, most dinners and a picnic lunch. All airport transfers are included for those traveling on the group flights.

Not included are visa fees and taxes, other meals, drinks and gratuities. Airfare – for those departing from the US, a special group airfare from New York City JFK – Saturday evening October 8th – and arriving back at JFK on the afternoon of Friday October 21st is available for $US 970, plus taxes and fuel surcharges (currently $352).

For 2015 it states that,

Price: tour cost is $3990 pp twin share. Single supplement is $755.

I find it disconcerting that the guy who is promoting evidence which “constitute[s] the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon,” is also trying to make a buck off of it. He is also selling a book and documentary to go along with it. Also, the man who claims to have found ‘proof’ for the Book of Mormon also believes there are extraterrestrials living among us. Here is a sample of Aston’s ‘proofs’ for their being “already among us”:

“Some of the physical differences between extraterrestrials and ourselves have been recorded by a noted medical doctor, Dr. Leopoldo Diaz, head of surgery at a major hospital in Guadalajara, who had occasion to examine a man in his office in 1976. Requesting a medical examination because he traveled much, the man was examined by Dr.  Diaz who quickly realized that he was not human. At this point his patient disclosed the real reason for his visit. He had seemingly chosen a well-respected and influential figure to pass on the information that “many” people from his planet were here living undetected among us, trying to help us avert catastrophe. In a long conversation he taught the doctor a great deal about religion, life after death and earth’s future before leaving and disappearing outside the building.” (See Photo for a picture of the Article, which can be read here.)Aston Mufon Article

Now I love the X-Files, it’s one of my favorite TV Shows. But if I want to be taken seriously, I do not go around telling folks that I actually believe in aliens living among us and that they are taking people for rides on spaceships and revealing the future to them. I also wouldn’t be trying to make a buck off of a discovery that I’m promoting as ‘proof’ for my religion. But that’s just me. This is all kinds of tacky, and questions the very motives for the whole thing. Ok, I think this is enough background on Aston. Now let’s take a look at his claims about NHM.

Here is Aston’s story as he describes it:

warren aston

Ashton promotes his UFO books along with his Book “In the Footsteps of Lehi”.

“In the Fall of 2000 I was one of three people leading a group of nearly 40 Latter-day Saints along the Lehi trail. We began in Jerusalem, then descended into the Arabah wilderness, traveling south until we reached the Red Sea. We next flew south to Yemen to pick up the trail. After visiting the Nahom tribal area we drove in convoy to the ancient ruins of Marib, the legendary city of the Queen of Sheba thousands of years ago. And there, in the midst of the desert, an unexpected and most extraordinary event took place.

Some time earlier, a series of museums in Europe began exhibiting a collection of treasures from Yemen’s past. One of the items in the catalog reported an inscription on an altar that had been excavated at the Barán temple in Marib. I had been to the site years earlier. There was little to be seen then other than five and a half very tall pillars standing above the sand on which local boys would pose for pictures. It was a desolate place. A German team had unearthed the entire temple complex including the altar, dated to around 600-700 BC. What was significant was that the altar inscription named a donor who was the grandson of a man from the Nihm tribe.

We already knew that the Semitic consonants NHM referred to a tribal area that seemed likely to be the place called Nahom, where Nephi’s father-in-law, Ishmael, was buried (1 Nephi 16:34). I had spent years documenting the name on old maps and writings back to within a few hundred years of Nephi’s day. Always the name was in the same location.

September 12, 2000.

Not long after arriving in Marib our group began visiting the spectacular remains of the past, beginning with the famous Great Dam. From there we went to the nearby temple of Barán where the altar had been recovered. For me, it was hard to reconcile the carefully excavated and restored complex with what I remembered. It was only a few minutes later that we realized that a stone altar stood a short distance away, one that looked the same as the altar in the catalog. Excitedly, several of us began to examine it. Around 26 inches high, a 3 inch high band of South Arabian script encircled it. To see an almost identical altar was something that exceeded our expectations, but the best was still to come.

We had hours of desert driving ahead of us to our overnight stop, so time was short. We hurriedly took some photographs and as we sent for a tape measure I asked our Yemeni guide if he could search the inscription for any mention of NiHM. Unbelievably, he quickly picked out the characters for the name, which I copied down. Stunned, we had our photographs taken with the altar and then it was time to leave. On board the bus we announced to the entire group what had happened and told them that they had probably just been a part of a significant event.

Such it proved to be. I returned to Yemen a few weeks later and secured permission to fully document the altar and the other structures. I found that around 20 altars had been recovered at the site and amazingly, amidst a cluster of damaged altars hidden behind a wall, sat a third identical altar. The donor of 3 altars with the same text was surely wealthy. Over following months one of the world’s leading authorities on early Arabia, Professor Kenneth Kitchen in England, provided us a more accurate translation of the inscription. Other scholars helped refine the dating and understand the context.”

His conclusion:

“For the first time, a unique Book of Mormon location had been plausibly located in the right location and period.”

 In an article called ‘Newly found Altars from Nahom’, Mr. Aston makes this comment:

“In a single verse, 1 Nephi 16:34, Nephi tells us all that he wished us to know about the place called Nahom: “And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.”

Mr. Aston makes these assumptions about the verse:

“From this and one other terse statement in the Book of Mormon we learn several facts about the location:

  1. The wording makes it clear that Nahom was not named by Lehi’s party but was already known by that name to local people. Thus other people were already settled in proximity to the Lehite encampment.
  2. Nephi’s Bountiful lay “nearly eastward” from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1).
  3. Nahom was, or at least included, a place of burial. Note that Nephi does not state that Ishmael died there, only that he was buried there, implying that it included an established burial place.”

To answer Aston’s claims, here is the late Ted Chandler, courtesy of MormonThink:

In “Lehi’s Arabian Journey Updated” (Reynolds 1997), Noel Reynolds asserts that Mormon scholars now know the location of sites corresponding to the account of Lehi’s journey through the wilderness, after leaving Jerusalem. This is based on the work of Warren and Michaela Aston. The Astons identify Book of Mormon Nahom, where Ishmael died, with Nehem, located northeast of Sana’a in Yemen, while Bountiful, located near the Irreantum Sea, corresponds with Khor Kharfot, situated east of Nehem near Oman’s Dhofar coast. Reynolds thinks that Nephi’s account of Nahom and Bountiful correspond so well with the sites located by the Astons that it “could only have been written by one who had personally traveled the area” (Reynolds 1997, 382). Reynolds asks:

How did he [Joseph Smith] know that a group traveling due east from NHM [Nehem] would meet the sea at a uniquely fertile and hospitable spot that was suitable for building and launching a ship? How did he know that Oman had ample resources for ship building and sailing, and that there were mountains and cliffs on the sea shore itself?

These important details run directly counter to all knowledge of Arabia in Joseph Smith’s day and to most popular belief about Arabia even today. The simplest and most reasonable explanation is that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries did not know these things . . . . (Reynolds 1997, 388)

Actually, people in Joseph Smith’s day knew more about Arabia than Reynolds supposes, as is attested by the following passages from Voltaire’s “The Philosoophy of History”:

. . . but Arabia Felix deserved that name, as being surrounded with thick woods and a tempestuous sea, it was sheltered from the rapacity of robbers . . . . This advantage is far above its aromatics, its incense, its cinnamon (which is of inferior quality) or even its coffee, which now creates its riches. . . .

As to that extensive part called Happy, half of it consists also in deserts; but upon advancing some miles into the interior parts, either to the east of Mocha, or to the east of Mecca, there is found the most pleasant country in the world. The air is continually perfumed, during a perpetual summer, by the odor of the aromatic plants which nature spontaneously produces. Thousands of streams flow from the mountains, and preserve an incessant coolness, which moderates the heat of the sun beneath the evergreen shades. It was particularly in this country, that the words garden and paradise implied celestial favor.

The gardens of Saana, towards Aden, were more famous among the Arabians, than were those of Alcinous among the Greeks. And this Aden or Eden was called the place of delights. . . .

This vast country of Yemen is so fine, its ports are so happily situated upon the Indian ocean, that it is said Alexander was desirous of conquering Yemen, in order to make it the seat of his empire, and the emporium of trade for the whole world. (Voltaire 1927, 400-401)

Edward Gibbon also gives this description of southern Arabia:

The high lands that border on the Indian Ocean are distinguished by their superior plenty of wood and water: the air is more temperate, the fruits are more delicious, the animals and the human race more numerous: the fertility of the soil invites and rewards the toil of the husbandman; and the peculiar gifts of frankincense and coffee have attracted in different ages the merchants of the world. If it be compared with the rest of the peninsula, this sequestered region may truly deserve the appellation of the happy . . . . (Gibbon n.d., 3:58)

As sources for his information on Arabia, Gibbon lists not only ancient writers like Pliny and Strabo, but also the works of Pocock, who published extracts and notes on Arabian antiquities in his Specimen Historiae Arabum. Gibbon also refers a number of times to books by Carsten Niebuhr and Jean Bourguignon D’Anville, who published maps of Arabia. Nephi’s account does not require any more knowledge of Arabia than was available in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Astons claim that Lehi’s group travelled in the same direction as an ancient trade route along the east shore of the Red Sea. However, there was another main trade route, in use at least as early as 336 B.C., which ran across central Arabia to Gerrha on the Persian Gulf. Gibbon refers to these two routes:

The treasures of Africa were conveyed over the peninsula to Gerrha or Katif, in the province of Bahrein, a city built, as it is said, of rock-salt, by the Chaldaean exiles; and from thence, with the native pearls of the Persian Gulf, they were floated on rafts to the mouth of the Euphrates. Mecca is placed almost at an equal distance, a month’s journey, between Yemen on the right and Syria on the left hand. The former was the winter, the latter the summer, station of her caravans; and their seasonable arrival relieved the ships of India from the tedious and troublesome navigation of the Red Sea. In the markets of Saana and Merab, in the harbours of Oman and Aden, the camels of the Koreishites were laden with a precious cargo of aromatics; a supply of corn and manufactures was purchased in the fairs of Bostra and Damascus . . . . (Gibbon n.d., 3:62)

Concerning Nahom, the Astons present two kinds of evidence: (1) the meaning of “Nehem,” and (2) a place in South Arabia named Nehem. Let’s consider each of these.

(1) The Astons state that there are two Semitic roots for Nehem. One means “to comfort, console, to be sorry,” while the other means “to roar, complain, or be hungry.” The Astons think that “both these roots relate in significant and very specific ways to the experiences of Lehi’s group while at Nahom. . . . It is hard to imagine any place-name that would be more appropriate in view of what Nephi tells us happened there. Not only do the two roots of Nahom refer unquestionably to both mourning and consoling (and perhaps also to fasting) in connection with Ishmael’s death and burial, but they seem to go still further and echo the complaining and the rebellion that followed his burial” (Aston 1994, 12-13). However, this is all quite irrelevant. Why? Because the text states and the Astons acknowledge that Nahom was already named before Lehi’s group arrived there (1 Nephi 16:34; Aston 1994, 10). The fact that Ishmael died at Nahom is purely coincidental and is not connected in any way with the meaning of Nehem/Nahom. This does not constitute evidence verifying Nephi’s account. Furthermore, the name Nahom is not remarkable, considering that the Bible contains the names Naham, Nahum, and Nehum. In addition, NHM is not the same word in South Arabian as it is in Hebrew and is not pronounced the same. In Hebrew, NHM is a verb, but in South Arabian, it is a noun meaning “pecked masonry,” referring to a technique of roughening the finish of the stone using chisels. Why would Lehi’s group insult the Arab inhabitants of the area by giving the place a Hebrew name with a different meaning?

(2) The Book of Mormon refers to a place called Nahom, and there was actually a place named Nehem in South Arabia along an ancient incense trade route. Nothing could be simpler. But is it really that simple? Actually, according to the Astons, the trade route passed through the Jawf valley. Nehem was not the name of a city in the valley, but was a remote burial place in the mountains south of the Jawf valley. The Astons state that Lehi’s group “could only have known about Nahom from someone outside the group,” and “Likely the Lehite encampment was in the Jawf valley and Ishmael was carried up into the hills for burial” (Aston 1994, 10, 13). But this is not all. The Astons also say that there was another larger burial place east of the Jawf valley in the mountains near Ruwaik. They then conclude that either Nehem or Ruwaik “may well have been the place to which local people led Lehi’s mourning party to bury Ishmael” (Aston 1994, 20). It seems then that it would have been quite possible for Lehi’s group to travel through the Jawf valley without ever being aware of Nehem and that in any case Ishmael may not have even been buried there.

The Book of Mormon says that Lehi’s group journeyed “many days” from Shazer to Nahom, and then after turning east from Nahom, they reached Bountiful, after spending eight years in the wilderness. However